Integrative Reading

A Summary of Edwin Locke’s Integrative Reading

The concept of “Integrative Reading” comes from  Edwin Locke’s little book, Study Methods and Motivation (1975) It is much shorter and far easier to understand than Adler and van Doren’s How to Read a Book. Their structure and terms are different but both discuss levels of reading skills.

Locke’s book is apparently out of print but it is found in many libraries and used copies are often available for purchase. His sections on Study and Reading are found on pages 6-58 and much of this is made up of practice exercises.

Locke’s Four Levels of Reading

One man with a computer is helping another man with written work.Henry is looking over the first draft of Edward’s paper. Henry points out ways Edward could use more of what Locke calls “integrations” to improve his paper. It isn’t difficult once you understand the concept.

1. Locke’s Level one is Perceptual Reading. By this he means the reader understands the letters and the words but may have no idea what the sentence means p.7. If you have never studied Spanish, you may be able to read material in Spanish but this doesn’t mean that you understand it. This is perceptual reading.

2. Locke’s Level two is Concrete-bound Reading. This is like Reading to Learn, the type of reading that is stressed in about fourth grade. The reader looks for and understands factual information. Locke points out that a reader on any level, uses this sort of reading while skimming. We skim for facts, not for understanding pp. 7,8.

3. Locke’s Level three is Abstract Reading. Here the reader encounters “new and/or complex concepts, ideas, theories, or principles pp. 8-10.This is similar to Adler and Van Doren’s Analytical Level. Most college students learned to do this kind of reading in high school. If you have difficulty with abstract reading, you may need help in improving your skills. The practice exercises in Locke’s book should also be helpful.

Edward, in the picture, is probably reading at this level. He is generally an excellent student.

4. Locke’s Level four is Abstract Integrative Reading. It is difficult to understand what he means by this until he gives examples pp. 10, 30-46.. He lists different types of Integrations p.30. His examples illustrate what he means by Integrative They include

  • Similarities and Differences p. 30. These are what I call compare and contrast. He asks the reader to compare ideas.
  • Categorizing and Re-categorizing p. 33. At a simple level it could include taking a list of food items and dividing them into categories such as fruit, vegetables, meat, grains, and sweets. You might then re-categorize them into foods you might eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Again, you could divide them into foods you could grow at home compared to foods that would have to be purchased. You could separate them into foods you like, foods you eat but don’t really like, and foods you hate.  At a more complex level, it could mean creating an outline or concept map according to the author’s organization and then re-categorizing the ideas the way it makes most sense to you.
  • Cause and Effect Relationships p. 34 You can describe an event and give the author’s interpretation of what caused this event. You might also describe your own opinions of the event. This can be done orally, written, or in the form of a diagram.
  • Implications are similar to cause and effect p. 35. The reader asks, “if This happens, what might happen next?”
  • Application is also similar p. 36. Now the reader asks, If this is true, what are some practical applications?
  • Critical Evaluation p. 36. This is what most authors call “Critical Thinking”. It includes evaluating the information and the reasoning that leads to a conclusion. You would also search for bias, over generalizations, and unstated assumptions.

 An  example of what Locke calls Integrations

At one point, Locke describes a student’s paper that was  judged as poor because it did not include enough integrations. Since I don’t normally use the word “integrations” in the way Locke does, it didn’t make sense at first.

Lets use an example.  Edward is writing a paper for his history class. He has chosen to write about the Vietnam war. He might begin by describing the causes of the war. While he wouldn’t include a cause and effect diagram in his paper, he might use one to think about the causes.

He might use a compare/contrast diagram or just think carefully about similarities and differences in order to compare our fighting methods to Vietnamese fighting methods. Or perhaps he will choose to compare the Vietnam war to another war.

He might critique some of his sources (books or articles on the subject) by using critical thinking to point out bias or poor reasoning.

He might show applications to a current situation, explained how what we learned in Vietnam could be useful fighting in Afghanistan.

If Edward is critiquing one particular book, he should find it helpful to analyze the structure of that book. He wouldn’t use his outline or concept map in the paper but he could describe the author’s main ideas and how they were related.

In other words, Edward would not just repeat information he found in his sources. He would  organize the information and think about it. He would  interpret what he had  read and explain how he reached his conclusions. This is clearly different from the kind of papers most of us wrote in high school.

Locke’s description of Integrative Reading is important for two reasons.

Students who want to improve their reading skills often don’t know where to begin. Locke’s integrations show one aproach. When you read, you can learn (either mentally or in writing) to:

  • look for similarities and differences
  • organize information in categories in several ways
  • look for cause and effect
  • consider the implications or applications of the idea
  • study your sources “critically”

Using these strategies while reading means you are doing “Integrative Reading.” It will improve your understanding and memory of the material.  Using a variety of these strategies to organize written material is “Integrative Writing.”  This writing on papers and in essay tests will demonstrate both how well you understand the material and how clearly you can organize your writing.

How can these practices change you as a student?

What is most exciting about Locke’s idea of Integrative Reading is that the reader, after using these strategies repeatedly, should find himself thinking this way. As you read or write or think about a subject, you will picture a compare and contrast chart. You will notice where the author is not logical in his argument, when he only considers a single point of view. You will distinguish main ideas and the lesser related ideas. You will automatically group information in categories. You will look for cause and effect, for implications, for practical applications. I think we might call this Integrative Learning. .

And a personal note here: I read Locke’s book years ago but It wasn’t until a recent re-reading  that I got really excited. I did not plan this website based on Locke’s ideas, but I am thrilled to realize that what he calls integrations include many of my different ways of thinking, remembering and, of course, the many verbal and visual strategies.  Regular use of the strategies on this website can, in much the same way, change the way you think and learn.

While I think It is interesting to understand Locke’s approach to reading, I think one important thing is lacking. He assumes that readers at this level know how to read for understanding and will recognize the main ideas and see how they are related. This is why I have added the integrations (or processing strategies) to SQ3R+ to create a really powerful reading strategy.

 SQ3R           Read with SQ3R+


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