The role of executive function in an integrated writing task

Xian LIAO, Pengfei ZHAO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


Integrated writing (i.e., writing from sources) being a complex process, requires various linguistic and cognitive skills interacting with each other in a dynamic way. While recent studies have increasingly documented that writing processes are driven by a suite of cognitive abilities named executive function (EF), their roles in a literacy activity as complex as integrated writing remain underexplored. To address this core issue, the present study aimed to examine the direct and indirect effects of EF skills on students’ performance of a Chinese listening-reading-writing task. A total of 135 Chinese undergraduates were involved, completing a battery of tests, including a computerized Chinese integrated writing task measuring their writing performance and five EF tasks measuring inhibition, cognitive flexibility, working memory (auditory-verbal and visual-spatial), and planning skills respectively. Students’ integration activities were also recorded using a writing webpage. The path model indicated that inhibition, visual-spatial working memory, and planning skills could significantly and directly predict students’ writing performance and the visual-spatial working memory could indirectly predict writing performance via the mediation of source-text switches while listening. This study offers new preliminary insights into the association between EF and integrated writing among Chinese undergraduates; pedagogical implications for the teaching of integrated writing are also discussed. Copyright © 2024 SAGE Publications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-259
JournalWritten Communication
Issue number2
Early online dateFeb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


Liao, X., & Zhao, P. (2024). The role of executive function in an integrated writing task. Written Communication, 41(2), 230-259.


  • Executive function
  • Integrated writing
  • Integration activities
  • Path analysis
  • Chinese undergraduates
  • PG student publication


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