Calculus/Integration techniques/Recognizing Derivatives and the Substitution Rule

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Integration techniques/Recognizing Derivatives and the Substitution Rule

After learning a simple list of antiderivatives, it is time to move on to more complex integrands, which are not at first readily integrable. In these first steps, we notice certain special case integrands which can be easily integrated in a few steps.

Recognizing Derivatives and Reversing Derivative RulesEdit

If we recognize a function as being the derivative of a function , then we can easily express the antiderivative of  :

For example, since

we can conclude that

Similarly, since we know is its own derivative,

The power rule for derivatives can be reversed to give us a way to handle integrals of powers of . Since


we can conclude that

or, a little more usefully,


Integration by SubstitutionEdit

Very rarely will we encounter a question where they ask us

1v. Evaluate or

is. We usually get

2iii. Evaluate

instead. These look hard, but there is a way to do them. Mathematicians call it Integration by Substitution, and for many integrals, this can be used to re-express the integrand in a way that makes finding of an antiderivative possible and easy. Sure, depending on the form of the integrand, the substitution to make may be different, but there is no doubt that the overall method is useful.

The objective of Integration by substitution is to substitute the integrand from an expression with variable x and the right side of the integral to an expression with variable u where and the right side of the integral , where . How? By identifying a function and its derivative that makes up a part of the overall equation.


The general gist of Integration by Substitution is to transform the integral so that instead of referencing x, it references the function u. We can show how this method works by abstracting each step using math. In math, we can write down what we want to do (write the steps of Integration by Substitution in math) by writing

Given ,


(1) ie   
(2) ie   
(3) ie   
(4) ie   Now equate with
(5) ie   
(6) ie   
(7) ie   We have achieved our desired result


If the previous mathematical steps are difficult to grasp all at once or difficult to put into practice, don't worry! Here are the steps written in plain English. It even includes the Goal too.

  • Find a function that has a also in the expression somewhere . This may involve experimenting or staring at the expression in the integrand long enough
    • If the question is hard, finding the may involve synthesizing numbers (constants) from nowhere so that it can be used to cancel out portions of . However, if the entirety of needs to cancel artificially, then this may be a sign that you are making a question harder.
  • Calculate
  • Calculate which is and make sure the final expression h(u) does not have x in it
  • Calculate
  • Calculate

In summary, Integration by Substitution tells us the following

Substitution rule for definite integrals

Assume u is differentiable with continuous derivative and that f is continuous on the range of u. Suppose and . Then


Integrating with the derivative presentEdit

Under ideal circumstances for Integration by Substitution, a component of the integrand can be viewed as the derivative of another component of the integrand. This makes it so that the substitution can be easily applied to simplify the integrand.

For example, in the integral

we see that is the derivative of . Letting

we have

or, in order to apply it to the integral,


With this we may write

Note that it was not necessary that we had exactly the derivative of in our integrand. It would have been sufficient to have any constant multiple of the derivative.

For instance, to treat the integral

we may let . Then

and so

the right-hand side of which is a factor of our integrand. Thus,

In general, the integral of a power of a function times that function's derivative may be integrated in this way. Since ,

we have


There is a similar rule for definite integrals, but we have to change the endpoints.

Synthesizing TermsEdit

What if the derivative does not show up one-for-one in the expression? This is okay! For some integrals, it may be necessary to synthesize constants in order to solve the integral. Usually, this looks like a multiplication between the expression and , for some number n. Note that this usually works for variables as well, but synthesizing variables should not be a common thing and should only be an absolute last resort.

As an example of this practice put into the Integration by Substitution method, consider the integral

By using the substitution u = x2 + 1, we obtain du = 2x dx. However, notice that the constant 2 does not show up in the expression in the integrand. This is where this extra step applies. Notice that

and remember to calculate the new bounds for this integral. The lower limit for this integral was x = 0 but is now u = 02 + 1 = 1 and the upper limit was x = 2 but is now u = 22 + 1 = 5.


Proof of the substitution ruleEdit

We will now prove the substitution rule for definite integrals. Let H be an anti derivative of h so


Suppose we have a differentiable function, such that , and numbers and derived from some given numbers, and .
By the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, we have

Next we define a function by the rule


Then by the Chain rule F is differentiable with derivative

Integrating both sides with respect to and using the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus we get

But by the definition of this equals


which is the substitution rule for definite integrals.


Evaluate the following using a suitable substitution.









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