Integration by reduction formulae

Integration by reduction formula in integral calculus is a technique of integration, in the form of a recurrence relation. It is used when an expression containing an integer parameter, usually in the form of powers of elementary functions, or products of transcendental functions and polynomials of arbitrary degree, can't be integrated directly. But using other methods of integration a reduction formula can be set up to obtain the integral of the same or similar expression with a lower integer parameter, progressively simplifying the integral until it can be evaluated. [1] This method of integration is one of the earliest used.

How to find the reduction formula

The reduction formula can be derived using any of the common methods of integration, like integration by substitution, integration by parts, integration by trigonometric substitution, integration by partial fractions, etc. The main idea is to express an integral involving an integer parameter (e.g. power) of a function, represented by In, in terms of an integral that involves a lower value of the parameter (lower power) of that function, for example In-1 or In-2. This makes the reduction formula a type of recurrence relation. In other words, the reduction formula expresses the integral

in terms of


How to compute the integral

To compute the integral, we set n to its value and use the reduction formula to calculate the (n – 1) or (n – 2) integral. The higher index integral can be used to calculate lower index ones; the process is continued repeatedly until we reach a point where the function to be integrated can be computed, usually when its index is 0 or 1. Then we back-substitute the previous results until we have computed In. [2]


Below are examples of the procedure.

Cosine integral

Typically, integrals like

can be evaluated by a reduction formula.

, for n = 1, 2 ... 30

Start by setting:

Now re-write as:

Integrating by this substitution:

Now integrating by parts:

solving for In:

so the reduction formula is:

To supplement the example, the above can be used to evaluate the integral for (say) n = 5;

Calculating lower indices:


where C is a constant.

Exponential integral

Another typical example is:


Start by setting:

Integrating by substitution:

Now integrating by parts:

shifting indices back by 1 (so n + 1n, nn – 1):

solving for In:

so the reduction formula is:

Tables of integral reduction formulas

Rational functions

The following integrals[3] contain:

Integral Reduction formula
Integral Reduction formula

Integral Reduction formula
Integral Reduction formula
Integral Reduction formula
Integral Reduction formula
Integral Reduction formula

note that by the laws of indices:

Transcendental functions

See main article: Transcendental function

The following integrals[4] contain:

Integral Reduction formula

the formulae can be combined to obtain separate equations in In:

and Jn:

Integral Reduction formula
Integral Reduction formula


  1. Mathematical methods for physics and engineering, K.F. Riley, M.P. Hobson, S.J. Bence, Cambridge University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-521-86153-3
  2. Further Elementary Analysis, R.I. Porter, G. Bell & Sons Ltd, 1978, ISBN 0-7135-1594-5
  3. -> Indefinite integrals list
  4. -> Indefinite integrals list


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