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Techniques to Find the Integrating Factor

In the previous article, we deal with linear first order equation and thus solved it by
making it exact through introduction of an integrating factor. While this is true for most of
the time, some find it time consuming because it largely depends on the difficulty of the
integral for integrating function determination. In this article, let us find ways to
determine the integrating factor directly through inspection. The ability to do this
depends largely upon recognition of certian common exact differentials and upon
experience.
As discussed in the previous article, an integrating factor is introduced to make the first
order linear differential equation exact. In our case, we will determine first what will be
the resulting exact differential and then guess any expression that if introduced, will
make it exact. Take a look at the most occuring exact differentials below:
(1)

(2)
(3)

(4)
Of course there are still many more exact differentials but let us focus on the most
occuring differentials above. There is not much theory behind these method. Its just a
mere technique so lets go directly to the example problems.
Example: By inspection, let us find the integrating factor of the DE below and thereby
find the general solution.
(5)
Obviously, the above DE is not exact. So we can not find the integrating factor using the
methods discussed in the previous article. However, if we rearrange by combinng terms
of the same degree, we get
(6)
Notice that the equation above has a term very similar to that of the equation (1), so we
can rewrite (6) as
(7)

Now both terms above are a product af x and y. So we can always manipulate the
equation with the product xyand it will not disturb the integrability of xy. So what we will
do now is to divide both terms by
(8)
and we get
(9)
We find the general solution by integrating the above equation as

(10)
So the general solution to (5) is
(11)
Thus, we have solved for the general solution of the DE (5) by just actually guessing
with the integrating factor which in this case is found to be (8).
Example: By inspection, let us find the integrating factor of the DE below and thereby
find the general solution.
(12)
Well, obviously this is not exact but if we take a closer look and rearrange terms, we get
(13)
which looks like appealing. The first term look like just equation (2) while the 2nd term
corresponds also to (1). Thus (13) can be rewritten as

(14)
Integrating, we find

(15)

(15)
This is now our general solution to the DE (12).

(16)
Example: By inspection, let us find the integrating factor of the DE below and thereby
find the general solution.
(17)
So, once again, we find that (17) is not exact, thus we make it exact upon introduction of
an integrating factor.
(18)
We rearrrange above and we get
(19)
and after dividing by y2, we have

(20)

(21)
so that we integrate and obtain the solution to (17) which is just

(22)
or (23). Take note that the integrating factor 'guessed' to be y-2.
(23)
Example: By inspection, let us find the integrating factor of the DE below and thereby
find the general solution.

(24)
Now this one looks difficult. But lets attack this step by step. First, let us rearrange like
terms with the same power.
(25)

and then group it into


(26)
Now this one looks interesting. You see, if we divide the whole equation by x2+y2, we
get exactly the same expression to that of equation (4). Proceding accordingly we
obtain

(27)
which is just

(28)
then integrating to find

(29)
or (30). This is now the solution to the DE (24) which we solve by having an integrating
factor ( x2+y2)-1.

(30)

TIPS:
1. Arrange any complicated differential equation by combining like terms or like degree.
2. Always look for possible combinations of exact differential like that of equations (1),
(2), (3) and (4).
3. After getting the exact DE, the DE can now easily be integrated.