Partial Fraction Decomposition

Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize quadratic factors in a rational function

The General Method

Now that we are beginning to get the idea of how the technique of partial fraction decomposition works, let’s outline the basic method in the following problem-solving strategy.

Problem-Solving Strategy: Partial Fraction Decomposition

To decompose the rational function [latex]\frac{P\left(x\right)}{Q\left(x\right)}[/latex], use the following steps:

  1. Make sure that [latex]\text{degree}\left(P\left(x\right)\right)<\text{degree}\left(Q\left(x\right)\right)[/latex]. If not, perform long division of polynomials.
  2. Factor [latex]Q\left(x\right)[/latex] into the product of linear and irreducible quadratic factors. An irreducible quadratic is a quadratic that has no real zeros.
  3. Assuming that [latex]\text{deg}\left(P\left(x\right)\right)<\text{deg}\left(Q\left(x\right)\right)[/latex], the factors of [latex]Q\left(x\right)[/latex] determine the form of the decomposition of [latex]\frac{P\left(x\right)}{Q\left(x\right)}[/latex].
    1. If [latex]Q\left(x\right)[/latex] can be factored as [latex]\left({a}_{1}x+{b}_{1}\right)\left({a}_{2}x+{b}_{2}\right)\ldots\left({a}_{n}x+{b}_{n}\right)[/latex], where each linear factor is distinct, then it is possible to find constants [latex]{A}_{1},{A}_{2},…{A}_{n}[/latex] satisfying

      [latex]\frac{P\left(x\right)}{Q\left(x\right)}=\frac{{A}_{1}}{{a}_{1}x+{b}_{1}}+\frac{{A}_{2}}{{a}_{2}x+{b}_{2}}+\cdots +\frac{{A}_{n}}{{a}_{n}x+{b}_{n}}[/latex].


    2. If [latex]Q\left(x\right)[/latex] contains the repeated linear factor [latex]{\left(ax+b\right)}^{n}[/latex], then the decomposition must contain

      [latex]\frac{{A}_{1}}{ax+b}+\frac{{A}_{2}}{{\left(ax+b\right)}^{2}}+\cdots +\frac{{A}_{n}}{{\left(ax+b\right)}^{n}}[/latex].


    3. For each irreducible quadratic factor [latex]a{x}^{2}+bx+c[/latex] that [latex]Q\left(x\right)[/latex] contains, the decomposition must include



    4. For each repeated irreducible quadratic factor [latex]{\left(a{x}^{2}+bx+c\right)}^{n}[/latex], the decomposition must include

      [latex]\frac{{A}_{1}x+{B}_{1}}{a{x}^{2}+bx+c}+\frac{{A}_{2}x+{B}_{2}}{{\left(a{x}^{2}+bx+c\right)}^{2}}+\cdots +\frac{{A}_{n}x+{B}_{n}}{{\left(a{x}^{2}+bx+c\right)}^{n}}[/latex].


    5. After the appropriate decomposition is determined, solve for the constants.
    6. Last, rewrite the integral in its decomposed form and evaluate it using previously developed techniques or integration formulas.

Simple Quadratic Factors

Now let’s look at integrating a rational expression in which the denominator contains an irreducible quadratic factor. Recall that the quadratic [latex]a{x}^{2}+bx+c[/latex] is irreducible if [latex]a{x}^{2}+bx+c=0[/latex] has no real zeros—that is, if [latex]{b}^{2}-4ac<0[/latex].

Example: Rational Expressions with an Irreducible Quadratic Factor

Evaluate [latex]\displaystyle\int \frac{2x - 3}{{x}^{3}+x}dx[/latex].

Example: Partial Fractions with an Irreducible Quadratic Factor

Evaluate [latex]\displaystyle\int \frac{dx}{{x}^{3}-8}[/latex].

Example: Finding a Volume

Find the volume of the solid of revolution obtained by revolving the region enclosed by the graph of [latex]f\left(x\right)=\frac{{x}^{2}}{{\left({x}^{2}+1\right)}^{2}}[/latex] and the x-axis over the interval [latex]\left[0,1\right][/latex] about the y-axis.

try it

Set up the partial fraction decomposition for [latex]\displaystyle\int \frac{{x}^{2}+3x+1}{\left(x+2\right){\left(x - 3\right)}^{2}{\left({x}^{2}+4\right)}^{2}}dx[/latex].

Watch the following video to see the worked solution to the above Try It

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