Integration of basic and clinical science knowledge is increasingly being recognized as important for practice in the health professions. The concept of ‘cognitive integration’ places emphasis on the value of basic science in providing critical connections to clinical signs and symptoms while accounting for the fact that clinicians may not spontaneously articulate their use of basic science knowledge in clinical reasoning. In this study we used a diagnostic justification test to explore the impact of integrated basic science instruction on novices’ diagnostic reasoning process. Participants were allocated to an integrated basic science or clinical science training group. The integrated basic science group was taught the clinical features along with the underlying causal mechanisms of four musculoskeletal pathologies while the clinical science group was taught only the clinical features. Participants completed a diagnostic accuracy test immediately after initial learning, and one week later a diagnostic accuracy and justification test. The results showed that novices who learned the integrated causal mechanisms had superior diagnostic accuracy and better understanding of the relative importance of key clinical features. These findings further our understanding of cognitive integration by providing evidence of the specific changes in clinical reasoning when basic and clinical sciences are integrated during learning.