Research Design Service: East Midlands
National Institute for Health Research
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Understanding Plain English summaries. A comparison of two approaches to improve the quality of Plain English summaries in research reports

  Created on Tuesday, 24 Oct 2017. Posted in Public Involvement | Dissemination | Design Tips

There is a need for the authors of research reports to be able to communicate their work clearly and effectively to readers who are not familiar with the research area. Because many researchers write using technical, specialised language, particularly in scientific reports, writing Plain English summaries (PESs) can be challenging. This study looked at how to improve the quality of PESs.

The quality of the three versions (original summary, rewritten summary and edited summary) were assessed in two ways. First, a group of people who were not specialists in the subject area read and rated how easy the summaries were to understand. Secondly, a well-known measure called the Flesch reading ease score to assess how easy the PESs were to read.

The results showed that the following methods resulted in the best readable PESs:

  • to employ a specialist to do the task
  • to offer more explicit information to researchers on how to write it. 

The full article can be read online in the BioMed Central Research Involvement and Engagement Journal