Part four – Learn more
You can find examples of plain-English summaries of research articles by winners of our science-writing competition.
Each of the entries illustrate many of the points mentioned in this guidance. The summaries were written for the Access to Understanding competition target audience who were described as being interested in the research and motivated to learn more, and capable of understanding something written at the level of an article in a broadsheet newspaper. Each of the summaries is provided with a link to the original research article which is freely available through Europe PMC. This will allow you to compare the plain-English summary side-by-side with the research article.
We hope that these examples prompt you to think how you will tackle specific aspects of your own plain-English summaries.
The following resources may be of use to those who are interested in finding out more. They cover different aspects and perspectives on writing in plain English, from general guidance to more specific advice on biomedical and health topics.
Please contact us to let us know which of these resources you found useful or to tell us about any other resources that we should consider including.
Further guidance and resources
Plain English Campaign
Plain English Campaign has been promoting the use of plain English since 1979. Their website includes an A-Z list of plain English alternatives (not science-focused), and general guidance in writing in plain English.
Cancer Research UK Glossary
Provides definitions for commonly used scientific and health terms.
British Heart Foundation
Examples of scientific descriptions as they might appear in a journal article or similar, with an accompanying simplified explanation.
Science and Development Network
Guidance for writing about science in plain English, with the emphasis on thinking about your audience.
An informative, general guide to improving your writing. It is not specific to science writing but contains relevant advice.
Patients Participate! Project
‘How to write a lay summary’ is a comprehensive guide about writing plain-English summaries for scientific or medical findings from the Jisc funded Patients Participate! Project awarded to the British Library’s Science team, the Association of Medical Research Charities and the UK Office for Library and Information Networking.
Sense About Science: Making Sense of Statistics
This guide explains statistical significance, percentages and changes in risk in plain language.
Denegri, S, and Faure, H (2013) It’s plain and simple: transparency is good for science and in the public interest (http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC3735400)
The article makes the case for plain-English summaries and reviews current practices.
INVOLVE & the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
This review aims to help improve the quality of plain-English summaries by highlighting changes that should be made within the NIHR in terms of plain-English summaries. It includes recommendations on how to improve these summaries.
Royal Society of Chemistry blog
‘One word, many meanings’
This blog post discusses words that may be understood differently by scientists and the public.
‘Beyond Compare: Metaphors are like cheese – often desirable but sometimes full of holes’
An article that discusses using metaphors.
The article ‘“Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words’, describes seven scientific terms that can be ambiguous for the public and across research disciplines.
A blog post defining plain-English summaries, explaining their purpose and pointing to helpful resources.