Monday, 30 November 2020

Writing a research lay summary

In academia we learn to write abstracts, but we do not learn how to write plain language, lay summaries. It is a skill we could all do with honing.

If we do some research for a company, a lay summary is usually much more useful to them than the full report. Even more useful is a set of infographics: a picture of the lay summary. A visual summary of the summary, if you will. 

Below are some questions we should answer when putting the lay summary together:
  • What should go in a lay summary? The 5 Ws, effectively: what, where, why, when, who and how (the last being the honorary 'w') (Tancock, 30 November 2018)
  • What is the most important thing? Demonstrate impact (Green, 2019), highlight the "so what" (Tancock, 2018) element of Driscoll's model (2007)
  • How should I write it? Tell a clear story, explaining the WHY of the research; what else we need to learn; and who will benefit (Joy, 2018)
  • What level of readership? Aim for year 10. Use first person, simple, direct, active language (Joy, 2018). Remove jargon (Green, 2019)
  • How long should it be? Short. Aim for two pages, or one infographic
Ensuring that we have answered these questions will help us to write a lay summary that aids our reader, makes our research results clear, and shares knowledge.



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