Plain Language Result Summaries
Plain language summaries provided to participants at the end of a study provide information in easy to understand language help participants learn how they contributed to new knowledge. In some countries, regulations mandate plain language summaries.
“Most patients (364 [91%]) wanted to be informed about research findings or else would not participate in future clinical trials (272 [68%])”. [Sood et al. 2009. Mayo Clinic Proceedings.84(3): 243-247.]
[Getz et al. 2012. Expert Rev. Clin. Pharmacol.5(2): 149-156.]
Some things to consider when planning and creating a plain-language summary:
Content and Format
- Use simple headings and non-technical language without jargon and acronyms.
- Use graphics, visuals, or videos to make summaries more accessible (e.g., video with closed-captions).
- Work with patients and/or caregivers to co-develop the template and/or summary. CTO has resources to help you engage patients and caregivers here.
- Keep as short as possible (1 to 2 pages) while providing all information or consider a short version of the summary and a more in-depth version for those who may wish to learn more.
- Ensure the plain language summary is approved by a Research Ethics Board prior to sending it to participants.
- Some participants may be interested in a scientific publication of the study in which they participated. In the plain language summary, you should ask participants if they wish to receive published results when these become available
- Ensure the process to distribute the plain language summary is approved by a Research Ethics Board
These resources are provided to help with plain language summaries. In addition to the resource name, the organization that developed the resources is listed and a brief description is also provided.
- Plain-Language Summaries: A Vital Ingredient In Knowledge Translation – Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – provides an overview of plain language, the reasons for it, and resources to help with plain language projects
- Summaries of Clinical Trial Results for Laypersons – Recommendations of the expert group on clinical trials for the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 536/2014 on clinical trials on medicinal products for human use – provides sponsors and investigators with guidelines and templates for the production of summaries of clinical trial results for laypersons
- Determining the ‘readibility’ of a Word document – Microsoft – these are instructions to determine the language level of a Word document
- Plain English Summaries – INVOLVE – this website has a number of resources to explain plain English summaries, provide information and guidance on how to write them, and provide examples, guidelines, and training
- Plain Language Summaries (PLS) of Publications Toolkit – Envision Pharma Group and Patient-Focused Medicines Development – a toolkit for plain language summaries of publications that were co-created with patients
- Guide to writing a lay summary – Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada – practical advice and tips for writing a lay research summary.
- How to write a plain language summary of a Cochrane intervention review – Cochrane Norway– specific to systematic reviews, but provides good guidance for an approach to plain language summaries.
- Best Practice Recommendations for Communicating Results to Clinical Trial Research Participants – Clinical Trials BC – provides practical advice on communication practices recommended for improving the experiences of participants taking part in clinical trials
Note: This resource list is not exhaustive and listing a resource does not denote its endorsement or promotion.