What is a plain English summary?

A plain English summary is a brief summary that has been written for members of the public, rather than researchers or professionals.  It should be written clearly and simply, without jargon and with an explanation of any technical terms that have to be included.

Why is it important?

A good quality plain English summary providing an easy to read overview of your whole study will help:

  • those carrying out the review (reviewers and board and panel members) to have a better understanding of your research proposal
  • inform others about your research such as members of the public, health professionals, policy makers and the media
  • the research funders to publicise the research that they fund.

Getting your summary right now will save you time later. Use this summary as a foundation to build and adapt as your research develops. Consider the audience and what information they will need.

If you are applying for funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) then many reviewers use this summary to inform their review of your funding application. They include clinicians and researchers who do not have specialist knowledge of your field as well as public reviewers. If your application for funding is successful, the summary will be used on NIHR and other websites.

The NIHR has recently launched the ‘make it clear’ campaign and a good quality plain English summary is a requirement for NIHR funding. If it is felt that your plain English summary is not clear and of a good quality then you may be required to amend your summary prior to final funding approval.