” The first thing I read in an application is the summary.  It really sets the tone and helps orient the reader, making it much easier to navigate the text.  The process of trying to distil the essence of complex research without dumbing it down is difficult but important – both for reviewers as well as for a public increasingly engaging with our research.” 

Professor Paul Little, Programme Director, NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research


Resources and examples

Several organisations and groups have developed guidance to support the writing of plain English summaries.

Plain English Campaign produce a series of guides that can be downloaded free of charge from their website including:

  • How to write in plain English
  • How to write medical information in plain English



Access to understanding

This guidance is for anyone who is planning to write about biomedical or health research for a non-specialist audience. It is particularly intended to help scientists who are used to writing for their peers to reach a wider audience including the general public.



‘How to Write a Lay Summary’. Duke, M. (2012).DCC How-to Guides.

Edinburgh: Digital Curation Centre


This publication has information, guidelines and resources for writing lay summaries.


Peninsula Cerebra Research Unit for Childhood Disability Research (PenCRU) write their plain language summaries with parents of disabled children from their Family Faculty. A template was designed collaboratively with parents by reviewing various media styles. Each research project being carried out at PenCRU has a team of parents from their Family Faculty who work with the researchers. Plain language summaries for each project are written in partnership with this group of parents, who are involved in deciding the headline, content and style of the document.

Examples of their summaries are here:



Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy (CTRad) Research working group 

How to write a good lay summary.  This publication was developed by public members of the group.



Stroke Association – How to write a lay summary



Contact your local NIHR Research Design Service for further advice and support



You can also download copies of the ‘make it clear’ leaflet and flyer 


Contact  us on:

email: makeitclear@invo.org.uk

phone: 02380 595628