Plain Language Summaries (PLS) communicate the significance of scientific research evidence to a broad audience, including patients and professionals in nearby disciplines, in jargon-free and clear language.
They can describe clinical trials and other original research, review articles, case reports, and congress abstracts, among other scientific publications. The submission of a PLS is optional, but encouraged. Read on to find out why you should create one.
Why should I create a Plain Language Summary?
As an author, expanding the reach of your work by engaging with a wider audience can help you:
- Enable the reader to capture the content quickly and bookmark the paper for reading
- Attract more readers, increasing access to the article and its associated metrics
- Connect with patients, caregivers, policy makers, and other decision-makers
- Connect with non-specialist healthcare professionals
- Improve access to scientific data in a format that is easy to understand
- Translate complex science into practical knowledge and initiatives
- Expand your professional network and enhance your reputation
Crucially, PLS improve public engagement with science and medical research. By helping the public to understand biomedical research, researchers can contribute to raising awareness of its value and attracting further public support, engagement, and involvement.
How to write a Plain Language Summary
The PLS should be 250 words or less, written in plain English, and placed after the Abstract and before the Introduction, with its own heading (“Plain Language Summary”). For all technical specifications, read our PLS Guidelines for Authors.
For further information on how to write about biomedical and health research in plain English, please read the INVOLVE Plain English Summaries resource from the National Institute for Health Research.
Once your PLS is complete (or during the writing process), ask someone who doesn’t have any knowledge of the subject to read the PLS and provide feedback. They should find it interesting and be able to understand the study, its conclusions, and the potential impact of the research.
Take a look at a plain language summary published in Postgraduate Medicine on the article page on Taylor & Francis Online, and indexed on PubMed.
Graphical Plain Language Summaries
You can submit a graphical representation of the PLS (Graphical PLS) in addition to the written PLS, which will be published:
- Below the Abstract and text PLS on the article hosting page and;
- Within the HTML and typeset articles.
It’s important that a text PLS accompany your graphical PLS. Only summaries that are 250 words or less and written in a plain text, continuous prose format can be indexed on PubMed.
→ Graphical PLS & Graphical Abstracts