Plain Language Summary Tool

A plain language summary describes findings from a systematic review in everyday language that is understandable to a non-research audience. Both the Cochrane and Campbell Collaborations emphasize the need for systematic reviews to be usable by members of the public.

The Center on KTDRR, working in collaboration with the University of Washington Center for Technology and Disability Studies (UWCTDS) has developed a web-based "Plain Language Summary Tool (PLST)" to guide authors through the process of writing a plain language summary of a systematic review.

The PLST is available for anyone who needs to write a plain language summary of a systematic review and is open to all users including researchers, research assistants, and others. Users can start and stop their summaries as needed, and share with anyone they choose.

The PLST guides users through the process of creating Cochrane-style plain language summaries of systematic reviews. An introductory video, a manual, and explanatory materials are available to help users create their plain language summaries.

Access Plain Language Summary Tool (PLST)

Plain Language Summary Resources

The Center on KTDRR has gathered a number of resources that explain the need for and use of plain language and offer assistance in learning how to use plain language.

Campbell Collaboration User Abstracts
User abstracts help summarize the Campbell systematic reviews to make things more easily accessible and usable for their audiences. The Campbell Collaboration helps people make well-informed decisions by preparing, maintaining and disseminating systematic reviews in education, crime and justice, social welfare and international development.

Center for Plain Language
The Center for Plain Language is a non-profit organization that helps government agencies and businesses write clearly. The website contains a plain language checklist, book recommendations, and before and after examples from various organizations.

Clear Communication - National Institutes of Health
The NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL) has established the NIH “Clear Communication” initiative.

Cochrane Summaries
Cochrane Summaries is a searchable database of summaries of Cochrane systematic reviews. Each Cochrane summary page displays the full plain language summary and provides links to the abstract, the full review in The Cochrane Library, and other resources. The Cochrane Collaboration is a global independent network of health practitioners, researchers, patient advocates and others, responding to the challenge of making the vast amounts of evidence generated through research useful for informing decisions about health.

FAA Plain Language Course
The Federal Aviation Administration has created a 9-part course on plain language that should take less than an hour to complete. The webpage on plain language also has links to other resources, including the FAA’s Plain Language Toolkit.

Going Public: Writing About Research in Everyday Language
This brief describes approaches that writers can use to make impact research more accessible to policy audiences.
Dynarski, M., & Kisker, E. (2014). Going public: Writing about research in everyday language (REL 2014–051). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Analytic Technical Assistance and Development.

Plain Language - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies plain language resources including promotional materials on highlighting main messages and eliminating jargon and unnecessary details.

Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN)
Originally the “Plain Language Network,” PLAIN is a volunteer nonprofit organization. Resources include plain language courses, trainings, introductions, books on plain language and more.

Plain Language Links - Center for Literacy
This webpage on plain language provides guides to writing, thesauri, and links to several readability formulas. The Centre for Literacy is a Canadian organization that works to support best practices and informed policy development by bridging research policy and practice.

Plain Language Training at NIH
The National Institutes of Health’s webpage provides links to online trainings.

PlainLanguage.Gov offers support to government agencies in resolving plain language issues and planning plain language trainings.  The website contains examples, tips and tools, and other resources.

The Plain Writing Act of 2010
The law requires that federal agencies use "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use" in order to improve communication from the federal government to the public.