By Adiba Kausar, Clinical Trial Disclosure Administrator, TransPerfect Life Sciences
What draws your attention when choosing a book? Is it the cover? Maybe it is the author’s name? Or, did the summary intrigue you? A book cover may be the top attention-getter; however, the summary is what sells the reader on the story. A cover may draw a reader to a book, but a well-crafted summary will make sure they don’t put it down.
Likewise, a plain-language abstract (lay abstract) in scientific research offers a short-and-sweet version of a study to a wider audience. Different from a normal abstract, a plain-language abstract is typically a secondary option that is free of technical language. A plain-language abstract summarizes a study at a high school reading level for general and scientific audiences. It should simply explain why the research was done, how it was done, and the key findings. While some scientists argue that a plain-language abstract is trivial, it takes more than just publishing a study in a journal to make a research paper stand out. Abstracts are effective tools that make research more accessible. That could mean the general public or a colleague that isn’t necessarily in your scientific field. Plain-language abstracts summarize study outcomes and create accessibility in research. This contributes toward a more transparent scientific community.