Preprint

Plain Language Summaries: A Systematic Review of Theory, Guidelines, and Empirical Research

This article is a preprint and has not been certified by peer review [What does this mean?].

Author(s) / Creator(s)

Stoll, Marlene
Kerwer, Martin
Lieb, Klaus
Chasiotis, Anita

Abstract / Description

Background: Plain language summaries (PLS) have been introduced to communicate research in an understandable way to a non-expert audience. Guidelines for writing PLS have been developed and empirical research on PLS has been conducted, but terminology and research approaches in this comparatively young field vary considerably. This prompted us to review the current state of the art on the theoretical and empirical literature on PLS. Main Objectives: Main objectives were (1) to develop a conceptual framework for PLS theory, and (2) to synthesize empirical evidence on PLS criteria. Major research questions were how theoretical considerations on PLS can be conceptualized and what the empirical evidence of their effects on defined outcomes is. Methods: We searched Web of Science, PubMed, PsycInfo, and PSYNDEX (last search 07/2021). In our review, we included empirical investigations of PLS, reports on PLS development, PLS guidelines, and theoretical articles referring to PLS. A conceptual framework was developed through content analysis. Empirical studies investigating effects of PLS criteria on defined outcomes were narratively synthesized. Results: We identified 7,714 records, of which 90 articles met the inclusion criteria. All articles were used to develop a conceptual framework for PLS which comprises six categories each for PLS aims and PLS characteristics. Thirty-three articles empirically investigated effects of PLS on several outcomes, but study designs were too heterogeneous to identify definite criteria for high-quality PLS. Insular studies identified effects of various criteria on accessibility, understanding, knowledge, communication of research, and empowerment. For most criteria we identified from PLS writing guidelines, we found no empirical evidence. Conclusion and Implications: Considerable work to establish and investigate PLS has been done, but empirical evidence on criteria for high-quality PLS is scarce. The conceptual framework developed in this review may provide a valuable starting point for future guideline developers and PLS researchers.

Persistent Identifier

Date of first publication

2021-08-13

Publisher

PsychArchives

Citation

Stoll, M., Kerwer, M., Lieb, K., & Chasiotis, A. (2021). Plain Language Summaries: A Systematic Review of Theory, Guidelines, and Empirical Research. PsychArchives. https://doi.org/10.23668/PSYCHARCHIVES.5044
  • 2
    2021-08-13
    After having submitted this manuscript, we were requested to update the search of our literature review. We updated the literature search and revised the manuscript and figures. Additionally, we added a Plain Language Summary of our review.
  • 1
    2021-06-22
  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
    Stoll, Marlene
  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
    Kerwer, Martin
  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
    Lieb, Klaus
  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
    Chasiotis, Anita
  • Accession date
    2021-08-13T09:37:24Z
  • Made available on
    2021-06-22T15:14:53Z
  • Made available on
    2021-08-13T09:37:24Z
  • Date of first publication
    2021-08-13
  • Abstract / Description
    Background: Plain language summaries (PLS) have been introduced to communicate research in an understandable way to a non-expert audience. Guidelines for writing PLS have been developed and empirical research on PLS has been conducted, but terminology and research approaches in this comparatively young field vary considerably. This prompted us to review the current state of the art on the theoretical and empirical literature on PLS. Main Objectives: Main objectives were (1) to develop a conceptual framework for PLS theory, and (2) to synthesize empirical evidence on PLS criteria. Major research questions were how theoretical considerations on PLS can be conceptualized and what the empirical evidence of their effects on defined outcomes is. Methods: We searched Web of Science, PubMed, PsycInfo, and PSYNDEX (last search 07/2021). In our review, we included empirical investigations of PLS, reports on PLS development, PLS guidelines, and theoretical articles referring to PLS. A conceptual framework was developed through content analysis. Empirical studies investigating effects of PLS criteria on defined outcomes were narratively synthesized. Results: We identified 7,714 records, of which 90 articles met the inclusion criteria. All articles were used to develop a conceptual framework for PLS which comprises six categories each for PLS aims and PLS characteristics. Thirty-three articles empirically investigated effects of PLS on several outcomes, but study designs were too heterogeneous to identify definite criteria for high-quality PLS. Insular studies identified effects of various criteria on accessibility, understanding, knowledge, communication of research, and empowerment. For most criteria we identified from PLS writing guidelines, we found no empirical evidence. Conclusion and Implications: Considerable work to establish and investigate PLS has been done, but empirical evidence on criteria for high-quality PLS is scarce. The conceptual framework developed in this review may provide a valuable starting point for future guideline developers and PLS researchers.
    en
  • Publication status
    unknown
    en
  • Review status
    unknown
    en
  • Citation
    Stoll, M., Kerwer, M., Lieb, K., & Chasiotis, A. (2021). Plain Language Summaries: A Systematic Review of Theory, Guidelines, and Empirical Research. PsychArchives. https://doi.org/10.23668/PSYCHARCHIVES.5044
    en
  • Persistent Identifier
    https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12034/4361.2
  • Persistent Identifier
    https://doi.org/10.23668/psycharchives.5044
  • Language of content
    eng
  • Publisher
    PsychArchives
    en
  • Dewey Decimal Classification number(s)
    150
  • Title
    Plain Language Summaries: A Systematic Review of Theory, Guidelines, and Empirical Research
    en
  • DRO type
    preprint
    en
  • Leibniz institute name(s) / abbreviation(s)
    ZPID
    de_DE