Guide to writing a successful summary for the CAB

Effective communication of research to different stakeholders is a critical step in translating findings into meaningful health outcomes. A general, or “plain language” summary is a valuable way to support wider public engagement with research and its successful dissemination.

The plain language summary for the PTBi-CA Community Advisory Board (CAB) is intended to explain why the research is being proposed, what the researchers aim to achieve, and how the study may impact prematurity risk and birth outcome disparities in the PTBi-CA communities and geographies of focus.


What to include in your plain language summary

  • Project Background & History of the Work: Introduce the research, and provide context for the proposal. Why is this work important?
  • Project Summary: Describe the proposed project. This section should provide answers to the essential questions Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?
  • Community Engagement & Dissemination Plan: Describe your community-engagement efforts to date around the proposed work. How has your research team assessed that this work is relevant to community members? What do you think the impact will be for the intended communities? Please describe any strategies for incentivizing study participation and retention, and your plans for disseminating results.


Tips for success

A successful summary tells a clear story and provides a strong message about why the work is important. Consider what it would be like to develop a 2-minute "elevator pitch" about your proposed project. Identify the key points, define terms, and avoid complex language, scientific jargon, or technical acronyms. Please define any scientific or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to the general public.

A compelling summary is memorable, and tailor-made to appeal to and make the summary relatable to your audience.

After reading the summary, reviewers should be able to articulate what the project is, why it is important, and how you are pursing the topic, as well as understand the study well enough to provide constructive feedback or recommendations about its design and implementation. It might be helpful to share your summary with colleagues in a different research field, and with at least one non-specialist prior to submission.



See below for examples of high-scoring plain language summaries from recently funded proposals:

Please note:the maximum allowable length of the plain language summaries is subject to change with each call for applications. While the examples above may be longer, the Spring 2018 RFA will be requesting a one-page summary.


About the PTBi-CA Community Advisory Board

The purpose of the CAB is to ensure all research sponsored by PTBi-CA promotes the interest and wellbeing of the communities in San Francisco, Oakland and Fresno affected by preterm birth. The CAB serves as a source of community stakeholder knowledge and expertise to PTBi-CA researchers, staff and leadership by advising on strategies for engaging community stakeholders in the initiative; providing feedback on aspects of research study design, protocol development, and participant recruitment; and implementation and dissemination of results.

CAB members evaluate submitted research proposals based on the scientific abstract and plain language summary, with access to the full proposal upon request. Review criteria considered in assigning the overall application score by the CAB include:

  • Impact: Will the study answer questions that are important to women of reproductive age and their families in San Francisco, Oakland, or Fresno?
  • Partnership: Does the application demonstrate engagement and involvement of community members or community-based organizations in the planning and/or performance/review of the study?
  • Dissemination: Is the plan to disseminate study results to the project participants (and broader community, if applicable) appropriate and effective?