Exploring the Effectiveness and Accessibility of Lay Summaries in Four Open-Access Journals


  • Manvir Kaur Chima McMaster University




Lay Summary, Open-Access, PLOS Medicine, PNAS, SAGE Open, Frontiers in Psychology


Lay summaries are an important aspect of research, as they aim to summarize scientific findings in a manner that is accessible to a lay audience. However, lay summaries often incorporate scientific and technical jargon, which makes it difficult for the public to understand research that they are indirectly funding. This study aimed to analyze lay summaries published in four open-access journals to compare differences in effectivity and accessibility when authors summarize the key points of a research study. Four open-access journals, PLOS Medicine, PNAS, Sage Open, and Frontiers in Psychology were analyzed using McMaster University’s LIFESCI 2AA3: Introduction to Topics in Life Sciences rubric. This rubric was created by Dr. Katie Moisse, assistant professor of curriculum and pedagogy at McMaster University, School of Interdisciplinary Science. The rubric judges for an accurate summarization of the study rationale, knowledge gap, methods, results, conclusions, limitations, and next steps, while ensuring accessibility and clarity. Results indicate that total scores are statistically significant between PLOS Medicine and PNAS, SAGE Open, and Frontiers in Psychology, but not between PLOS Medicine and Frontiers in Psychology. A lack of cohesion between journal instructions along with a decreased emphasis on scientific and technical jargon may allude to the disparity seen amongst scores for these four journals. This research depicts specific disparities between open-access journals, which may help revise journal guidelines to ensure cohesiveness and lay audience understanding.




How to Cite

Chima, M. K. (2022). Exploring the Effectiveness and Accessibility of Lay Summaries in Four Open-Access Journals. Sciential - McMaster Undergraduate Science Journal, 1(9), 2–9. https://doi.org/10.15173/sciential.v1i9.3183



Original Research