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Skills: Writing a good plain-language summary of a research project
Following the first webinar on the skills of reading scientific papers, the IES group continued to bring another webinar on the topic "How to summarize a research project", presented by a consultant of IES, Ms. Iris Hsu.

According to Ms. Iris Hsu, although the use of brief and comprehensible wording to sum up complex ideas for those who are not familiar with or have never had access to a certain field dates back to the ancient Greece times, it had not been standardized until the 1960s. However, prior to that, a number of famous publishers around the world had already required scientists to enclose abstracts with their research projects. This came from the fact that those publishers wanted scientific works to be easily accessed to scientists and publishers in other fields, thereby encouraging multidisciplinary research projects.

Through this webinar, Ms. Iris Hsu and the IES group would like the participants to see an overall picture of a research project summary from definition to writing methods and ways to maximize the benefits of research project summaries to the scientist.

Discussing the definition of a research project summary, Ms. Iris Hsu agreed with author McKenzie in “Consumer and Community Participation Fact Sheer M11: Plain Language Summary (2011) by saying that a research project summary is a brief outline of the project, providing information about the research to make it more open, transparent and accessible. The project summary is not to "popularize" scientific information but to write about the research in such a way that potential funders, policymakers, readers and community can understand. Thus, by this definition, a summary needs to attain 3 keywords: clear, understandable and accessible.

The purpose of a research project summary is to encourage and increase exchanges and cooperation in multidisciplinary research, so the content of the summary should show the research problems, solutions and the outcomes of the proposed solutions.

There is no standard structure for writing a research project summary and there are more than one way to write it but, at IES, Ms. Iris Hsu and her colleagues have chosen to draw a kind of diagram. This diagram comprises different boxes, which answer Big Why, Why, What, and How questions.

Specifically, the Big Why must show the big picture associated with the problem that scientists want to solve and express the urgency of the problem. This section needs a little bit of reality information and explanation of the connection between that information and the problem so that the potential readers, who are not familiar with the field of study, can understand. The processing of the information in the Big Why section depends much on the background knowledge of the target readers. If written for the masses, it is necessary to connect information with education of the masses; if written for experts, it needs to attract their interest in research and encourage multidisciplinary participation. The Why question can be drawn from the research project hypothesis. In other words, it is the real problem that the project is targeting at. The What and How questions are meant to suggest solutions to the problem and how these solutions can change the real situation. These questions can be found in the research conclusion or elsewhere in the author's discussions.

A summary can be presented in various forms such as an abstract, an infographical illustration or a video. Scientists can also upload their summaries to publicize their projects.

The webinar on “Read - the full-text structurally” is one of the 4 online webinars within the framework of the "Do your research work @home" program organized by IES Research Solutions (Singapore) and iGroup, with the help of researchers, faculty and students from higher education institutions to support global science activities, accelerate research and publication while “doing research work @home” due to the Covid-19.

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