Lay Summary Writing Competition
Never underestimate the ability to write and speak about your research with clarity and simplicity. Even if you are submitting to the very best research paper, a clear and concise style will be appreciated by both specialist and non-specialist readers.
The Lay Summary Writing Competition is an annual event open to all early career researchers (postgraduate researchers, post-docs, research fellows) in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. The competition typically runs from August - October, with winners announced in November.
The next faculty competition will run in 2014.
In the meantime you watch out for the the university-wideImages of Research Photograph Competition.
- What's it all about?
- Why enter this competition?
- Entry rules
- Judges and criteria
- Writing tips and resources
- Previous winners
- Support workshops
As a researcher, it is essential to communicate your research to as wide an audience as possible. Through our lay summary writing competition we challenge you to write a 250 word summary of your research that is understandable to someone who is not an expert in your specialised subject field. In return you could win prizes up to £200.
So can you write a summary that...
- engages, inspires or challenges the reader
- communicates your research simply and directly
- explains the science but avoids the jargon
- shows why the work is important and relevant
- gives the reader both the big picture and an understanding of the details of your research.
Lay summaries can make a critical difference in how your research proposal, presentation, or paper is reviewed and evaluated. For example did you know that that e-thesis submissions ask for lay summaries or that grant and fellowship applications require lay summaries? In some cases the lay summary may be your only chance to make a good impression on a review panel.
So whatever kind of research you are doing it is vital that you can communicate your research simply and directly while giving the reader a reason to care.
The audience for lay summaries covers the broadest possible scope, from expert to lay person. You need to find a comfortable balance between writing a summary that both shows your knowledge and yet is still comprehensible to non-specialist readers.
The competition is open to all early career researchers in the Faculty. Last year's competition revealed that the entries submitted by postgraduate researchers and post-docs were of equal standard. So this year we have decided to combine the categories into a single set of prizes for all. So whilst it is important to show how your research is unique try also to find that hook that makes the research both accessible and relevant.
You can win Amazon vouchers to the following value:
- First Prize: £200
- Second Prize: £100
- Third Prize: £50
Before submitting your entry, ensure that you have read the entry rules and judging criteria. We also recommend that you take a look at the writing tips for useful advise.
Submit your lay summary with title (in plain text) along with your name, school, research group, contact telephone to:
At the time of submission you must be registered at the University of Manchester, within the Faculty of Engineering & Physical Sciences as a postgraduate researcher (PhD/EngD/MPhil/MSc by Research) or research staff (post-doc, research fellow)
- Only one entry per applicant
- Summaries must not exceed 250 words - this does not include your title
- Summares must be submitted in plain text (i.e no formatting, no fancy fonts) and cannot include images, graphics or graphs
- You must ensure that your Supervisor/PI is happy for you to publish this content
- If there are any disputes or ties, the judges' decision will be final.
The judging panel will be made up of academics from a range of disciplines and non-academics including science journalists and university press officers. The panel will be led by the Associate Dean Graduate for Education.
Judges may not be experts in your specific field but will have experience of reviewing grant or fellowship applications or communicating their own science to a variety of audiences.
Judges will score the entries based on:
- Does the summary explain your research in a clear, concise manner that a non-subject specialist can understand?
- Does the first sentence convey the excitement of your research?
- Does the summary convey the reasons why you are researching in that particular field? Why the work is important and relevant?
- Does the summary provide a clear and logical structure?
- Does the summary use simple, active language, with no jargon?
- Does the summary provide real information, facts and key points - a balance between big picture and detail?
- Does the summary make a good attempt to explain difficult science?
The following is intended as guidance only. Here are a few tips for writing your lay summary to get you started.
- Write for an intelligent non-scientist or a scientist not familiar with your specialism.
- Describe the work in non-technical terms and avoid jargon.
- Write simply and directly, think about the structure.
- Emphasize the importance and relevance of the research.
- Make the reader excited about your work.
- Get someone to read it before you submit it to us.
- Stick to the 250 word plus a title limit.
You might also find these resources useful:
- a more complete list of lay summary writing tips (pdf)
- examples of UK funding body lay summary criteria (pdf)
- Plain English Summaries (INVOLVE)
- Engaging the Public with Your Research (NERC)
- Communicating Your Research in Lay Language - Cristian A. Linte (pdf)
- Eloquent Science Blog
Take a look at the winning entries from previous years:
- Winning entries from 2010 and interview with the winners (they pass on some top tips)
- Winning entries from 2009
To support the competiton, we offer a series of lay summary support workshops. This will give you an opportunity to review samples of existing lay summaries and get valuable feedback on your own draft.