Written popular science summary - tips on writing

It is mandatory for PhD students admitted after September 1, 2012 to write a popular science summary to be published at the backside of their thesis, before publicly defending their doctoral thesis. For more information talk to your supervisor and/or director of studies at your graduate school. Below follows a guidance aimed to support your writing of a popular science summary.

How to write a popular science summary

Let’s start with the basics. Popular science is an interpretation of science – intended for a general audience. The key is to understand in what way your research is relevant to a given audience. Therefore, focus on consequences and benefits that affects the audience rather than on proving your findings.

You may write your popular summary in Swedish or English.

How to do it

Some tips to use when you find them relevant to reach your communication goal 

  • Write a brief, catchy subheading to translate the scientific title of your thesis.
  • Start with the most interesting message, to keep the reader interested enough to read it all.
  • See that your summary answers the questions journalists usually ask, like…

What – is your project about? What do you strive to achieve?
Why – is it important?
Who – does it concern? Who cares?
How – will ordinary people / the industry / the society be effected?
Where – will we see the first applications? (or for fundamental research: Where in society have your subject area had impact?)
When – will we see the effects?

  • Use direct language. Avoid passive structures and the use of ’one’ (Swedish: ’man’).
  • Use short sentences. Avoid intricate sentence structure, "Kill your darlings."
  • Avoid abbreviations. They often mean different things in different context.
  • Keep it simple! Avoid specialist terminology or, if you really need it, explain it. If you can’t find the word in a common dictionary or on Wikipedia – don’t use it!
  • Read the summary aloud to a friend who is not an academic or in another field of research. Does he/she understand the content?

Published: Thu 09 Jun 2016. Modified: Fri 23 Sep 2016