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SWAR 02: Effects of reading a written summary or listening to a
summary podcast on knowledge and understanding of the findings of a
Objective of this SWAR
To explore whether readers can understand key messages without having to read the full review,
and if there are differences in understanding between various types of summary.
Study area: Dissemination
Sample type: Consumers
Estimated funding level needed: Unfunded
Many readers of systematic reviews will only access the findings of the review through one of the
various summaries available rather than the full review. Therefore, it is essential that these
summaries are clear, understandable and accessible. Cochrane Reviews provide three different
types of summary: a scientific abstract, a plain language summary and for some reviews, an audio
podcast. If readers are interacting with reviews in this way, it is important to discover if key
outcomes can be understood without having to read the full review and if there are differences in
understanding between various types of summary.
Interventions and comparators
Intervention 1: Reading the abstract of the review.
Intervention 2: Reading the plain language summary of the review.
Intervention 3: Reading the script for the podcast of the review.
Intervention 4: Listening to the podcast of the review.
Method for allocating to intervention or comparator
Primary: Identification of the key findings of the review. Timing of the post-test measurement might
vary, for example, understanding could be assessed immediately after reading the summary or at a
later time point to see if the knowledge is retained.
Secondary: Influence of the person’s prior knowledge on their identification of the key findings of
the review, changes in opinion after accessing the summary, and interest in reading the full review
after accessing the summary (and any change in this from before the summary).
The analyses assess the effects of the summary on the understanding of the key findings of the
review. This includes the answers to before and after questions about the person’s knowledge or
opinion on the findings and their desire to read the full review.
Possible problems in implementing this SWAR
The content of the review, key findings and the ease or difficulty of understanding these will vary
across different implementations of this SWAR, because different systematic reviews will be used.
Other possible problems are prior knowledge of the subject area and difficulties with accessing the
Publications or presentations of this SWAR design
Maguire L, Clarke M, Tully M. Reading or listening to review summaries - which method will
produce greater understanding of the key outcomes in a Cochrane Review? Trials 2015; 16 (Suppl
Maguire L. Presenting the results of reviews. Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2015; 8(3): 171.
Maguire L, Clarke M. The communication of systematic review research findings: a randomised
experiment of whether readers can understand the key messages from summaries of Cochrane
reviews without reading the full review. Lancet 2014; 384 (Special issue 2): S48.
Maguire L, Clarke M. How much do you need: a randomised experiment of whether readers can
understand the key messages from summaries of Cochrane Reviews, without reading the full
review? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2014; 104(11): 444-9.
Examples of the implementation of this SWAR
People to show as the source of this idea: Mike Clarke
Contact email address: email@example.com
Date of idea: 19/JUL/2013
Revisions made by: Lisa Maguire and Mike Clarke
Date of revisions: 25/OCT/2013