|Plain Language Proposal Abstracts|
|Tuesday, 22 May 2012 08:56|
Abstracts come in a variety of flavors. Journal articles, book proposals, dissertations and other works generally require some form of abstract. Research proposals may require two different types - a technical abstract for the sponsor, and a plain language abstract for public consumption. RIT's Proposal Routing Form requires a brief, non-technical abstract, which serves a number of purposes, which are generally beneficial to the investigator or team.
If you are a researcher, the abstract on the Proposal Routing Form may be the last thing on your mind as you race toward the proposal deadline. Let's pause and consider the merits of a good, plain language abstract on your PRF:
1. A plain language abstract aids the review process. Your proposal will pass through multiple hands for review. Some of the reviewers may be outside your discipline, particularly if you are working with co-investigators in different departments and colleges. These reviewers will want to understand the importance and purpose of the larger proposal, and a plain langauge abstract will provide a concise summary of the research.
2. Many sponsors require a plain language abstract before making awards. These are used for press releases and sponsor websites, and are generally intended to inform the public or policy makers about the sponsor's investments.
3. The proposal abstracts on the PRF are entered into the RAPID database, which is searchable by the RIT community. Researchers have found valuable partners by free word searches of RAPID.
4. RIT's University News will use your abstracts in RAPID for publicity. A good abstract can increase the exposure of your research.
5. RIT's Oversight Policy for Externally Sponsored Projects emphasizes integrity and openness in research at RIT. Proposals and abstracts are reviewed by an independent committee under this policy, and a plain language abstract enables them to fulfull their charge and report to the RIT community.
What makes a good plain language abstract? There is no one formula, but a few common sense principles can help:
1. A good abstract will describe the needs or problem your poject will address, the tasks you plan to accomplish, and the outcomes you expect to achieve.
2. Avoid technical jargon and acronyms. Remember your audience is broader than your sponsor or academic colleagues.
3. Do not include confidential material. This is especially important if your sponsor is a private company. The RIT community does not need to know the technical details of any corporate engagement, and the abstract should include only a general overview of the research.
Ultimately, a good plain language abstract gives you a competitive edge, and has intangible benefits that may be realized over time.