Inspired by clear language writing and design

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche is pleased to publish a post by guest blogger Robyn Schell who contacted David Phipps (RIR-York) after reading his paper published in December 2011 in Scholarly & Research Communications.

I’m Robyn Schell and I am a founding member of our fledgling BC KTE group in Vancouver. We keep in close touch with Ontario Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice.

When I read David Phipps’ article about the KTE program at York, I realized I could apply this information right away. I’m a PhD student in the Ed Tech/Learning Design program at Simon Fraser University. I had been asked to review five important papers in relation to a study I conducted this spring about faculty’s experience of transitioning from face-to-face to online teaching at a community college. This, I decided, was a golden opportunity to write “clear language research summaries” as David described in his paper.

I had a very positive response (ie: “LOVE the clear structure, nice!”). Rather than obscuring the core details in an avalanche of information in a ten page document, I organized the highlights of each paper under sections as shown in the color coded list below.

I wrapped up the each summary by posing a “burning” question about the research that examined the content of the research or suggested how one could build on research in the future.

Questions you need to answer in a Clear Language Research Summary

  1. What do you need to know about the research summarized in two or three sentences?
  2. What is this research about?
  3. What did the researchers do (this turned out to often be quite mysterious and rather vague)
  4. What did the researchers find? (sometimes not congruent with the original research question)
  5. How can you use this research? (I improvised with: how is this research useful and why?)
  6. Burning Question (added by us not David Phipps)

Here’s a truncated example of how I applied clear language summary framework with questions numbered to match the summary questions above.

Teaching college courses online versus face-to-face (Smith, Ferguson, & Caris, 2001)

  1. What do you need to know about this research? This research explores the perceptions of instructors moving from a face-to-face teaching to teaching online.
  2. What is this research about? This research seeks to understand the experience of professors teaching online.
  3. What did the researchers do? The researchers interviewed 21 instructors who had taught both online and in the classroom. The interview included open ended or Likert scale questions. They counted the number of times a theme was encountered to identify major themes.
  4. What did they find? The researchers found the instructors’ face-to-face teaching experience was not enough to ease their transition to the online environment. Instructors noted the need to plan in detail well in advance of online course delivery. The instructors claimed their online experience led them to rethink how they delivered their course in both modes.
  5. How is this research useful and why? This research stresses the importance of instructors’ need to more fully understand the online environment before teaching in the online classroom.
  6. Burning Question: Have the issues related to instructors’ transition to the online classroom changed in the years since this paper was published?

In conclusion, by applying the short paper summary method outlined in David’s paper, I was able to target and condense important information about each article I reviewed to provide my audience with information they could quickly access and assess in relation to their own work.

You can contact Robyn about this piece at You can also contact her if you would like more information about BC KTE community of practice. Our next meeting is June 11 2012 in Vancouver.


Phipps, David. (2011) A Report Detailing the Development of a University-Based Knowledge Mobilization Unit that Enhances Research Outreach and Engagement. Scholarly and Research Communication, 2 (2): 020502, 13 pp. Available here

Smith, G.  G., Ferguson, D., & Caris, M. (2001). Teaching college courses online versus face-to-face. T.H.E. Journal, 28 (9), 18 – 22, 24, 26.

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