3. Can evidence be summarised in a way that makes it useful and easy to understand?

In order for evidence to be useful in decision-making, it must be summarised so that the main points are easy to consider. A key step in this process is to organise the information into a logical format and to paraphrase what you have found into your own words. It is important to keep your audience in mind when doing this, as different audiences will want to see information presented in different ways. For example, they will have differing levels of understanding of technical terms and will want to see different levels of detail.

Make sure:

  • You are clear about the overall message that is being conveyed
  • You have identified your key points and organised them in a logical way
  • You restate the original reason behind searching for the evidence and the background to it
  • You make relevant links between the evidence you have uncovered and the given context

You may find it useful to provide brief summaries of the evidence you have uncovered. This will give readers a structured overview of the evidence and allow them to see for themselves what you have based your conclusions on.  When summarising evidence:

  • State the issue addressed by the evidence and why it is relevant to your own setting
  • Briefly describe how the evidence was gathered, for instance, what methods were used, the characteristics of the person or group to whom the evidence refers, what was actually done, what was measured, and how the data was analysed
  • Critically appraise the methods if appropriate
  • Briefly describe the results and their importance
  • Explain the implications of the results for your own service setting

If you are describing a number of studies, it may be useful to present the summaries in a tabular format, so that people can easily compare the studies, and you can also highlight any conflicting evidence.

Tip: Try to put aside some time to discuss your evidence with your colleagues. Consider together what you have found and how it can be taken forward. Think about how your own knowledge and experience relates to the research evidence.

Further Reading: