Plain Language Summaries

In approximately 2009-2012, the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field collaborated with the Norwegian branch of the Nordic Cochrane Center to communicate the message of Cochrane Reviews to the general public, through the creation of Summary of Findings tables/Plain Language Summaries (SoF/PLS) of CAM-related Cochrane Reviews. The following SoF/PLS were prepared by Claire Glenton PhD, Elin S. Nilsen MS, Ingvil Sæterdal PhD, Vigdis Underland MS, and Gunn Vist PhD on behalf of the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field and with funding from the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) now called the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) of the US National Institutes of Health (grant number R24 AT001293). 

Summary of Findings (SoF) tables were developed and then used as a basis for the PLS. Each SoF table presented the most important outcomes of the review, the effect of the intervention on each outcome, and the quality of the evidence for each outcome. The process of developing the SoF table involved deciding which outcomes to present for which time points and evaluating the strength and quality of the evidence for the outcomes. The review authors were also contacted to request clarification on any points that are not understood in the Cochrane review and also to request their review of the SoF. The development of a vehicle for disseminating the bottom line message of Cochrane reviews in as simplified a format as possible has been underway within Cochrane since 2000. The resulting SoF format, based on the GRADE approach for evaluating the strength and quality of evidence [GRADE Working Group; BMJ  2004], is the final summary format that has been decided upon by the Cochrane Collaboration. Since approximately 2010, Cochrane has mandated the inclusion of SoF/PLS in all published reviews, with these same goals of simplicity and clarity in mind. Since reviews are constantly updated, the evidence underlying the earlier SoF/PLS below is now outdated and the links are maintained for historical interest. 

Note that the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field publishes summaries and SoF/PLS columns for complementary medicine Cochrane reviews in some CAM journals; a list of these columns can be found here. If you are interested in contributing to summary columns, or in other dissemination activities for complementary-medicine related Cochrane reviews, please contact L Susan Wieland, PhD at