How to write an ace pinboard summary

A great summary is like a good story that stops people in their tracks. Let’s see how you can write one for maximum impact!

How to write an ace pinboard summary

First things first — the audience

Do you know who reads you on Sparrho? It’s scientists like you, but from other fields, laypeople, interested in research and even potential employers. Meaning, most of them are not experts in your field. So, keep their level of understanding in mind!

OK, have you got a recipe?

Well, yes! Let’s think of your summary as a science story. Research says we relate to information better if it’s presented as a story. Science is often about a sea of data… but if you find a story among them, you’ll be on your way to rockstar status among your readers.

And how do I craft a story?

Well, let’s consider this. A good story has:

  • a central character, but in science it doesn’t have to be a human. Rather, it can be the virus, gene, signalling pathway or gravitational waves we are investigating or have learned more about
  • a bit of drama and a plot — how did you or are going about trying to discover a solution to the problem?
  • a what now? — an explanation of how the research or discovery will bring a practical benefit to humanity or how it will advance the field
  • and a structure —We at Sparrho like a ‘question and answer’ session between you and your reader that gradually takes us deeper into the story helping understand the discovery. It works best with about 8 paragraphs and an optional, lighter ‘campfire story’ at the bottom.

We’ll explain all this using an example below.

Right, take me to the example!

Fine! We will dissect a summary by Flavia Oliveira, who started out as a biomedical scientist and found a position in scientific publishing. Flavia put together a pinboard about an intriguing discovery: how a compound in chillies can slow down lung cancer. Let’s have a look!

Sparrho Pinboard: "Chillies could slow down metastasis in lung cancer"

The title

Example of a pinboard title

A good title shouts about the discovery and it also makes us care. How? It mentions the problem (lung cancer) and an interesting solution (chillies slow down metastasis). Imagine trying to sell a newspaper in the street. Aim for 6–8 words.

The summary paragraph/Pinboard overview


How to write the intro for a pinboard summary OK, so people got interested. Don’t let them go away, this is your chance to draw your reader into the story. Summarise the discovery but don’t get lost in the detail. Imagine you’re pitching your story to a picky editor. Aim for about 320 characters.

In 10 seconds… why?


How to summarise research in 10 secondsOK, you got them hooked. Now set up the story with a bit more detail. Mention the most significant part of the discovery and the science underpinning it — notice the compound’s name is first mentioned here.  Aim for max 200 characters.

Going in deep — What’s the discovery?


Screenshot 2019-08-06 at 17.30.17Now you can dive right in. What exactly was the discovery or what are you trying to find out? Here you can mention the processes that were studied but remember your audience.

Don’t assume they have the same level of understanding as you. Introduce notions gently explaining with a half-sentence here and there what they mean — like Flavia did with Src. Aim for max 450 characters.

How did they do it?

Explaining what did the researchers find.

Here you can develop the plot with a story within a story. What method did the resarchers use? How did they prove/disprove their initial idea? Was there a trial involved? Who took part? Aim for max 450 characters.

What’s the science? Any other applications?


Mentioning alternative therapies and drugsThe next few paragraphs give you a bit more freedom. You can carry on describing the science — for example, your field — underpinning the discovery. In this case, Flavia mentioned that the compound could be effective against other cancers, not just lung cancer. Which is nice to learn! Aim for max 450 characters.

What can we expect in the future/How does this advance the field?


Writing about future outlooks for a research OK, we’ve heard about an exciting discovery in detail, but now it’s time to zoom out. Your audience wants to hear your expert opinion. What now? How did this discovery improve our understanding of the subject? When will it find a practical application to benefit humanity? Close your summary with a forward-looking paragraph or two.

Mentioning side effects and risks of a drugFlavia answers here the question on everybody’s mind: when will this discovery be turned into a drug? This could be a great closing paragraph. But as an honest scientist, she cannot avoid mentioning a complication on the way.


Great, having covered it, she can close the summary with a high-level forward looking statement about the role of capsaicin in cancer therapy. Aim for max 350 characters per paragraph.

Campfire story

Campfire story of a pinboardAnd finally, this is totally optional! Some Curators like to mention quirky or interesting details — stuff that doesn’t quite fit into the expert summary above. This is something that a storyteller would share with their audience sitting by the campfire. Fancy trying your hand at it?

And that’s it. Thanks for reading through it! Now, that you’re trained up, we’re looking forward to your ace pinboard summaries.

Endre Szvetnik

by Endre Szvetnik

Endre Szvetnik is Senior Editor at Sparrho. Endre works with Sparrho Heroes to curate, translate and disseminate scientific research to the wider public.