PRB staff created this document to help researchers summarize their key findings for policymakers.
- Aim for about 350 words single-spaced.
- Use the inverted pyramid style typical of newswriting: Present the conclusions first, followed by the supporting details (which narrow down the triangle). This approach stands in contrast to scientific writing, which is typically organized in the opposite way, reflecting a traditional pyramid. Academic articles start with the details and background, then build up to the conclusion or main results at the end.
- The headline should include a verb.
The first sentence should be a summary of the most important findings, that is, the bottom line. Try to make it succinct enough to be a 140-character Tweet. Aim to convey the main point so that readers get the gist of the research if they read no further.
- The second sentence, if possible, should focus on the implications of the main findings –actions policymakers, program planners, or ordinary people might take based on these findings.
- Second paragraph: describe the research team and the methods used to arrive at these conclusions in a sentence or two.
- Further paragraphs: add additional description of the findings, point out what sets this study apart from other previous studies.
- Final paragraphs: Describe policy implications of this research in further detail.
Sample Research Summary (adapted from Stefanie Mollborn, Elizabeth Lawrence, and Elisabeth Dowling Root, “Residential Mobility Across Early Childhood and Children’s Kindergarten Readiness,” Demography 55, no. 2 (2020):485-510.)
[Headline with a verb] Children Whose Households Move Frequently Are More Likely to Have Behavioral Problems in Kindergarten
[Summary first sentence] Children who enter kindergarten after experiencing three or more household moves are more likely to display problem behaviors that inhibit learning and disrupt classrooms, Stefanie Mollborn, Elizabeth Lawrence, and Elisabeth Dowling Root of the University of Colorado show.
[Policy implications second sentence] Their findings can help policymakers and program directors better identify children most at risk for behavior problems and target interventions, such as high-quality subsidized preschool programs.
[Methods] The research team used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, a nationally representative sample of 4,750 U.S. children born in 2001 and followed from infancy through the start of kindergarten. Their analysis compared the type and number of residential moves a child experienced with teacher-reported behavior problems, such as aggression, rule breaking, temper outbursts, and inability to share or focus.
[Describe additional findings, add more detail] About 71 percent of children moved before starting kindergarten, but only 14 percent moved four or more times.
Parents’ income and education do not appear to buffer the impact of frequent moving on children, their analysis finds. No matter what the family income level, frequent residential moves have a similar impact on kindergarteners’ behavior scores.
In addition, they show that children whose households relocated to a more socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood also tended to have higher problem behavior scores from teachers.
While the data do not distinguish between wanted moves and unwanted moves (such as moving closer to family versus an eviction), repeated moves are likely a signal of household instability.
[Further discuss policy implications or application of findings] Early childhood educators could target frequent movers with extra support but will need to make extra effort to follow these children because they are least likely to stay in the same place long enough to benefit. For children who have experienced a lot of disruption, policies that shore up stability in other dimensions of their lives are crucial: For example, ensuring the child can remain in the same classroom or school following a household move may lessen stress and contribute to better behavior. Housing policies that promote stability while encouraging upward mobility for those who desire it appear to be a promising intervention.