Avoiding Plagiarism in Personal Statements


Respecting Intellectual Property when Viewing Examples of Personal Statements: Why Plagiarism Is Bad

When applying for college or post-graduate studies, one of the most important parts of your admissions package is the personal statement.  For many applicants, the personal statement spells the difference between getting accepted or rejected by their school of choice.  For this reason, some people turn to examples of personal statements for help with writing their own essays.  While making use of examples of personal statements is definitely a good idea, there is a major danger that you should be aware of before you do so: plagiarism.  Educational institutions frown upon plagiarism and even punish offenders by expulsion in serious cases.  Read on to learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid committing plagiarism when using examples of personal statements to write your essay.

What is plagiarism?

In basic terms, plagiarism is the act of using another writer’s words and ideas without properly citing your sources. Intellectual property is the main concept behind plagiarism, because the original writers have the intellectual property rights over the words and ideas that are expressed in their works.  Whenever you make use of someone else’s words, ideas, sounds, images, videos, or any other form of intellectual property, it’s imperative that you document your sources or you run the risk of getting called out for plagiarism.  As mentioned earlier, most educational institutions don’t take plagiarism lightly.  If you are caught plagiarizing someone else’s works, you can be expelled from your school, get your application rejected, or, in serious cases, get arrested for intellectual property rights infringement.

What does plagiarism have to do with your personal statement?

When you make use of examples of personal statements, you may get tempted to use the ideas and words of the examples that you read.  While direct copying of the examples is definitely plagiarism, there are a number of other ways in which you can commit plagiarism.  A common misconception about plagiarism is that paraphrasing the original author’s words or ideas is not an offense.  The truth is, whether you copy directly, paraphrase, or summarize, you will need to site your sources or run the risk of getting caught for plagiarism.  Another plagiarism risk is making use of famous quotes or sayings without stating who originally said or wrote the saying.  With all of the risks of committing plagiarism, you’re probably wondering: “So how do I put examples of personal statements to good use?”

How can you put examples of personal statements to good use without plagiarizing?

Plagiarism and intellectual property laws, in general, are complex and difficult to understand, especially if you aren’t a lawyer.  First off, it’s important to realize that it probably won’t look good to the admissions committee if your personal statement is full of quotes and citations of sample personal statements, so try to avoid that route.  When making use of sample essays, your best bet is to only use these essays as guidelines and sources of inspiration.  Instead of actually lifting words or ideas from the examples that you find, try to take note of the characteristics of the examples, such as the tone, format, style, themes, and subject matter that was written about.  That way, you will be sure that you won’t commit plagiarism and, at the same time, your essay will be original.  Remember, your goal is to introduce your own character and personality through your personal statement, soavoid plagiarism and let your true self shine through in your admissions essays.

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