Tuesday 19 June 2012

Creative writing algorithm for residency personal statement

Today's article is about the process of creative writing as it pertains to a personal statement. While the nature of the content of the personal statement has been dealt with in some detail in another article  and the technical details of writing a PS have been already described, this one is aimed at describing the actual process of creative writing for personal statements. 

There is no doubt that a personal statement for residency is an integral part of the application dossier and often becomes a lynch pin of the selection process. There are three degrees of information sources that any applicant uses to write up a statement.

1st degree sources are the applicants themselves
2nd degree sources are the immediate social circle (family, friends etc)
3rd degree sources are agencies and professional writers who candidates often employ to write on their behalf.

Fig. 1: Creative writing algorithm for residency personal statement

The primary or 1st degree sources are comprised of effort by the applicant to write up a personal statement. These can be inspired de novo and are always original attempts at writing a draft. Sometimes remote recall is also used to create a personal statement where the candidate has heard or seen something from remote past which he/she uses  as a basis for a write up. The other aspect of primary sourcing is input from other media sources like internet. There are plenty of ‘sample’ letters or statements online, which the applicant can use to form their personal statement.The secondary sources and tertiary sources are the immediate social circle and professional services respectively.

The four sources of information for creative writing – remote recall, input from other media, input from social circle and input from professional services (all marked in red in the figure) are exceptionally susceptible to plagiarized content. The onus therefore lies with the applicant to ensure that their versions and iterations are not copied from other sources with out attribution. There are several services online both paid and free which offer ways to check for plagiarism and the applicant is strongly encouraged to use these.

Another thing that is apparent from the figure is that the multiple variations of the personal statement are a required by-product of honing your draft and shaping a statement that best showcases your aspirations, abilities and goals. The usual process is reading, proof reading and revising at least 4-8 or more times with alternate copies of the personal statement till the final version is ready and you are satisfied with it. Remember, this is for one specialty, and if you are applying to multiple residencies (Pediatrics and Family Medicine or Psychiatry and Internal Medicine), then make sure that you go through the same steps for each of the specialties that you apply to. In conclusion, 
Identify the sources of your input for writing the personal statement, cross check the references for original material and revise your draft till the final version does justice to your application.
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