Currently there are two tags that have the same function, however they are not set as synonyms:

Should we re-tag the "personal-statement" questions (only 7 questions) with the "statement-of-purpose" tag (177 questions). Or should someone with a higher reputation than myself, set these tags as synonyms to each other?

  • It seems that everyone who wants to weigh in has at this point, so I've synonymized the tags.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: The tag was created to represent a non-standard meaning of the phrase. Tags should be unambiguous words or phrases used according to their most common usage in an academic context. So let's synonymize to , its most common usage.

The tag was created by a user to distinguish questions about a "personal statement" required for graduate school admissions that was distinct from the "statement of purpose."

The problem, of course, is that "personal statement" is used more often as another term for "statement of purpose" than to refer to a different kind of statement. So the likely result of having two tags is that users will be confused as to how to tag questions, and we'll end up "splitting" questions about the same document into two tags - which is a bad thing.

For the reason stated above, I personally am in favor of making a tag synonym of , and using for:

  • questions about a statement of purpose
  • questions about a personal statement AKA statement of purpose
  • questions about a personal statement that is not the same as a statement of purpose, just because we don't have any good way to distinguish this case from the previous one (and the previous one is much more common). We can edit the tag wiki excerpt to specify that also includes questions about personal statements.

But that's just my opinion, we'll see what others think.

  • I think you can go forward with synonymizing the two tags
    – The Hiary
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 14:48
  • @TheHiary we usually wait for more than one person to vote on something in meta before acting on it :)
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 17:15
  • If someone is specifically asking about one or the other, will there be a good way of distinguishing between the two moving forward (if they are synonymized)?
    – tonysdg
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:56
  • @tonysdg not in a tag, just in the text of the question. But as things are currently (with them not being synonymized), we still don't have a good way to distinguish the tags, and it's also confusing this way.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:59

As someone who create the tag, I of course think it necessary to have a distinguished tag (in fact, 3 of 7 questions in are mine). You can read the whole difference between these two statements in How to structure the personal statement?, but in short, in universities that require both, the SOP/research statement focuses only to your research, while the personal statement is only to tell about anything else that reveals you as a person.

If we synonymize them, we need to make sure that for questions that ask about this specific case, the answerers should be aware of this unusual. If we synonymize them, and when the asker has specifically told what meaning they are mentioning, the answerers find no problem with that, then I happy to have them synonymized.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. In the linked question in paragraph 1, you can see that the top voted answer (not the accepted one) had mistaken the concept, even when I had told what meaning I used (to be fair, I didn't add the note line at first). The number of vote indicates that not only that answerer, but also the voters mistook that too. Answers are pearl, so an off-topic answer is badly wasteful.

>> That's not the fault of them, after all there is no agreement among the schools. Some separate the two, some don't. For who lives in the latter, we need to educate them that there exists the former. And there is no way to teach about something better than creating a noun, a name, a concept, a category for it. We cannot see the blue color, unless we have a name for it. We also don't have any bias for people who have pendulous earlobes, because we don't have a name for them.

So this case, I propose to keep the tag. All it needs is the detailed description below.

  • 2
    I think the misunderstanding you describe is exactly why it isn't a good name for a tag. A tag should be a word or phrase that is easily understood and means something consistent, not a phrase that means X most of the time and Y sometimes for a few schools.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 7:33
  • That's why I say that it needs a detailed description
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 7:35
  • 1
    I don't think it's fair to require users to read a detailed description before applying a tag. If a tag is going to be misunderstood most of the time by users who haven't read the description, it's not a good tag.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 7:37
  • I agree. But as I said above, I had already told the meaning that I wanted to use in the question, yet Anonymous Mathematician still misunderstood it. If we keep the tag, we still need to edit a lot of time for newcomers. But I think that's the only way to let them aware of the problem. My argument is that a bad-tagging question can be fixed much easier and required less energy than a thoughtful but off-topic answer.
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 8:25
  • 1
    I don't see how not having the tag causes the answers to be off-topic, either. If a user who writes an answer doesn't read the explanation in the body of the question, they're definitely not going to read the explanation in the tag wiki! Tags are not the right place to explain unusual circumstances, and this usage of the phrase "personal statement" is definitely unusual.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 8:27
  • Yes, if they don't read the question carefully, they won't read the tag either. I'm not saying that having the tag will solve this problem immediately. Off-topic answers would still come, unless the schools have a consensus about the terms, which I highly doubt they will. I just hope that by giving the new tag, there will be less off-topic answers. For those who fall into the situation like me, the feeling of having a distinction is very clear. It's also a big plus for future visitors who only want to read questions about this.
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 8:46

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