When applying to graduate programs, most universities ask for a CV. If one has to provide the description of awards they received in their CV, will it be considered plagiarism if they use the official descriptions of the awards verbatim?

[The descriptions are just one sentence long, and rephrasing them too much tends to alter their meaning. The descriptions of these awards on the websites of the institutes granting them have been worded very carefully, which makes them seem to be the best way to convey the corresponding award's purpose.]

Edit: Would it be safer to include a footnote that says that these are the official descriptions, verbatim?

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    It is the official description of the award. It is not plagiarism. – Jon Custer Jan 3 at 18:02
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    No, you don't need the footnote. There is no issue here. – Buffy Jan 3 at 18:25
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    I propose just putting quotes around the copied text, which will surely in this context be interpreted as indicating that the quoted text is taken from the award's source. – Greg Martin Jan 4 at 6:14
  • Another easy solution is to put the official description of your awards (or a chunk of the description) in quotes. I've seen this on academic CVs. – Huck Bennett Jan 4 at 20:33
  • @HuckBennett can you please link those CVs here? – user Jan 4 at 22:52

Definitely not.

Plagiarism is the use, in an academic, creative or intellectual context, of someone else's ideas or distinctive language, without proper attribution. It follows from this that in some forms of writing it is not possible to plagiarize: for instance, you cannot plagiarize in a lease or customer service agreement or in wedding thank you cards.

A CV is an academic document, but it is not the kind of academic document having a blanket premise of originality in regard to its writing. For instance, the formatting of a CV is usually taken from someone else's template...and that's completely okay because no one is expecting your CV to be formatted in a new, original way -- on the contrary, the formatting of a CV should largely conform to agreed upon academic cultural norms.

There is some small amount of room for "creative writing" in a CV, but it does not lie in the description of awards you've won. Anyone reading your CV would expect that you have attempted to describe the awards in a very standard way. If that means copying the official text of the awards: no problem at all.

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    Readers might like to learn about Roth Greeting Cards v. United Card Co., Hartford House Ltd v. Hallmark Cards, and various other cases. – JdeBP Jan 4 at 7:30
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    Copyright infringement is not the same as plagiarism. You can plagiarise without infringing copyright and you can infringe copyright without plagiarizing. – Peter Green Jan 4 at 16:04
  • I'd go a bit further, and actively encourage using the official description because even when subtly modifying the language you stand the risk of significantly misrepresenting the award. No one could argue that you're misrepresenting the award if you reproduce its wording. – Mike Jan 4 at 20:28
  • I agree, but I would add that the description should be in quotation marks. The name of the award is sufficient to indicate the author of the quote. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 5 at 3:46

Plagiarism is presenting someone else's novel work as your own. On a CV, you are not producing novel work, so novelty is not an issue. The only way to plagiarise a CV would be to copy someone else's CV's CONTENT and pretend it was your own personal history, when it wasn't. Even copying someone else's CV entry would be OK if you did exactly the same thing, but not their entire history, since presumably your own history would be different. Even there, this would more likely get called "fraud" then "plagiarism".

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