Saturday, July 12, 2014

Plagiarism in Religious Studies

Continuing from my last blog it has to be said that in contrast with Theology the situation regarding plagiarism is quite different in Religious Studies. In Religious Studies plagiarism is comparatively common. 

For example, one well known Religious Studies scholar misquotes an Indian religious text in exactly the way described in the previous blog. And he does so in at least five of his books. Yet no one has even commented on the “typographical error” in these citations. Nor, have they pointed out that his “translation” comes from another scholar’s work where it is publish, along with the faulty reference. To make matters worse the preceding and subsequent passages in these works also come from the work where the original translation is given along with the flawed reference.
In another instance a Religious Studies scholar wrote a long description of a specific type of Indian philosophy that continued for at least three pages that were a direct quotation, without quotation marks, from a book by an Indian writer. Similarly another well know Religious Studies scholar produced a book discussing the views of one of the early founders of “comparative religion.” This book reads well until one checks the footnotes and compares the text against the work of the scholar whose views are being expounded. 

Once this is done it soon becomes apparent that the entire book is a continuous paraphrase of the earlier scholar’s work. While this is not direct plagiarism it is nevertheless a form of plagiarism because it presents the paraphrase as original scholarship without the addition of new insights or significant criticisms needed to interpret the original work.

The sad fact is that unlike in Theology and other well established disciplines, the field of Religious Studies, possibly because of its interdisciplinary nature, appears to suffer from a high level of outright plagiarism. This is an intolerable situation that must change if the field is to survive as a serious area of academic study.
To be continued ...