Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Religious Studies Scholars

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The goal of this report is to provide actionable findings for the organizations, institutions and professionals who support the research process of religious studies. One hundred and ninety eight scholars were interviewed during the project and Ithaka S+R sampled 102 of the resulting transcripts towards the analysis for this report. Ithaka S+R identified three major thematic areas in which religious studies would benefit from improved or new services:

  • Discovering and accessing information. When available, digital discovery and access have greatly improved these scholars’ research experiences with relatively few challenges. Scholars located in some seminaries and those conducting research on religions and religious cultures beyond the West experience greater challenges when conducting primary and secondary source research.
  • Information management. Scholars contend with the challenge of managing vast arrays of information that they produce and collect in the process of conducting their research and engage in idiosyncratic practices for organizing and storing their information. They struggle with digital approaches to citation management and information storage and experience uncertainty around destroying and preserving information following their personal use.
  • Audience, output and credit. Scholars’ primary focus remains on traditional scholarly outputs due to the expectations associated with tenure and promotion. Overall awareness and engagement with open access is low but the perceived importance of more freely sharing work as enabled by social media platforms is high.