I have been using a book as reading for the background of my dissertation, but have just found out that it has been accused of being an unauthorised translation of someone else's work: http://www.mathematik.uni-marburg.de/~gumm/Plagiarism/index.htm

Can I still reference it in my dissertation, or should I reference the original author's work but using the material in the translation, or use a completely different reference instead?

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    World Scientific has stopped the distribution of the book you mentioned. Three experts (Adamek, Rutten and Venema) have concluded that There can be no doubt whatsoever that the intellectual ownership of the material resides with H. Peter Gumm. See the complete statement emis.de/misc/articles/ext05526289.html
    – Name
    Oct 25, 2014 at 14:14
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    Even if the plagiarism was not proven within a reasonable timescale, referencing it casts doubt on your judgment and integrity.
    – nickalh
    Oct 25, 2014 at 18:03
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    I think in some cases (not the above) it can be required to cite material even if it's plagiarising somewhere, e.g., if it also has original results of value which you base your writing on. Feb 27, 2017 at 13:04

1 Answer 1


First, you need to decide if you find the plagiarism charges credible. Assuming that you do (the material at the link you include certainly looks damning), then you certainly should not give any citation to the plagiarists.

But that still leaves a dilemma: if you can't read the language of the original work, can you honestly cite it? To think about how to solve this, let's return to the principles of what a citation actually accomplishes:

  1. A citation justifies an assertion in your work
  2. A citation gives appropriate credit to the related and supporting intellectual work of others
  3. A citation gives readers links to follow in learning more about the subject.

If this reference has been helpful to you, then the original author deserves citation on the basis of purpose #2. That does not, however, support purpose #1 or #3 if neither you nor most of your readers can read the language. The ideal solution would be if the original author has material with similar content, but written in English, which you can cite instead. Switching citations like that still fulfills all the criteria.

What if there is no appropriate source in English by the original author? If you can verify that the original work really does contain the parts that you find useful (e.g., via online translation or a friend who speaks the language), then cite the untranslated original, fulfilling purpose #1 and #2. Then, since this is textbook-level background material, there should also exist some non-plagiarized English works that are appropriate background to cite: find them, and add them in as well, strengthening purpose #1 and fulfilling #3.

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