Hedging is a type of language use which protects your claims.
Using language with a suitable amount of caution can protect your claims from being easily dismissed. It also helps to indicate the level of certainty we have in relation to the evidence or support.
Compare the following two short texts, (A) and (B). You will notice that although the two texts are, in essence, saying the same thing, (B) has a significant amount of extra language around the claim. A large amount of this language is performing the function of hedging.
Compare the following two short texts, (A) and (B). How many differences do you see in the second text? What is the function/effect/purpose of each difference?
You will probably notice that (B) is more academic, but it is important to understand why.
(A) Extensive reading helps students to improve their vocabulary.
(B) Research conducted by Yen (2005) appears to indicate that, for a significant proportion of students, extensive reading may contribute to an improvement in their active vocabulary. Yens (2005) study involved learners aged 15-16 in the UK, although it may be applicable to other groups. However, the study involved an opt-in sample, which means that the sample students may have been more keen, or more involved in reading already. It would be useful to see whether the findings differ in a wider sample.
(Please note that Yen (2005) is a fictional reference used only as an example).
The table below provides some examples of language to use when making knowledge claims.
Try to find examples of hedging language in your own reading, to add to this table.
Language categories devised and compiled by Jane Blackwell
Self-access resources from the Academic Writing Centre at the UCL Institute of Education.
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Academic Writing Centre, UCL Institute of Education