National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan
Hedging, or the mitigation of claims, is often regarded as a significant rhetorical strategy in academic writing. Writers’ inability to make claims at an appropriate level may result in a failure to be accepted in the academic discourse community. The current study compiled a corpus of student writing and investigated graduate student writers’ hedging behavior, with a specific focus on epistemic modality markers. A comparison of graduate student and expert writers’ hedging practices shows that students use a greater number of hedging devices than expert writers. In addition, they rely on a limited range of epistemic items to hedge their writing, while epistemic nouns are noticeably under-used. In terms of epistemic commitment, these graduate student writers use more certainty than tentative markers. The results may imply a need for awareness raising among graduate students about hedging functions in academic writing.
Key Words: academic writing, epistemic modality, graduate student writing, hedging