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ESL: Hedging, Qualifying Your Claim

From the ESL Student Handbook, by Young Min, PhD
 

The term “hedging” in academic writing refers to a means of protecting (or strengthening) your argument. Sometimes, you may get comments from your instructors that “You have great ideas, but your argument here is far-fetched. You should qualify your argument.” What does “qualifying your argument” mean? It means that you should support your argument by providing specific data or factual information. A confident tone in academic writing is very important; however, if your writing comes across as “far-fetched” or “overly confident” it will reduce the effectiveness of your writing. For example, if you write “yoga exercise every day reduces physical illnesses,” your readers immediately ask “How you do you know? What makes you say so? Give me some evidence.” However, if you write “According to the findings of Nancy Brown’s 2011 study, doing yoga every day will reduce physical illnesses” or “There is a good possibility that doing yoga every day can reduce physical illnesses”, then, it is a different matter. There are some practical strategies you can use to qualify your argument. Take a look at the following examples:   

Adding adjectives
There is a good possibility that yoga exercise every day reduces physical illnesses.
There is a strong possibility that yoga exercise every day reduces physical illnesses.
There is a remote possibility that yoga exercise every day reduces physical illnesses.

Adding verbs such as “tend” or “seem”
Yoga exercise every day tends to reduce physical illnesses.
Yoga exercise every day seems to reduce physical illnesses.
It would appear that yoga exercise every day reduces physical illnesses.
It would seem that yoga exercise every day reduces physical illnesses.

Show the specific data
John Smith’s research published in the Yoga Monthly (July 2008) points out that yoga exercise every day can reduce physical illnesses.
In the view of some experts, yoga exercise every day can reduce physical illnesses.

Add exceptions
With the exception of some people, yoga exercise every day can reduce physical illnesses.
Except for some people, yoga exercise every day will reduce physical illnesses.

Qualify the subject
Although it may not be true for everybody, yoga exercise every day can reduce physical illnesses for most people.

Use weaker verbs
Yoga exercise every day can contribute to reducing physical illnesses.

 

Created by Young-Kyung Min, PhD ykmin@uwb.edu

For More Information on this Handbook

 Contact Young Min, PhD
Lecturer, Education Program
ykmin@uwb.edu
425-352-5337