The Construction of Knowledge Claims in Three Disciplines: An Exploration of Hedging and Boosting Strategies in Research Articles Written in English by Arab and Anglophone Writers
Background. Academic writers utilize a variety of rhetorical methods to construct their knowledge claims through hedges and boosters. These two strategies may also be affected by disciplinary, cultural, or generic contexts.
Purpose. This mixed-methods contrastive research study explored how disciplinary and cultural contexts may affect the way Arab and Anglophone writers construct and modulate knowledge claims through hedges and boosters in the results and discussion sections of 90 English research articles in three disciplines: Journalism, Law, and Political Science.
Methods. Instances of hedges and boosters and their pragmatic functions in context were identified, employing Liu and Tseng’s (2021) framework. This framework provides a detailed functional interpretation of the use and variation of these devices along four continuums: authorial voice, reasoning, consensus-building, and information evaluation.
Results. The results showed interesting contrasts and similarities between both groups regarding the approaches they used to define their levels of commitment and detachment in their knowledge claims. The quantitative findings revealed significant differences in hedges but non-significant differences in boosters used by both groups. The qualitative analysis revealed that hedging and boosting functions in Arab and Anglophone writers’ RAs differed along the four continuums. Anglophone writers often used hedges in their writing to show humility, negotiate knowledge claims, and accommodate vagueness. These acts enabled them to sketch the realities emerging from their research. By contrast, the English-speaking Arab writers used fewer hedging strategies and demonstrated assertiveness, and assumed shared knowledge to enhance the realities constructed in their knowledge claims.
Implications. These findings can benefit ESP/EAP teachers, especially those teaching writing for publication purposes to raise postgraduate students’ awareness of epistemic modality markers. A custom-made ESP/EAP course tailored to the needs of learners based on Liu and Tseng’s (2021) hedging-boosting framework can be devised to develop communicative and academic strategies in English.
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank the Deanship of scientific research at King Saud University for funding and supporting this research through the initiative of DSR Graduate Students Research Support (GSR).
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