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Hedging in academic writing: Cross-disciplinary comparisons in the Michigan Corpus of Upper-Level Student Papers (MICUSP)
With the rise of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, computer-assisted language learning (CALL) has taken on renewed salience. This presentation will discuss the affordances of corpus tools for data-driven teaching for tertiary academic writing. It will explore a corpus of advanced student writing to provide new answers to an old but important question in EAP teaching: Hedging in academic writing. Authors of academic papers often use hedging to present their claims cautiously and as a politeness strategy. Based on the findings of a study that compares hedging devices across 16 disciplines in 829 advanced student papers from the MICUSP corpus (http://micusp.elicorpora.info), the presentation will cover inter-disciplinary differences in hedging frequency, forms, and functions. The normalized frequency of five types of hedges was compared across 16 sub-corpora belonging to 4 academic divisions. Noticeable inter-disciplinary variations were found not only between soft and hard disciplines, but also within the larger domain of humanities and life sciences, respectively. The findings challenge the natural/social science dichotomy emerging from previous research that hedging is more common in social sciences than in natural sciences. For example, among the 16 disciplines, hedging is used least frequently in History and Classical Studies papers (95.29 occurrences per 10,000 words); meanwhile, hedging is notably more common in Biology (146.88 occurrences per 10,000 words) than in other life science disciplines. The presentation will also cover the most frequently occurring hedges and a few hedges' distinctive functions in different disciplines. Pedagogical implications and the potential of corpus tools will be discussed.
Miss Xue Wang has been researching English language teaching and learning in mainland China, Dublin, and Hong Kong. She has a Master's degree in TESOL from The University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include CALL, educational leadership, and meta-analysis. Her publications can be accessed here: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0854-6393