This paper explored the application of hedges and boosters in all ten theses of the Master of Arts in English Studies submitted and examined at the University of Namibia between 2014 and 2015. A mixed research approach was chosen because of the descriptive nature of this study. This method also gave an in-depth understanding of issues such as why research writers prefer some types of hedging and boosting devices over the others, and why some theses chapters have certain types of hedges and boosters. The study only examined three chapters of the theses: the Introduction, Discussion, and Conclusion. Hyland’s (2004) taxonomy of hedges and boosters was used to analyse the types of hedges and boosters used. Kaplan’s (1997) Contrastive Rhetoric Theory was used to explain how researchers use hedges and boosters to express their uncertainties and certainties respectively. The study revealed that writers prefer Type 3 of hedges and boosters in all the three chapters. It further revealed that there is an unequal distribution of hedges and boosters among writers. Finally, the paper concluded that the preference of Type 3 may have been caused by the fact that since Type 3 does not have boosting devices writers find it less threatening to employ it in order to conform to the accepted academic writing style. The unequal distribution may also suggest that writers in academic discourse are not proficient in the English language.
Guangwei Hu (Ph.D.) is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research interests include academic discourse, bilingual education, language policy, language learner strategies, and second language writing. He has published extensively on these topics in such international journals as Instructional Science, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Language Learning, Language Policy, Research in the Teaching of English, Review of Educational Research, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, TESOL Quarterly, and Teachers College Record.
Feng Cao is a second-year Ph.D. student at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is also a lecturer at Xi’an International Studies University, the People's Republic of China. He is currently engaged in research on metadiscourse in academic writing.