Adding Words to Indicate the Limitations of Personal Knowledge

"Hedging Your Bets"

When we speak, we open ourselves to critique.  People may disagree with us — they may dispute the accuracy of our words.  This happens all the time — it's a normal part of conversation.

This is also true of academic writing.  When we write, we make points.  These points should be solid enough that someone can argue against them — otherwise, you're essentially saying nothing.  However, unlike day-to-day conversation, an academic argument is supposed to be very, very complex.  It's suppose to reveal the impossibility of absolute knowledge.  When we write for a research audience, we are supposed to push the boundaries, exploring areas of information that may be unclear and under dispute.

Purposes of Hedging

Academic writers often use very precise language to indicate that knowledge is fuzzy.  Specifically, responsible hedging:

Examples of Hedging

"In my opinion..." or "I believe that..."

"As Source A explains..."

"It is generally accepted that..."

"For Americans living in suburban areas..."