Inductive and Deductive Reasoning – Explained with Examples

Time to read: 3 Minutes
Inductive-deductive-reasoning-Definition

You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to employ deductive reasoning, or would this constitute inductive reasoning?

When scientists perform experiments, they employ a variety of techniques to comprehend a problem. For example, a scientist could use inductive and deductive reasoning to generate conclusions from data and locate evidence to support or refute conclusions.1

Inductive and Deductive Reasoning – In a Nutshell

Following this article, you will come across topics regarding inductive and deductive reasoning:

  • Deductive reasoning uses accessible facts, data, or knowledge to arrive at a correct conclusion, whereas inductive reasoning entails generalizing from particular facts and observations.
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning are fundamentally contradictory methods for reaching a result or proposition.
  • Deductive reasoning proceeds from a generalization to a valid conclusion, while inductive reasoning proceeds from a specific observation to a generalization.
  • Together, inductive and deductive reasoning can provide a researcher with a more comprehensive understanding of the studied topic.

Though researchers don’t always set out to use both inductive and deductive strategies in their work, they sometimes find that new questions arise in the course of an investigation that can best be answered by employing inductive and deductive reasoning.

Definition: Inductive and deductive reasoning

The primary distinction between inductive and deductive reasoning is that inductive reasoning seeks to develop a hypothesis, whereas deductive reasoning seeks to test an existing theory.

Inductive reasoning proceeds from particular observations to broad generalizations, whereas deductive reasoning proceeds in the other direction.

Numerous research types employ inductive and deductive reasoning, which is not uncommon in a significant study.2

Inductive and deductive reasoning

Deductive Inductive
• Specific observation
• Pattern recognition
• General Conclusion
• Existing theory
• Formulate a hypothesis
• Collect data
• Analyze data
• Do/don’t reject the hypothesis.

Inductive research approach

It is typical to do inductive research when there is little to no previous literature on a topic because there is no theory to test. The inductive method has three phases:

Phase Example
Observation • There is a delay on a low-cost airline flight
• Cats A and B have fleas
• Lions require water to survive
Observe a pattern • Additional 20 low-cost airline flights are delayed
• All observed cats have fleas
• All observed animals require water to survive
Develop a theory or general (preliminary) conclusion • There are often delays on low-cost carriers.
• All cats have fleas
• Water is essential to the existence of all forms of life

Example:

You track 1000 flights operated by low-cost carriers. According to your hypothesis, each of them has a delay. However, there is no way to prove that flight 1001 will similarly be delayed. Nevertheless, the greater the dataset, the more trustworthy the conclusion.

Deductive research approach

When performing deductive research, one always begins with a hypothesis (the result of inductive research). Deductive reasoning entails putting these theories to the test. You cannot make deductive inquiry if there is no established theory.

The deductive research methodology has five phases:

Phase Example
Start with an existing theory (and create a problem statement)

• There are always delays on low-cost carriers.
• All cats have fleas
• Water is essential to the existence of all forms of life
Formulate a falsifiable hypothesis based on existing theory

• When flying with a low-cost carrier, travelers will always encounter delays.
• There are fleas on every cat in my apartment complex.
• All land mammals are dependent on water to survive.
Collect data to test the hypothesis

• Gather flight information from low-cost airlines
• Examine each cat on the premises for fleas.
• Examine all mammalian species to see if they require water.
Analyze and test the data

• 5 of 100 flights operated by low-cost carriers are not delayed.
• Ten out of twenty cats did not have fleas.
• All species of land mammals are water-dependent.
Decide whether you can reject the null hypothesis

• 5 flights out of 100 operated by low-cost carriers are not delayed = refute hypothesis
• 10 of 20 cats were flea-free = refute the hypothesis
• All land animal species are dependent on water = support hypothesis

Limitation of deductive reasoning

For the findings of deductive reasoning to be valid, all of the inductive study’s premises must be true, and the terms must be understood.

Example:

  • Every cat has fleas (premise)
  • Milo is a cat (premise)
  • Milo is infested with fleas (conclusion)

Given the available premises, the conclusion must be accurate. If, on the other hand, the first premise turns out to be incorrect, the inference that Milo has fleas becomes invalid.

Combining inductive and deductive reasoning

Numerous scientists initiating a large-scale study begin with an inductive study (developing a theory). Following the inductive investigation, deductive research is conducted to confirm or refute the conclusion.

In the preceding cases, the conclusion (theory) of the inductive study also serves as the stepping – stone for the deductive study.

FAQs

  • Inductive reasoning is a bottom-up methodology, whereas deductive reasoning is a top-down method.
  • Inductive reasoning proceeds from the particular to the general, whereas deductive reasoning concludes from the general to the particular.

The deductive method begins with a theory, develops hypotheses based on it, and then collects and analyzes data to evaluate the hypotheses. Together, inductive and deductive reasoning methods can provide a more comprehensive grasp of the topic under investigation.

The validity of inductive reasoning is dubious. Since inductive reasoning requires specific premises to generate a conclusion, the conclusion is plausible but not always true. A deductive conclusion can only be proven to be correct if the premises supporting it are also valid.

Sources

1 Bradford, Alina, and Mindy Weisberger. “Deductive reasoning vs. Inductive reasoning.” Livescience. December 07, 2021. https://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html.

2 Keiling, Hanne. “Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning.” indeed. March 8, 2019. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/inductive-vs-deductive-reasoning.