If we reason logically and our predictions turn out untrue, we know that there is something wrong with our premises, which motivates new theories from which we can deduce new conclusions to test. In other words, unlike the popular idea that science is a kind of faith, there are no beliefs in real science—except the belief in the scientific method of making and testing hypotheses with reason and evidence. In this quote, the novelist Vladimir Nabokov explains his skeptical attitude toward deductive reasoning. Nabokov extends this idea to rationality in general, but in this quotation he seems to be talking specifically about deductive reasoning.
Deductive reasoning is more formalized than induction, but its history goes way back before the origins of formal philosophy. All of mathematics is one big pile of deductions. It starts with some very general rules defining the sequence of whole numbers, and then deduces all sorts of conclusions from there. But in combination with observation and experimentation, math and deduction have always been powerful tool for understanding and manipulating the world.
People all over the world have known about this power since prehistoric times. Ever since then, mathematicians and philosophers have been working out the formal rules for what counts as a valid deduction. Their work allows us to distinguish good deductive reasoning from sloppy or misleading arguments, and forms the backbone of formal logic. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. The definitive proof, though, is in the fact that Sherlock always comes up with stories that are probable , and often very convincing, but not logically certain.
Sherlock Holmes never gives us a deductive syllogism ; he gives only inductive stories. This is an example of a deductive syllogism in an advertisement. Or, actually, only the two premises are given and the listener is expected to automatically deduce the conclusion. The first premise is a general law: faster is better. The second premise applies the law to a particular situation.
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And the implied conclusion is obvious: the iPhone is better. All of the above. Logical certainty. Deductive reasoning. Linda Bitrus June 24, , am Reply. Deductive Reasoning I. They start with a social theory that they find compelling and then test its implications with data. That is, they move from a more general level to a more specific one.
A deductive approach to research is the one that people typically associate with scientific investigation. The researcher studies what others have done, reads existing theories of whatever phenomenon she is studying, and then tests hypotheses that emerge from those theories.
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While not all researchers follow a deductive approach, as you have seen in the preceding discussion, many do, and there are a number of excellent recent examples of deductive research. The authors developed their hypothesis from their reading of prior research and theories on the topic. Overall, the authors found support for their hypothesis. One might associate this research with critical theory.
Based on prior research and theory, Milkie and Warner hypothesized that negative classroom features, such as a lack of basic supplies and even heat, would be associated with emotional and behavioral problems in children. One might associate this research with systems theory.
While inductive and deductive approaches to research seem quite different, they can actually be rather complementary. In some cases, researchers will plan for their study to include multiple components, one inductive and the other deductive. In other cases, a researcher might begin a study with the plan to only conduct either inductive or deductive research, but then discovers along the way that the other approach is needed to help illuminate findings.
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Here is an example of each such case. The original author of the textbook from which this textbook is adapted, Dr. Amy Blackstone, relates a story about her collaborative research on sexual harassment. We began the study knowing that we would like to take both a deductive and an inductive approach in our work. We therefore administered a quantitative survey, the responses to which we could analyze in order to test hypotheses, and also conducted qualitative interviews with a number of the survey participants.
The survey data were well suited to a deductive approach; we could analyze those data to test hypotheses that were generated based on theories of harassment. The interview data were well suited to an inductive approach; we looked for patterns across the interviews and then tried to make sense of those patterns by theorizing about them. We then tested our hypotheses by analyzing the survey data. In general, we found support for the theory that posited that the current gender system, in which heteronormative men wield the most power in the workplace, explained workplace sexual harassment—not just of adult women but of younger women and men as well.
Deductive Reasoning Examples
Researchers may not always set out to employ both approaches in their work but sometimes find that their use of one approach leads them to the other. Specifically, Sherman and Berk hypothesized that deterrence theory would provide a better explanation of the effects of arresting accused batterers than labeling theory. Deterrence theory predicts that arresting an accused spouse batterer will reduce future incidents of violence.
Conversely, labeling theory predicts that arresting accused spouse batterers will increase future incidents.
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Sherman and Berk found, after conducting an experiment with the help of local police in one city, that arrest did in fact deter future incidents of violence, thus supporting their hypothesis that deterrence theory would better predict the effect of arrest. In some cases, arrest deterred future incidents of violence. In other cases, it did not. This left the researchers with new data that they needed to explain. The researchers therefore took an inductive approach in an effort to make sense of their latest empirical observations.
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The new studies revealed that arrest seemed to have a deterrent effect for those who were married and employed, but that it led to increased offenses for those who were unmarried and unemployed. Researchers thus turned to control theory, which predicts that having some stake in conformity through the social ties provided by marriage and employment, as the better explanation.
What the Sherman and Berk research, along with the follow-up studies, shows us is that we might start with a deductive approach to research, but then, if confronted by new data that we must make sense of, we may move to an inductive approach.
Skip to content Increase Font Size. Learning Objectives Describe the inductive approach to research, and provide examples of inductive research Describe the deductive approach to research, and provide examples of deductive research Describe the ways that inductive and deductive approaches may be complementary.
Key Takeaways The inductive approach begins with a set of empirical observations, seeking patterns in those observations, and then theorizing about those patterns. The deductive approach begins with a theory, developing hypotheses from that theory, and then collecting and analyzing data to test those hypotheses.
Inductive and deductive approaches to research can be employed together for a more complete understanding of the topic that a researcher is studying. Glossary Deductive approach- study what others have done, reads existing theories of whatever phenomenon she is studying, and then tests hypotheses that emerge from those theories Inductive approach- start with a set of observations and then move from particular experiences to a more general set of propositions about those experiences.
Related Modern Deductive Logic: An Introduction to Its Techniques and Significance
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