Differences between deductive and inductive approaches to research

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Differences between deductive and inductive approaches to research

One of the most important issues in research is the research approach. Researchers usually use one of the two widely known research approaches i.e. deductive and inductive. Both of the approaches have their advantages and disadvantages and both impact on many aspects of a research. The aim of this article is to explore the differences between deductive and inductive approaches to research.

What is deductive approach?

According to Gratton and Jones (2009) deductive approach involves testing of a pre-determined theory, explanation or hypothesis. This approach helps researchers ascertain a hypothesis by using existing theories. Existing information is dissected to accept or reject the hypothesis in order to achieve the research aims (Gill and Johnson, 2010).

Advantages and disadvantages of deductive approach

Deductive research is a focused method of testing hypotheses. However, some critics would argue that this approach does not encourage divergent thinking.  It may also limit the scope of creativities.

What is inductive approach?

According to Gratton and Jones (2009) inductive approach generates the explanation from the data collected. It is the opposite of deductive research. Aims at exploring a new theory. It is about moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories.

Advantages and disadvantages of inductive approach

Inductive approach is flexible as the researcher does not have to follow any pre-determined information. However, critics would argue that if observations are incorrect, the researcher would end up in incorrect conclusions.

Deductive vs inductive approaches to research

There are some differences between deductive and inductive approaches to research. In deductive approach, the researcher begins the process by considering past and present theories concerning the topic of the research. This helps the researcher develop some hypotheses. The new hypotheses will then be tested by the researcher in the process of conducting a new study. The collected data will either confirm or reject the hypotheses.

On the other hand, relevant theories are not considered at the beginning of an inductive research. In this approach, clusters of data or patterns start emerging from the observations or measures conducted by the researcher. From these patterns, the researcher begins to generate new themes.

It should be noted that deductive approach is usually adopted by researchers conducting quantitative research, while inductive approach is usually adopted by researchers conducting qualitative research.

In a nutshell, both deductive and inductive approaches play an important role in research. Therefore, it is imperative that the researchers make themselves aware of the differences between deductive and inductive approaches and how they impact on other aspects of research.

We hope this article on the differences between deductive and inductive approaches to research has been useful. You may also like reading Qualitative vs quantitative research and What are the advantages and disadvantages of primary and secondary research? If you liked this article, feel free share it by clicking on the icons below.

The article publication date: 10 November 2016

Further reading/references

BPP Learning Media (2013) Business Decision Making, London: BPP Learning Media

Gratton, C. And Jones, I. (2009) Research Methods for Sports Studies, 2nd edition, London: Routledge

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2000) Research Methods for Business Students, 2nd edition, London: Prentice Hall

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Author: Jo David

Jo David has years of experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality and tourism management.