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Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning - Definition and Examples

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In the field of science, law, and many more, there is no proof, only conclusions drawn from observations and evidence. A lawyer cannot prove whether an incident happened or not, but they can provide evidence. 

We can consider a hypothesis true when the available evidence seems to provide verification. The conclusion is stronger when we have more evidence. 

This means that the approach of reasoning helps us reach the truth. Inductive and deductive reasoning are based on evidence. 

Inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning are both different approaches to research. While the former approach focuses on developing a theory, the latter tests an existing theory.

Even though both these approaches differ in their application, they are often used as a combined approach in one large study.

In this article, we’ll gauge the difference between inductive vs. deductive reasoning and compare their strengths & limitations. 

Let’s get started.

Logic can be branched out into two broad methods of reasoning, namely inductive and deductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning definition

Inductive reasoning is a logical thinking process in which specific observations that are believed to be true are combined to draw a conclusion to create broader generalizations and theories.

This approach helps you make large generalizations from specific observations. Inductive reasoning uncovers pattern from specific observations and progress to generalize them with a theory. 

In inductive research, if the argument is strong, the truth of the premise would indicate that conclusion is correct. However, if the argument is weak, it means that the logic connecting the premise and the conclusion is unlikely or incorrect.

Deductive reasoning definition

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, works in the opposite direction of inductive reasoning. It is a logical thinking process that uses the top-down approach to go from the more general to the more specific. It involves the usage of general assumptions and logical premises to arrive at a logical conclusion.

This approach involves approaching a conclusion by joining two pieces of information. The researcher processes two or more premises and confirms one premise with another premise to arrive at a logical conclusion. 

In deductive research, the probability of the final statement being true is very high because this approach is based on simple rules and logic. It follows that if A=B and B=C, then A=C. 

To understand inductive vs. deductive reasoning better, let’s go over the key differences.

Inductive vs. deductive reasoning: Characteristics

1. In Inductive reasoning, the process followed is to move from a specific observation to a broader and generalized conclusion. 

In Deductive reasoning, the process begins with a general statement to prove it with a logical conclusion. 

2. Inductive reasoning is often called a “bottom-up approach” because you start from an observation, detect patterns, formulate a hypothesis, and reach a conclusion/theory.

Deductive reasoning is often called a “top-down approach” because you start with a theory, narrow it down to a hypothesis, observe the hypothesis, and ultimately reach a logical affirmation.

3. When it comes to inductive vs. deductive research, inductive reasoning uses qualitative analysis. 

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, uses quantitative analysis methods.

4. In Inductive reasoning, the truth of the premises does not mean that the conclusion is true as well. 

In Deductive reasoning, if the premises are true, the conclusion has to be true.

5. In terms of inductive vs. deductive research, inductive reasoning is used in exploratory studies. Researchers use it to learn more about an area of interest when there is a limited amount of research present on the topic. 

Deductive reasoning is often used in confirmatory studies. It helps researchers test a theory or hypothesis to either prove or disprove it.

Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning: Examples

Example of Inductive Reasoning 

Observation: Pet dogs in my neighborhood are friendly.

Observe a pattern: All observed dogs are friendly. 

Theory: All dogs are friendly. 

Example of Deductive Reasoning

Theory: All dogs are friendly. 

Hypothesis: All pet dogs in my neighborhood are friendly. 

Test hypothesis: Observe all dogs in the neighborhood. 

Conclusion: 7 out of 23 dogs in the neighborhood were not friendly= Reject the hypothesis

Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning: Usage

When it comes to how we use inductive and deductive reasoning, the easy way to remember is that inductive reasoning is fast and easy to use, so we use it daily in our life. However, deductive reasoning is difficult to use in daily life since we need facts to prove the argument. 

Usage of Inductive Reasoning 

We use inductive reasoning for everyday use, such as: 

  • Determining when you should leave your house for work based on the traffic. 
  • Deciding on a special employee wellness program based on employee feedback. 

Usage of Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is often used to solve a problem or make decisions. 

  • To determine what caused customer dissatisfaction & use it to offer the right solution. 
  • Designing a new store layout that will attract more customers & increase sales.
Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning

Inductive Reasoning Approach in Research

Inductive reasoning is a logical thinking process that integrates observations with experiential information to draw a conclusion. You are employing the use of inductive reasoning every time you look at a set of data and then form general conclusions on knowledge from past experiences. 

Inductive research is usually used when there is a lack of existing literature on a topic. This is because there is no existing theory that can be tested on the concept. The inductive training approach can be categorized into the following three stages:

  1. Observation.
  2. Observe a pattern. 
  3. Develop a theory.

To understand this approach better, let’s take a look at the following example:

Observation

Observe a Pattern 

Develop a Theory

The low-cost editing apps, App A and B, both experience app glitches.

All observed low-cost editing apps experience app glitches.

All low-cost editing apps experience app glitches.

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Strengths and Limitations of Inductive Reasoning

Let’s evaluate inductive reasoning by taking a look at its strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths of Inductive Reasoning

Range of probabilities

One of the most prominent advantages of inductive reasoning is that it allows you to work with a range of probabilities, expanding your perception and knowledge base despite the lack of literature available.

Encourages exploration

Inductive training begins with an observation and then moves on to exploration to test the judgment made.

Weaknesses of Inductive Reasoning

Limited scope

A drawback of inductive reasoning is that inferences are made from specific situations that may not have significance in the real world.

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Deductive Reasoning Approach in Research

When employing deductive reasoning in research, you begin with a theory. This theory is then narrowed down into more specific hypotheses that can be tested. These are further narrowed down into observations that allow us to test the hypothesis to confirm whether the data supports or rejects the hypothesis.

The deductive training approach can therefore be categorized into the following four stages:

  1. Begin with an existing theory.
  2. Formulate a hypothesis based on the existing theory.
  3. Collect data to test the hypothesis.
  4. Analyze the results to see whether the data supports or rejects the hypothesis.

To understand this approach better, let’s take a look at the following example:

Start with an Existing Theory

Formulate a Hypothesis

Test the Hypothesis

Analyze the Results

All low-cost editing apps experience app glitches.

If users select a low-cost editing app, then they will experience app glitches.

Collect data on low-cost editing apps.

20 out of 50 of the low-cost editing apps do not experience app glitches. 

= Reject Hypothesis

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Strengths and Limitations of Deductive Reasoning

Let’s evaluate deductive reasoning by taking a look at its strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths of Deductive Reasoning

Helps substantiate decisions

Deductive reasoning can be used to effectively substantiate decisions such as those related to work. Also, if the decision doesn’t produce the desired results, you can still explain why you made the decision by providing logical and objective explanations.

Reliable when the original premise is true

Another advantage of deductive reasoning is that your conclusion is almost guaranteed to be true if all the original premises are true in all situations and if the reasoning applied is correct.

Weaknesses of Deductive Reasoning

Relies on initial premises being correct

Deductive reasoning heavily relies on the initial premises being correct. The final argument is invalid if even one premise is found to be incorrect.

Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning: Types

Types of Inductive Reasoning

The following types of inductive reasoning depend on two factors: 

  • Methods of defining the sample from the larger population. 
  • The method of collecting premises to draw a conclusion. 

01. Generalization:

In this type of inductive research, the researcher draws a conclusion from a generalization. This means that the premise is made from the research sample, and the conclusion is drawn from the population. 

For example, if three out of four students can play football, then all the students can probably play football. 

02. Statistical generalization:

In this type, the conclusion is made based on the statistically verified sample. This means that the research sample statistically represent the target population.  

This is considered more reliable as the sample is selected randomly and is large. 

03. Anecdotal generalization:

Here, a researcher draws a conclusion based on the general features of the sample group. 

04. Prediction:

This kind of inductive research makes a prediction based on the sample (current or past). In this reasoning, the researcher collects the premise from the phenomenon and draws a general prediction of the probability of happening of the future event. 

05. Analogous:

Inductive reasoning based on analogy means that you draw a conclusion about new properties of two populations from the shared attributes of the samples of the two populations. 

For example, say samples of populations 1 and 2 have common characteristics of u,v, and w. The property x observed in population 1 can also be said to be the property of population 2. 

06. Causal inference:

Here, the conclusion is drawn based on the causal connection between the samples of different populations. The validity of this conclusion is very low as it can only be confirmed by examination. 

Now let’s move on to the types of deductive reasoning better to understand the process of inductive vs. deductive research. 

Types of Deductive Reasoning

There are three types of deductive reasoning based on two factors:

  • The premise
  • The kind of relationships across the premise. 

01. Syllogism:

It is a commonly used type of reasoning in deductive research. It includes a set of premises followed by a conclusion. 

  • The first premise – a conditional statement. 
  • The second premise – a conditional statement that connects with the conclusion of the 1st premise. 
  • Concluding statement – combines the first part of the 1st premise with the second part of the 2nd premise. 

02. Modus ponens:

In this type of deductive reasoning, the second premise generally affirms the first part of the first premise. 

For example, 

1st premise: If it’s raining today, I will wear my raincoat. 

2nd premise: it is raining today. 

Conclusion: I will wear my raincoat. 

03. Modus tollens:

This kind of deductive reasoning is also known as the law of contrapositive. It is the opposite of modus ponens. In this reasoning, the second premise contradicts the first part of the first premise. 

For example, 

1st premise: If it’s raining today, I will wear my raincoat. 

2nd premise: I will not wear my raincoat. 

Conclusion: It is not raining today.

Conclusion

In this article on inductive vs. deductive reasoning, it is safe to conclude that the advantages and characteristics of both reasoning can help you reach your research goals. The two has different approach, starting points, and ways of looking at the data, however, depending on your research goal each reasoning can give you the evidence you need to conclude the truth about your customers. 

Voxco is an intuitive survey software that you can use to conduct inductive and deductive research. You can leverage robust functionalities to design surveys, collect data, and automate data analysis in real-time.

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