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Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning - Definition and Examples

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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 reasoning and 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.

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.

To understand inductive and 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 specific observation to a broader and generalized conclusion. 
  2. In Deductive reasoning, the process begins with a general statement to prove it with a logical conclusion. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. In Inductive reasoning, the truth of the premises does not mean that the conclusion is true as well. 
  6. In Deductive reasoning, if the premises are true, the conclusion has to be true. 

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

Analyse 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.

FAQs

Deductive reasoning, also called the top-down approach, is a process of backing up a generalized statement with logical facts.

Inductive reasoning, also called the bottom up approach, is the process of making a generalized argument based on a specific observation.

A deductive argument is the presentation of a statement assumed to be true. In a deductive argument, the premises provide strong support to the conclusion of the reasoning. 

If the premises in a deductive argument is true, the conclusion can never be false.

Deductive VS inductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning

We go from Theory – Hypothesis – Observation – Conclusion.

We go from Observation – Pattern – Hypothesis – Theory. 

It is difficult to use since we need actual facts. 

It is used primarily in our daily lives since it’s easy to use. 

The conclusion is certain.

The truth of the conclusion is probable. 




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