Chapter 1: Introduction to Research Methods

1.6 Inductive Approaches to Research

In addition to considering paradigms, researchers must also think about whether or not they plan to employ an inductive or a deductive approach. While each approach is quite different, they can also be complementary. In the following sections we will examine how these approaches are similar and dissimilar.

An inductive approach to research begins by collecting data that is relevant to the topic of interest. Once a substantial amount of data has been collected, the researcher will then take a breather from data collection, stepping back to get a bird’s eye view of the data. At this stage, the researcher looks for patterns in the data, working to develop a theory that could explain those patterns. Thus, when researchers take an inductive approach, they start with a set of observations and move from those particular experiences to a more general set of propositions about those experiences; i.e., they move from data to theory, or from the specific to the general (see Figure 1.4).

Gather Data

Look for Patterns

Develop Theory

Specific level of focus Analysis General Level of Focus

Figure 1.4: Steps involved with an inductive approach to research. This image is from Principles of Sociological Inquiry, which was adapted by the Saylor Academy without attribution to the original authors or publisher, as requested by the licensor, and is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 License.


Share This Book