Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning in Research

Elaborate new theories, assess existing theories, or use a combination of both inductive and deductive approaches

There are two fundamental ways of approaching qualitative data analysis – deductive and inductive approaches.

Deductive Research

Some researchers prefer to start with a prepared code set and work their way through each document applying their existing codes. This deductive process works from the more general to more specific observations and is often referred to as a "top-down" approach. With this approach you begin by specifying a theory about your research topic. The unique data you identify provides support for your theory.

Inductive Research 

Inductive approaches work the other way around, moving from specific observations to broader, more general theories. They are also called “bottom-up” approaches. Using this process, you start reviewing documents and then generate codes and comments as you analyze your materials. Here you begin with specific observations and detect patterns with the goal of developing general conclusions or theories about your research topic.

Both approaches are valid and can be used in ATLAS.ti Web. It’s up to you which one you choose. You can also combine both by starting with a prepared code set and expanding it by adding additional codes and comments as you conduct your analysis.