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COMM/JOURN/PBRL 360: Research Methods - Marshall: Inductive and Deductive Searching

Inductive vs Deductive

Inductive searching and deductive searching are two sides of the same coin.  Both work equally well, just in opposite ways.

The easiest way to describe these styles is with bread: with inductive reasoning, you have already found the loaf of bread and are tracing its path back to the beginning.  With deductive reasoning, you find a few breadcrumbs and start to follow them to the loaf.

Inductive Searching

When you are searching inductively, it means that you have already found the "endgame"; you already know the outcome of this information.  To use our example from above, you've already found the loaf of bread on the table (the result), and now you want to search around to find where the bread was baked in the first place (the hypothesis).

Start with a specific fact or event: for example, sections of New Orleans are still devastated and partially destroyed from Hurricane Katrina.  When doing your research, you will want to read up on books and articles describing the state of affairs, noting any recurring or seemingly important facts and terms you find in this initial research.  Once you get a few trails going, you can begin to follow them: the reaction of FEMA, the geography of the area, the poverty levels, the dams, government incompetence...all of these may come up in your research, and you can follow as many of these trails as you want.

Eventually you will find yourself at the "oven" that baked your bread: a hypothesis which states something to the effect of "the combination of FEMA, geography, and poorly-constructed dams led to a situation in parts of New Orleans which has yet to be resolved".

Deductive Searching

When you are searching deductively, you start out at the oven.  You see some crumbs laying around and deduce that someone has baked some bread here recently, and begin to follow the trail until you eventually find the table with the bread.

If you were researching New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, you might come into the research hearing a lot about the levy construction issues that plagued the city.  You would start doing searches relating to what happened during and immediately after Katrina, which could lead to follow-up articles or interviews with people who had been spoken to in the immediate aftermath.  Through the course of your research, you might even see that people keep mentioning that FEMA was the opposite of helpful, and branch off to look into that.

Eventually you'll find yourself standing next to the "bread" itself: results that claim that parts of New Orleans have never recovered from Hurricane Katrina, and possibly never will.