Research Approach

Research approach can be divided into three types:

  1. Deductive research approach
  2. Inductive research approach
  3. Abductive research approach

The relevance of hypotheses to the study is the main distinctive point between deductive and inductive approaches. Deductive approach tests the validity of assumptions (or theories/hypotheses) in hand, whereas inductive approach contributes to the emergence of new theories and generalizations. Abductive research, on the other hand, starts with ‘surprising facts’ or ‘puzzles’ and the research process is devoted their explanation.[1]

The following table illustrates the major differences between deductive, inductive and abductive research approaches in terms of logic, generalizability, use of data and theory.[2]

  Deduction Induction Abduction
Logic In a deductive inference,

when the premises are

true, the conclusion must also be true

In an inductive inference,

known premises are used

to generate untested conclusions

In an abductive inference, known

premises are used to generate testable conclusions

Generalizability Generalising from the general to the specific Generalising from the specific to the general Generalising from the interactions between the specific and the general
Use of data Data collection is used to

evaluate propositions or

hypotheses related to an existing theory

Data collection is used to

explore a phenomenon,

identify themes and

patterns and create a conceptual framework

Data collection is used to explore a phenomenon, identify themes and patterns, locate these in a conceptual framework

and test this through subsequent data collection and so forth

Theory Theory falsification or verification Theory generation and building Theory generation or modification;

incorporating existing theory where

appropriate, to build new theory or modify existing theory

Discussion of research approach is a vital part of any scientific study regardless of the research area. Within the methodology chapter of your dissertation to you need to explain the main differences between inductive, deductive and abductive approaches and specify the approach you have adopted for your research by breaking down your arguments into several points.

Let’s illustrate the application of each research approach for a following study:

Effects of labour migration within the EU on the formation of multicultural teams in UK organizations

Deductive Research Approach

If you have formulated a set of hypotheses for your dissertation that need to be confirmed or rejected during the research process you would be following a deductive approach. In deductive approach, the effects of labour migration within the EU are assessed by developing hypotheses that are tested during the research process.

Dissertations with deductive approach follow the following path:

Research approach

Deductive process

The following hypotheses can be developed in order to assess the effects of labour migration within the EU on the formation of multicultural teams in UK  organizations using a deductive approach:

Hypothesis: Labour migration within the EU contributes to the formation of multicultural teams in UK

Inductive Research Approach

Alternatively, inductive approach does not involve formulation of hypotheses. It starts with research questions and aims and objectives that need to be achieved during the research process.

Inductive studies follow the route below:

Research approach

Inductive process

Referring to the example above, the effects of labour migration within the EU on the formation of multicultural teams in UK organizations can be accessed via finding answers to the following research questions:

Research question: How does labour migration within the EU effect the formation of multicultural teams in UK?

Abductive Research Approach

In abductive approach, the research process is devoted to explanation of  ‘incomplete observations’, ‘surprising facts’ or ‘puzzles’ specified at the beginning of the study. Referring to the research topic of the effects of labour migration on the formation of multicultural teams in the UK discussed above, you may observe that labour migration within the EU was actually decreasing the extent of cross-cultural differences within teams in the UK.

Then, your study can be devoted to the explanation of this phenomenon by using qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and data analysis in an integrated manner…

My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistance contains discussions of theory and application of research approaches. The e-book also explains all stages of the research process starting from the selection of the research area to writing personal reflection. Important elements of dissertations such as research philosophyresearch designmethods of data collectiondata analysis and sampling are explained in this e-book in simple words.

John Dudovskiy

research approach

[1] Bryman A. & Bell, E. (2015) “Business Research Methods” 4th edition, Oxford University Press, p.27

[2] Source: Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2012) “Research Methods for Business Students” 6th edition, Pearson Education Limited