“A deductive approach is concerned with developing a hypothesis (or hypotheses) based on existing theory, and then designing a research strategy to test the hypothesis” (Wilson, 2010, p.7)
Deductive approach can be explained by the means of hypotheses, which can be derived from the propositions of the theory. In other words, deductive approach is concerned with deducting conclusions from premises or propositions. “Deduction begins with an expected pattern that is tested against observations, whereas induction begins with observations and seeks to find a pattern within them” (Babbie, 2010, p.52).
It has been stated that “deductive means reasoning from the particular to the general. If a causal relationship or link seems to be implied by a particular theory or case example, it might be true in many cases. A deductive design might test to see if this relationship or link did obtain on more general circumstances” (Gulati, 2009, p.42).
In other words, when a deductive approach is being followed in the research the author formulates a set of hypotheses that need to be tested. Then, through implementation of relevant methodology the study is going to prove formulated hypotheses right or wrong.
Beiske (2007) informs that deductive research approach explores a known theory or phenomenon and tests if that theory is valid in a given circumstances. “The deductive approach follows the path of logic most closely. The reasoning starts with a theory and leads to a new hypothesis. This hypothesis is put to the test by confronting it with observations that either lead to a confirmation or a rejection of the hypothesis” (Snieder and Larner, 2009, p.16).
Moreover, deductive reasoning can be explained as “reasoning from the general to the particular” (Pelissier, 2008, p.3), whereas inductive reasoning is the opposite. In other words, deductive approach involves formulation of hypotheses and their subjection to testing during the research process, while inductive studies do not deal with hypotheses in any ways.
Generally, studies using deductive approach follow the following stages:
- Deducing hypothesis from theory
- Formulating hypothesis in operational terms and proposing relationships between two specific variables
- Testing hypothesis with the application of relevant method(s)
- Examining the outcome of the test, and thus confirming or rejecting the theory.
- Modifying theory in instances when hypothesis is not confirmed.
Alternative to deductive approach is inductive approach, and the following table guides the choice of specific approach depending on circumstances:
|Deductive approach preferred||Inductive approach preferred|
|Wealth of literature||Abundance of sources||Scarcity of sources|
|Time availability||Short time available to complete the study||There is no shortage of time to compete the study|
|Risk||To avoid risk||Risk is accepted, no theory may emerge at all|
Beiske, B, 2007, Research Methods: Uses and Limitations of questionnaires, interviews and case studies, GRIN Verlag
Gulati, PM, 2009, Research Management: Fundamental and Applied Research, Global India Publications
Pelissier, R. (2008) “Business Research Made Easy” Juta & Co.
Snieder, R & Larner, K, 2009, The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and their Mentors, Cambridge University Press