Deductive Approach (Deductive Reasoning)
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”
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”.
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”.
Advantages of Deductive Approach
Deductive approach offers the following advantages:
- Possibility to explain causal relationships between concepts and variables
- Possibility to measure concepts quantitatively
- Possibility to generalize research findings to a certain extent
Alternative to deductive approach is inductive approach. The table below 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|
Choice between deductive and inductive approaches
Deductive research approach explores a known theory or phenomenon and tests if that theory is valid in given circumstances. It has been noted that “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”.
Moreover, deductive reasoning can be explained as “reasoning from the general to the particular”, 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.
Application of Deductive Approach (Deductive Reasoning) in Business Research
In studies with deductive approach, the researcher formulates a set of hypotheses at the start of the research. Then, relevant research methods are chosen and applied to test the hypotheses to prove them right or wrong.
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). These are quantitative methods such as regression and correlation analysis, mean, mode and median and others.
- Examining the outcome of the test, and thus confirming or rejecting the theory. When analysing the outcome of tests, it is important to compare research findings with the literature review findings.
- Modifying theory in instances when hypothesis is not confirmed.
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 philosophy, research design, methods of data collection, data analysis and sampling are explained in this e-book in simple words.
 Wilson, J. (2010) “Essentials of Business Research: A Guide to Doing Your Research Project” SAGE Publications, p.7
 Gulati, PM, 2009, Research Management: Fundamental and Applied Research, Global India Publications, p.42
 Babbie, E. R. (2010) “The Practice of Social Research” Cengage Learning, p.52
 Snieder, R. & Larner, K. (2009) “The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and their Mentors”, Cambridge University Press, p.16
 Pelissier, R. (2008) “Business Research Made Easy” Juta & Co., p.3