Deductive and Inductive Reasoning in Essay Writing: The Difference

deductive inductive reasoning

There are different ways to present information when writing and reasoning is one of them It can be divided into two categories: inductive and deductive. The difference between them is the following:

  • Deductive reasoning moves from general to specific. It presents a premise (a thesis statement) and then gives supporting facts or examples. Sometimes it’s also called a “top-down” method.
  • Inductive reasoning works from particular observations to extensive theories and generalizations. It shows facts followed up with a conclusion. Sometimes it’s called a “bottom-up” approach.

Deduction begins with premises that are supposed to be true. Then you determine, what logically follows from the premises.

For example:

  • All birds have feathers (premise); sparrows are birds (premise); sparrows have feathers (conclusion).
  • If X = Y (premise) and Y = Z (premise), then X = Z (conclusion).
  • Dogs have cells in their bodies (premise), all cells contain DNA (premise), so dogs have DNA (conclusion).

If your premises are correct, you can effectively support your conclusions. The premises are unprovable, they are accepted by faith or on face value.

Induction begins with some data. Then you determine, what general conclusions can logically be made from the data or what theory can explain it.

For example:

  • Sarah leaves for school at 7.30 a.m. (premise). Sarah is always on time (premise). Sarah supposes she will always be on time if she leaves at 7.30 a.m. (conclusion).
  • John moved here from Baltimore (premise). John has red hair (premise). Therefore, people from Baltimore have red hair (conclusion).
  • All black dogs in the park are big dogs (premise). Therefore, all big dogs are black (conclusion).

These are reasonable hypotheses. At the same time induction does not prove that the assumption is correct. There are often other assumptions supported by the data. An important feature of induction is that the assumption offers logical explanation of the data.

It may seem that inductive reasoning is weaker than deduction because there is always a possibility of false conclusions, but that is not entirely true. With deductive reasoning the conclusions are already contained in the premises.

In deduction we don’t get new information, we show information which was previously undisclosed or obscured. Inductive arguments provide us with new ideas. They can expand our knowledge about the world in a different way, that can’t be achieved with deductive reasoning.

The deductive arguments are often used in mathematics, most of other research fields prefer inductive reasoning.

These two methods of argumentation have different feel to them when doing a research. Inductive reasoning is more exploratory and open-ended, especially at the beginning. Deductive reasoning is more tight in its nature and is concerned with confirming hypotheses and testing.

 Most social researches combine both inductive and deductive reasoning processes in their work. Even in a constrained experiment, the researcher may observe data models which lead him or her to develop new theories.

Choosing an appropriate reasoning depends on the content, purpose and intended audience. If you are going to introduce your audience to the new concepts, then inductive writing is a good choice. If you don’t intend to take your readers through your entire research, then deductive reasoning might make sense, as they can quickly scan first sentences of paragraphs.

Comments are closed.