Types of inductive and deductive research strategy

By Shruti Datt & Priya Chetty on September 14, 2016

Sarantakos defined research method as “the theory of methods” (Sarantakos 2012; p. 465), or the way through which a researcher makes sense of the object of inquiry. Within research methodology, research strategy assumes as the “general plan of how the researcher will go about answering the research questions” (Saunders et al. 2009; p. 90). Research strategy is of seven types:

  1. experiments,
  2. surveys,
  3. case studies,
  4. ethnography,
  5. grounded theory,
  6. action research and
  7. archival research.

Research strategies based on inductive approach

Action research is based on four themes wherein the first theme is to focus on purpose of research e.g. to study the implication of change within an organisation. Secondly, the role of researcher within the research study. Therefore, the researcher should involve in the change management process or is facing the implications of change within the case organisation. Thirdly, the process of diagnosing, planning and taking action is the central theme of this strategy. Final theme indicates that action research should have implications beyond the immediate research.

Ethnography is rooted firmly in inductive approach. The purpose of this strategy is to describe and explain research subjects just the way it would provide a description or explanation to the subjects. This strategy is  time consuming. Most of the studies in business perspectives avoid using this strategy.

For example, one can apply ethnography to understand and interpret from the perspective of those involved in the process.

Archival research is based on administrative records and documents as a source of data which can be both recent or historical. Data which is collected for different purposes is analysed to determine the implications of the same.                                                                

For example, one can use the data of Olympic players of specific countries to study the pattern of medal over the years. Also one can draw comparisons on different parameters.

Research strategies based on deductive approach

Experiment was first applied to natural sciences with a purpose to study casual links. In other words to examine whether the change in independent variable induces change in dependent variable. The number of independent variables can be different. In a classic experiment, two or more groups are established with each group denoted as experimental group.

For example, An an experiment to evaluate customer satisfaction on a product based on the satisfaction level among different groups. This is possible by subjecting the members of each group to try the product and define satisfaction on different parameters.

Survey is associated with deductive approach. Most of the studies related to business and management adopt this strategy. Survey enables the researcher to collect huge amount of data from a sizeable target population. The data can be analysed using descriptive and inferential analysis tools.

For example, level of employee satisfaction in an IT organisation is determined with a questionnaire.

Research strategies based on mixed approach (deductive and inductive approach)

Case study involves empirical investigation to study contemporary phenomenon using multiple sources of evidence (Robson, 2002). Case study is opposite to experimental strategy which is not bound to a context. It is most suitable when to gain in-depth insight of the research context.

For example, one can adopt the case study strategy to study reasons which led to the fall of Nokia as a case example.

Grounded theory is the best example to mixed approach where the emphasis is on theory building. This strategy is adopted to predict and explain a behaviour. In this strategy, the research initiates with the development of theoretical framework. New theories are developed on the basis of the theoretical framework.

For example, one can study the impact of culture on eating behaviour in a particular city on the basis of theoretical underpinnings. This can be proven with respect to a specific case.

Need for research strategy

Research strategy enables the researcher to answer the research questions or the elementary questions which shapes the flow and structure of the study. Therefore, the necessity of deploring a research strategy is based on the aims and objectives of the study. As Saunders et al. (2009) has emphasised that the choice of research strategy is guided by research questions and objectives. Similarly the extent of existing knowledge, the availability of amount of time, as well as philosophical underpinnings are also important.

For instance, to examine the degree of customer’s satisfaction from online shopping, then the strategy should be to employ survey or interview method. This method enables to record views of vast amount of customers (like 100 to 1000 or more respondents), engaged in online shopping. Similarly, by deploying interview method, one can personally collect varied and in-depth perspectives of e-customers and therefore analyze their degree of satisfaction acquired.

Selecting research strategy based on research approach

Based on three different approaches of reasoning in a methodology, it is important to adopt a strategy. As mentioned above, some are applied to researches based on inductive strategy.

Types of research strategy
Types of research strategy

In order to understand the different research approach that exist in a research, it is important to go through our article on Research Approach. Upon selection of the approach of reasoning, you will be able to apply an appropriate strategy.


  • Benbasat, I., Goldstein, D.K. & Mead, M., 1987. The Case Research Strategy in Studies of Information Systems on JSTOR. MIS Quarterly, 11(3), pp.369–386. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/248684?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents [Accessed May 4, 2016].
  • Gray, D.E., 2014. Theoretical perspectives and research methodologies. Doing research in the real world, pp.16–38.
  • Sarantakos, S., 2012. Social Research, Palgrave Macmillan. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=IjUdBQAAQBAJ&pgis=1 [Accessed May 4, 2016].
  • Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A., 2009. Research Methods for Business Students 5th ed., Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.


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