I need to explain what the contrast is between deductive and inductive thinking, and I need to explain it by using the four-step methodology (understanding, analysis, evaluation, and application). If I can, I can use synthesis to develop my own paradigm for the concepts of deductive and inductive reasoning, but I don't know what that means.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Four Step Methodology

When asked to apply the four steps of understanding, analysis, evaluation and application to a concept that you then need to describe, you are generally being asked to essentially represent your thought process as part of your description. For example, if applied to the concept of synthesis, your written description might be something like this:

Synthesis per the four step methodology:

While synthesis is the combination of summaries of two things (topics, essays, concepts, etc) based on traits or theses, it is essential for synthesis that the writer's original thoughts be included by way ideas, theory or research on the synthesized things.

Understanding synthesis as a system of thinking and writing that compares things by traits or theses means that the traits or theses of what is compared must be analyzed for detail and meaning, while evaluation requires identifying weaknesses or strengths or areas for improvement in the things compared; synthesis includes application of the ideas, theory or research to a real-world or hypothetical situation that will illustrate the effectiveness of the new paradigm arising from the synthesis.


Random House Dictionary defines "paradigm" as a framework of a conceptual area in a field of knowledge that contains basic assumptions, basic ways of thinking and accepted methodologies that members of the field generally operate by: it is a way of seeing, understanding and acting within a given pursuit of knowledge. For instance, in psycholinguistic, the paradigm includes linguists who go undercover and incorporate themselves into a linguistic community for the purpose of observing, incognito, how parole (daily language) is represented on an actual moment by moment basis. This is a paradigm that is rejected by other areas of linguistic study because it is felt that full disclosure of approach, method and objective is required along with participant consent. The psycholinguistic paradigm violates this standard linguistic paradigm.

Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning

The standard paradigm explains deductive reasoning as being top-down thinking that moves from generalities to specifics. The same paradigm explains inductive reasoning as being bottom-up thinking that moves from specifics to generalities. It's hard to find this useful unless you already understand the concepts.

Another paradigm explains deductive reasoning as that which begins with a theory then tries to infer conclusions that derive from or are based upon that theory. This is something like trying to explain how dark energy fits in with the theory of an expanding universe. The same paradigm explains inductive reasoning as that which begins with observed data then tries to develop theories by detecting patterns and regularities that lead to testable hypotheses. This is something like trying to explain dark matter based on the observations made of how galaxies are affected by something unseen that influences their behavior.

Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, a researcher and professor emerita at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, made a statement to LiveScience.com that explains deductive reasoning using a slightly different paradigm. She said that deductive reasoning begins with a theory that then forms the basis of predictions. This is like how solar physicists have made progress in understanding the Sun: they formulated theories, made predictions, then confirmed their theories when the predictions proved accurate.

That is, we predict what the observations should be if the theory were correct.  We go from the general — the theory — to the specific — the observations. (Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, LiveScience.com)

Wassertheil-Smoller explains inductive reasoning begins with many observations that accumulate much data from which discernment of a pattern is attempted so that a generalization can be made in order to infer an explanation or a theory.

we go from the specific to the general. We make many observations, discern a pattern, make a generalization, and infer an explanation or a theory.

Wassertheil-Smoller makes the very important point that in real-world situations, there is a significant interplay between inductive reasoning (starting with observations in hopes of producing a theory) and deductive reasoning (having a theory to test by drawing conclusions and--importantly--making predictions). To illustrate, before solar physicists began making deductive predictions about the behavior of the Sun, they spent billions of dollars and years of painstaking work to make minutely detailed inductive observations of the Sun using satellites like YoHo and Soho and a new fleet of many other solar satellites.

Write a Contrast Between Deductive and Inductive

These explanations give you a strong base for applying the four-step methodology (understand, analyze, evaluate, apply) to your own explanation of deductive and inductive reasoning and for attempting a synthesis resulting in a paradigm of your own that reconfigures a comprehensible description of the features and contrasts between the two different--though interactive--modes of reasoning, deductive and inductive.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Posted on