4.3.3 Inductive versus deductive approaches


The approach chosen depends largely on the design and the aims of the research. Some designs and/or research questions require an inductive, others a deductive approach. Inductive means that themes emerge from the data, while deductive implies a pre-existing theory or framework which is applied to the data. Qualitative data analysis tends to be inductive, which means that the researcher identifies categories in the data, without predefined hypotheses. However, this is not always the case. A qualitative research analysis can also be top down, with predefined categories to which the data are coded, for example a priori concepts can be adopted from the literature or a relevant field. Framework analysis can be used this way.


The next table shows how the different methods, approaches and types of coding  relate to each other.

Generic methods, specific methods/ traditions, approaches and type of coding for qualitative analysis

Generic methods

Specific methods / traditions


Type of coding

Phenomenological examination of the empirical data




Thematic analysis

Descriptive analysis

Framework analysis

Mainly deductive

Mainly deductive



Analysis using conceptualizing categories

Grounded Theory


Mainly inductive

Mainly deductive

Conceptualizing categories