Exploring Qualitatively-derived Concepts: Inductive—Deductive Pitfalls

  • Janice M. Morse University of Alberta
  • Carl Mitcham Colorado School of Mines


Analytic induction is a sacred tenet of qualitative inquiry.1 Therefore, when one begins a project focusing on concept of interest (rather than allowing the concepts to emerge from the data per se), how does one maintain a valid approach? When commencing inquiry with a chosen concept or phenomena of interest, rather than with a question from the data per se about what is going on, how does one control deductive tendencies to see what one desires to see and which threaten validity? Difficulties stem from the nature of induction itself – Is analytic induction an impossible operation in qualitative research, as Popper (1963/65) suggests? In this section, we first discuss Popper’s concern, followed by a discussion of two major threats that may prevent an inductive approach in qualitative research.2 The first threat is the “pink elephant paradox;” the second is the avoidance of conceptual tunnel vision or, specifically, how does the researcher decontextualize the concept of interest from the surrounding context and thereby avoid the tendency to consider all data to be pertinent to the concept of interest? As we explore each of these pitfalls, and we present methodological strategies to maintain both the integrity of the concept and the integrity of the research.