Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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Analytic induction

core definition

Analytic induction involves the systematic search for falsifying evidence by examining cases that differ in known ways, and the modification of theory until no further disconfirming evidence can be found.

explanatory context

Analytic induction should be seen as a continual process rather than a once-and-for-all test of a hypothesis.


Analytic induction is part of the logic of discovery in some forms of ethnographic research. This approach to ethnography can be found in the work of the (later) symbolic interactionists (Becker, Geer), who adopt a falsificationist approach to participant observation.

analytical review

Flick (2006) wrote:

A research strategy of data collection and analysis which explicitly takes the deviant case as a starting point for testing models or theories developed in research. It can be characterized as a method of systematic interpretation of events, which includes the process of generating hypotheses as well as testing them. Its decisive instrument is to analyse the exception or the case that is deviant to the hypothesis. This procedure, introduced by Znaniecki in 1934, of looking for and analysing deviant cases is applied after a preliminary theory (hypothesis, pattern or model) has been developed. Analytic induction, above all, is oriented to examining theories and knowledge by analysing or integrating negative cases.

Smelser (2001) wrote:

Analytic induction (AI) is a research logic used to collect data, develop analysis, and organize the presentation of research findings. Its formal objective is causal explanation, a specification of the individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for the emergence of some part of social life. AI calls for the progressive redefinition of the phenomenon to be explained (the explanandum) and of explanatory factors (the explanans), such that a perfect (sometimes called “universal”) relationship is maintained. Initial cases are inspected to locate common factors and provisional explanations. As new cases are examined and initial hypotheses are contradicted, the explanation is reworked in one or both of two ways. The definition of the explanandum may be redefined so that troublesome cases either become consistent with the explanans or are placed outside the scope of the inquiry; or the explanans may be revised so that all cases of the target phenomenon display the explanatory conditions. There is no methodological value in piling up confirming cases; the strategy is exclusively qualitative, seeking encounters with new varieties of data in order to force revisions that will make the analysis valid when applied to an increasingly diverse range of cases. The investigation continues until the researcher can no longer practically pursue negative cases.

See also a video of a presentation by Professor Martyn Hammersley: What is analytic induction? (presentation last 25 minutes)

associated issues


related areas

See also



Researching the Real World Section


Flick, U., 2006, 'Analytic induction' in Jupp, V (Ed.) 'The Sage Dictionary of Social Research Methods , restricted availability at, checked 29 May 2019.

Smelser, N.J., 2001, 'Analytic induction', in Smelser, N.J. and Baltes, P.B., 2001, (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, available at, accessed 29 May 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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