Social Research Glossary


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Home


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.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises


Covering-law model

core definition

The covering-law model is one in which the observation or relationship to be explained is ‘covered’ by a general statement about such observations or relationships.

explanatory context

To explain an observation or relationship in this way it is suggested that we must use a covering law that has been tested in the past.


Covering-law models also have the distinctive feature that they not only ‘explain’ but also ‘predict’ future observations. The covering-law model applies the principles of the natural science approach and is sometimes also known as the hypothetico-deductive model.


It is arguable whether finding a covering law is either a necessary or sufficient condition for explaining a phenomenon.

analytical review

Duignan (2009) rather convolutedly wrote:

Covering-law model, Model of explanation according to which to explain an event by reference to another event necessarily presupposes an appeal to laws or general propositions correlating events of the type to be explained (explananda) with events of the type cited as its causes or conditions (explanantia). It is rooted in David Hume's doctrine that, when two events are said to be causally related, all that is meant is that they instantiate certain regularities of succession that have been repeatedly observed to hold between such events in the past. This doctrine was given more rigorous expression by the logical positivist  Carl Hempel (1905–1997).

associated issues


related areas

See also

hypothetical deduction


Duignan, B., 2009, 'Covering-law model', Encyclopaedia Britannica, available at, accessed 2 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Home