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


Hypothetical deduction/hypothetico-deduction

core definition

The hypothetico-deductive approach (experimentally) tests a general hypothesis by deducing predictions with a view to falsifying the hypothesis and moving on to a more refined hypothesis, which is subject to the same process.

explanatory context

The hypothetico-deductive model asserts what the logic of explanation ought to be throughout the sciences. An hypothesis has empirical predictions deduced from it. These can be tested and if confirmed, corroborate the hypotheses. Deduction must be by the strict rules of logic.


An often corroborated hypothesis is frequently called a `law'.


Explanation of an observation or relationship is by bringing the observation under the law as an instance of it. Hence the hypothetico-deductive model is sometimes called the covering-law model, since the 'law' covers or explains the observations.


The hypothetico-deductive model owes much to what is known as the scientific method and many people consider that its underlying assumptions are inappropriate in attempting to understand and explain the social world. They therefore question, and in some cases reject, its use in the social sciences.

analytical review

iSTAR Assessment (2010–2011) states:

Hypothetical-deductive method is a very important method for testing theories or hypotheses and is one of the most basic methods common to all scientific disciplines.

I. Definition
1. Basic definition of hypothetical-deductive reasoning
Hypothetical-deductive method (HD method) is a very important method for testing theories or hypotheses. The HD method is one of the most basic methods common to all scientific disciplines including biology, physics, and chemistry. Its application can be divided into five stages:
1. Form many hypotheses and evaluate each hypothesis
2. Select a hypothesis to be tested
3. Generate predications from the hypothesis
4. Use experiments to check whether predictions are correct
5. If the predictions are correct, then the hypothesis is confirmed. If not, the hypothesis is disconfirmed.
Hypothetical-deductive reasoning involves starting with a general theory of all possible factors that might affect an outcome and forming ahypothesis; then deductions are made from that hypothesis to predict what might happen in an experiment.
In scientific inquiry, hypothetical-deductive reasoning is very important because, in order to solve science problems, you need to make hypotheses. Many hypotheses can't be tested directly; you have to deduce from a hypothesis and make predictions which can be tested through experiments.

Jary (2006) explains that the hypothetico-deductive model is:

A general model of science (Popper, 1934, 1959; Hempel, 1970) in which science is stated as involving the formulation of hypotheses and theories from which particular occurrences can be deduced and thus also predicted and explained. As a model of scientific discovery and explanation the hypothetico-deductive method is advanced as an alternative to Baconian ‘inductive method’ (Bacon 1561-1626) in which the simple accumulation of instances gives rise to generalizations. The model is based on the idea that, rather than the accumulation of facts, hypotheses are essential to science as the basis of proposed generalizations and their empirical testing (cf. ‘falsification’).


Hammond (2006) provides a ditinction between scientific method and the hypothetico-deductive model:

... In the mid 1800s, William Whewell developed the hypothetico-deductive model as an updated form of the scientific method, providing a system for research advancement based on sound logical techniques that increases the accuracy of scientific theories.

Linear Investigation
The scientific method is a linear investigation tool that begins when you define a question, also known as a hypothesis. Your hypothesis should be a testable statement or question that guides your research. You investigate your hypothesis, test it for validity, provide research supporting your claim and conclude your research with a simple claim that your evidence supports or fails to support your hypothesis. Additional research helps validate your theory. Unfortunately, the burden of proving your hypothesis is not possible under the scientific method. Your research is only capable of supporting or not supporting your claim. As a result, researchers use statistical analysis to determine if a single hypothesis can be considered true, but only after multiple tests.

Circular Investigation
The hypothetico-deductive model is a circular approach to the scientific method, providing an evolving perspective of the scientific process. The process begins by defining a hypothesis that is testable and falsifiable and from your hypothesis, you develop a number of predictions through a process of deductive reasoning. You focus your research on providing evidence to support or not support each prediction, evaluate the information you gain and use a process of inductive reasoning to make changes or updates to your original hypothesis. This process never proves or disproves a hypothesis; it only refines it, which makes it more accurate over time.

associated issues


related areas

See also

scientific method


Researching the Real World Section 2.2.2


Hammond, K. undated, 'What is the difference between the scientific method & the hypothetico-deductive model?' on | (1999-2013) available at, accessed 7 March 2013, page not available 22 December 2016.

iSTAR Assessment, 2010-2011, 'Hypothetical-Deductive Reasoning', available at, accessed 7 March 2013, still available 5 June 2019.

Jary, D., 2006, 'Hypothetico-deductive model', in Jupp, V (Ed.) 'The Sage Dictionary of Social Research Methods , available at, accessed 6 March 2013, page not freely available 22 December 2016.

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