Constructing a Deductive Theory

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There are two approaches to constructing a theory: deductive theory construction and inductive theory construction. Deductive theory construction takes place during deductive reasoning in the hypothesis-testing phase of research.

Deductive Theory Process

The process of developing a deductive theory is not always as simple and straightforward as the following; however, the process generally involves the following steps:

  • Specify the topic.
  • Specify the range of phenomena your theory addresses. Will it apply to all of human social life, only U.S. citizens, only middle-class Hispanics, or what?
  • Identify and specify your major concepts and variables.
  • Find out what is known about the relationships among those variables.
  • Reason logically from those relationships to the specific topic you are studying.

Pick a Topic of Interest

The first step in constructing a deductive theory is picking a topic that interests you. It can be very broad or very specific but should be something that you are trying to understand or explain. Then, identify what the range of phenomena is that you are examining. Are you looking at human social life across the globe, only women in the United States, only poor, sick children in Haiti, etc?

Take Inventory 

The next step is to take inventory of what is already known about that topic, or what is thought about it. This includes learning what other scholars have said about it as well as writing down your own observations and ideas. This is the point in the research process where you will likely spend a great deal of time in the library reading scholarly literature on the topic and devising a literature review. During this process, you will likely notice patterns discovered by prior scholars. For example, if you are looking at views on abortion, religious and political factors will stand out as important predictors in many of the previous studies you come across.

Next Steps

After you’ve examined the previous research conducted on your topic, you are ready to construct your own theory. What is it that you believe you will find during your research? Once you develop your theories and hypotheses, it is time to test them in the data collection and analysis phase of your research.


Babbie, E. (2001). The Practice of Social Research: 9th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson.