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Martyn Hammersley The Open University NCRM Research Methods Festival, St Catherine’s College, Oxford, July 2012. What is Analytic Induction?. Why should we be interested in analytic induction?. It has historical significance: it was closely associated with the Chicago School of Sociology.

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What is analytic induction

Martyn Hammersley

The Open University

NCRM Research Methods Festival,

St Catherine’s College, Oxford, July 2012

What is Analytic Induction?

Why should we be interested in analytic induction
Why should we be interested in analytic induction?

  • It has historical significance: it was closely associated with the Chicago School of Sociology.

  • Appeals are still made to it as a distinctive approach to qualitative or case study research.

  • Above all, it highlights some important issues that all social science faces, qualitative work especially.

A historical sketch
A historical sketch

  • Florian Znaniecki’s The Method of Sociology.

  • In this there are echoes of the accounts of scientific method to be found in J. S. Mill and Aristotle.

  • The classic applications of AI are the work of Lindesmith on opiate addiction, Cressey on financial trust violation, and Becker on marihuana use

    More recent examples that appeal to this approach include: Bloor 1978; Katz 2001a; Gilgun 1995, and Rettig et al 1996.

What is ai
What is AI?

  • It is a distinctive conception of the proper form of social scientific method.

  • It claims to specify what is required if we are to achieve reliably sound conclusions about the causes of some type of outcome.

  • It is aimed at identifying the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions that must be met for the type of outcome concerned to occur.

The steps of ai
The steps of AI

  • Initially specify the outcome to be explained.

  • Collect data on a small number of cases in which the outcome is present.

  • Identify what these cases share and formulate a hypothesis on that basis.

  • Collect data on further cases.

  • If one is found that does not fit the hypothesis, then either reformulate that hypothesis or re-define the outcome.

  • Continue until data from new cases no longer force any revisions.

An example
An example

Cressey (1953) started by studying people who had been convicted of embezzlement and equivalent offences, looking for factors they shared in common. From this he developed a hypothesis, but deviant cases were found so that he had to revise it. At one point he reformulated the type of case he was trying to explain, excluding those people who had taken on positions of financial trust specifically to steal money, focusing solely on those already in positions of financial trust who had subsequently decided to ‘borrow’ money.

With what does ai contrast
With what does AI contrast?

  • Statistical inference from trends in a sample to conclusions about general patterns of causal relationship.

  • Theoretical speculation that does not engage with the details of particular cases.

  • Descriptive accounts of particular cases that infer causal relationships without testing these through comparative analysis.

How does ai differ from grounded theorising
How does AI differ from Grounded Theorising?

  • It is aimed at generating an explanation for a quite specific type of outcome.

  • It is explicitly designed to test as well as to develop explanations/theories.

  • It includes the possibility of redefining what is to be explained, i.e. the outcome.

    The curious co-existence of AI and GT in the development of Chicago Sociology (see Hammersley 2010a).

How does ai compare with qualitative comparative analysis
How does AI compare with Qualitative Comparative Analysis?

  • Both are concerned with developing and testing explanations for a quite specific type of outcome.

  • Both tend to produce explanations involving configurations of causal factors.

  • AI is developmental in character in a way that QCA generally is not.

  • AI does not involve systematic checking of all combinations of relevant causal factors.

Variation in interpretations of ai
Variation in interpretations of AI

  • Whether it starts from pre-conceived hypotheses (but, if so, how is it inductive?).

  • Whether it involves searching for negative cases. Or, more precisely, whether it examines all the types of case that must be investigated if a reliable conclusion is to be reached about the necessary and jointly sufficient factors causing a type of outcome.

  • Whether the goal is to produce universal laws or more restricted forms of generalisation.

Ai as starting with a hypothesis
AI as starting with a hypothesis

‘Analytic induction is unlike other qualitative approaches since it begins with a pre-existing theoretical viewpoint or premise that guides the investigator’s approach to the cases that are examined (Gilgun, 1995; Miller,1982)’ (Rettig et al 1997:208).

Does ai look for cases where the candidate causal factor is present but the outcome is absent
Does AI look for cases where the candidate causal factor is present but the outcome is absent?

If not, it can only discover necessary conditions, at best.

Different products
Different products? present but the outcome is absent?

  • Becker (1998:194-212) has distinguished between ‘classical’ and ‘less rigorous’ forms.

  • Various recent commentators have referred to ‘modified analytic induction’ (Bogdan & Biklen 1992:69-72), which is aimed at developing ‘descriptive hypotheses that identify patterns of behaviors, interactions, and perceptions’ (Gilgun 1995:269), or ‘working hypotheses and concepts that illuminate other similar situations’ (Rettig et al 1997:209), rather than ‘universal’ generalisations.

The issues that ai raises
The issues that AI raises present but the outcome is absent?

  • What is the form of an adequate scientific explanation of any social phenomenon?

  • What is required if we are to develop such an explanation?

  • What kind of causal relations operate in the social world, and is it possible for the strategies that social scientists currently employ to discover them?

  • The key issue of discovering the conditions under which causal relations operate: revising the explanandum.

The nature of causation
The nature of causation present but the outcome is absent?

AI relies upon a very strong interpretation of causation, in which a cause = a set of necessary and jointly sufficient conditions that must be met for some outcome to occur.

We need to consider whether this is appropriate.

Necessary and jointly sufficient conditions
Necessary and jointly sufficient conditions present but the outcome is absent?

  • Necessary = what must be present if the outcome is to occur

  • Sufficient = anything that, if present, ensures that the outcome will occur, though it need not be present for the outcome to occur.

  • For example, the presence of flammable materials can be regarded as a necessary condition for a fire to occur, while a spark can be treated as a sufficient condition in these circumstances.

Necessary flammable material and sufficient spark conditions for fire
Necessary (flammable material) and sufficient (spark) conditions for fire


Presence of flammable materials


Alternative interpretations of causation
Alternative interpretations of causation conditions for fire

  • Identifying a significant sufficient condition

  • Identifying a significant necessary condition

  • Identifying a condition that typically increases the chances of some outcome of interest occurring

Conclusion conditions for fire

  • Analytic induction is an instructive model for thinking about causal analysis.

  • It illustrates that qualitative researchers have been and can be engaged in this enterprise.

  • While there may be questions about whether it is a viable model for many areas of social inquiry, it raises very important methodological issues.

References conditions for fire

Becker, H. S. (1998) Tricks of the Trade, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Bloor, M. (1978) ‘On the analysis of observational data: A discussion of the worth and uses of inductive techniques and respondent validation’, Sociology, 12, 3, pp545-52.

Bloor, M. and Wood, F. (eds.) Keywords in Qualitative Methods, London, Sage.

Bogdan, R. and Biklen, S. (1992) Qualitative Research for Education, 2nd ed. Boston MS, Allyn and Bacon.

Cooper, B. et al (2012) Challenging the Qualitative-Quantitative Divide, London, Continuum, Ch.5.

Cressey, D. (1953) Other People’s Money, Glencoe ILL, Free Press.

Denzin, N. (2006) ‘Analytic induction’, in Ritzer, G. (ed.) Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, Oxford Blackwell.

Gilgun, J. (1995) ‘We shared something special’, Journal of Marriage and Family, 57, pp265-81.

Gilgun, J. (1992) Qualitative Methods in Family Research, Thousand Oaks, Sage. (see pp22-40)

Goldenberg, S. (1993) ‘Analytic induction revisited’, Canadian Journal of Sociology, 18, 2, pp161-76

Hague, B. (2008) ‘Précis of “An abductive theory of scientific method”’, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64, 9, pp1019-22.

Hammersley, M. (1989) The Dilemma of Qualitative Method, London, Routledge.

Hammersley, M. (2008) Questioning Qualitative Inquiry, London, Sage.

Hammersley, M. (2010a) ‘A historical and comparative note on the relationship between analytic induction and grounded theorising’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(2), 2010, Art. 4, Available at:

Hammersley, M. (2010b) ‘Aristotelian or Galileian? On a Puzzle about the Philosophical Sources of Analytic Induction’, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 40, 4, pp393-409.

Hammersley, M. (2011) ‘On Becker’s studies of marihuana use as an example of analytic induction’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 41, 4, pp535 – 566.

References contd
References Contd. conditions for fire

Johnson, P. (1998) ‘Analytic induction’, in Symon, G. and Cassell, C. (eds.) Qualitative Methods and Analysis in Organizational Research, London, Sage.

Katz, J. (2001a) ‘Analytic induction revisited’, in Emerson, R. (ed.) Contemporary Field Research, Second edition, Prospects Heights ILL, Waveland Press.

Katz, J. (2001b) ‘Analytic induction’ in N. J. Smelser and P. B. Baltes (eds.)International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Oxford, Elsevier

Lindesmith, A. (1968) Addiction and Opiates, Chicago, Aldine.

Lindesmith, A. ‘Symbolic interactionism and causality’, Symbolic Interaction, 4, 1, pp87-96.

Manning, P. (1982) ‘Analytic induction’, in Smith, R., Manning, P. (eds.) Handbook of Social Science Methods: Qualitative Methods, Cambridge MS, Ballinger.

Miller, S. (1982) ‘Quality and quantity: Another view of analytic induction’, Quality and Quantity, 16, 4, pp281-95.

Pascale, C-M (2010) Cartographies of Knowledge, Thousand Oaks CA, Sage.

Patton, M. Q. (2002) Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods, 3rd edition, Thousand Oaks CA, Sage.

Ragin, C. (1994) Constructing Social Research, Pine Forge Press.

Ratcliff, D. ‘Analytic induction as a qualitative research method of analysis’. Available at (accessed 1.5.12):

Rettig, K., Tam, V. and Magistad, B. (1997) ‘Using pattern matching and modified analytic induction in examining justice principles in child support guidelines’, Marriage and Family Review, 24, 1/2, pp193-22:

Robinson, W. S. (1951) ‘The logical structure of analytic induction’, American Sociological Review, 16, 6, pp812-818.

Turner, R. (1953) ‘The quest for universals’, American Sociological Review, 18, 6, pp604-11.

Znaniecki, F. (1934) The Method of Sociology, New York, Farrar and Rinehart