An inductive argument moves from specific observable or tested data to a general conclusion. If you must use inductive reasoning in writing essays or conducting research, here is your guide.
It’s Building Your Case, Brick by Brick
Students study forms of arguments in a variety of courses, the most common college course being Logic. They also practice both inductive and deductive argumentation in any number of courses, however. If you have any questions about inductive reasoning or argumentation, it will be a good idea to review the concept and look at an example.
How to Define Inductive Argument Elements
In broad terms, an inductive argument builds by using pieces of evidence that ultimately support a conclusion. The important thing to remember is this: in an inductive argument, you can only point to a probable conclusion – you cannot prove that conclusion.
The inductive argument differs from the deductive argument in an important way. In deduction, you begin with a statement of conclusion. From that point, you test and experiment to see if your conclusion (often called a hypothesis) can in fact be proved. Scientific research is a prime example of deductive reasoning.
Remember, in inductive argumentation, you are not proving anything. You are pointing to a logical conclusion based upon your evidence, which may or may not be universally true.
How to Construct an Inductive Argument for a Specific Conclusion
Most essay or paper assignments which ask for an inductive argument, are persuasive. You personally already have the conclusion that you know you want to reach, but your reader should not be told that conclusion until the end. Remember, you are building an argument piece by piece. So, do not provide a full thesis statement in the beginning.
In order to best understand how an inductive argument is built, it is easiest to take an example – in this instance from contemporary politics.
I believe that Representative Paul Ryan is a conservative. And I want to prove that to my reading audience. Here is how I will proceed to write my essay.
1. Introduction: My introduction will not state my thesis. Instead I will introduce the topic to be investigated, perhaps by a question. “Is Paul Ryan a conservative? Some say yes and some say no.” Then I might provide the basics of conservative ideology – smaller government, fewer social programs, low taxes for business, and so forth. These are the premises that will be used to construct the argument in the body paragraphs.
Note: Part of understanding what is an inductive argument, is understanding that you not give away the conclusion you intend to reach until you get to your conclusion.
2. The Body: Each piece of evidence will be presented carefully and logically, paragraph by paragraph. In this instance, research will be required to discover his voting habits, bill that he has introduced or co-sponsored, and statements that he has made regarding the premises. Note that if research is required, it must be from trusted resources and include facts that can be verified.
3. The Conclusion: Based upon his voting record, sponsored bills, and statements, I will conclude that Paul Ryan is a conservative. It is important to note again that an inductive argument does not necessarily prove anything. It only comes to a logical conclusion based upon the evidence.
An inductive argument is only as strong as the pieces of evidence used to build the case. Find the strongest evidence possible.