East and West: Inductive Versus Deductive Logic
To succeed in business or studies in a different country then you have to understand the cultural differences in the way people communicate. People in the East, including China, think differently from people in the West, because of how these cultures have developed over thousands of years. So it is not enough to only learn the other’s language. It’s important to also understand the logic that influences communication in everyday speech, in business and in academia.
Inductive logic is common in the East, whereas the West prefers deductive logic.
1. All dogs have four legs
2. Spot is a dog
3. Therefore Spot has four legs.
In a deductive argument, if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. If 1 and 2 in this example are true, then 3 must be true. Deductive arguments often start with general facts/ideas that are certainly true and move to specific facts (Kirkpatrick, 1995).
1. Every time I have eaten fish, I have been sick the morning after.
2. Therefore eating fish makes me sick.
In an inductive argument, the conclusion is probably true. It is unlikely that the conclusion is wrong, but it is not certain. Inductive arguments often start with specific facts or statistics and move to general rules.
Effects upon writing
Placement of the thesis statement: The thesis statement is the sentence that summarises the argument of your essay (Megginson, 1996). In the deductive approach, the thesis statement is given at the start of the essay, normally in the opening paragraph; but in the inductive approach, the thesis statement is given later on. When Chinese students write in English they often give the background information before the thesis statement. This can be frustrating for the English reader, who wants to know your main point at the very start.
We can also see the difference between an inductive approach and a deductive approach within paragraphs.
“I have been learning English for almost seven years. I have tried hard, and spent many hours on it, but I make little progress. I think this is because we have few opportunities to practice the new words in conversation. If we practised the new words for longer, then I would improve. Therefore, learning English is difficult.”
The main argument, learning English is difficult, is at the end of the paragraph. The reasons are given before the main point. This has been called a “because… therefore” structure (Kirkpatrick, 1997) – it starts with specific facts and moves to a general conclusion.
“Chinese people find learning English difficult for several reasons, the most important of which is that they rarely practice the new words that they have learned. Personally, I have been learning English for almost seven years but I do not improve because there are not enough opportunities to use the new language in conversation. Clearly I would have learned much faster if I had been able to have conversation practice with English people.”
In this example of deductive paragraphing, the main idea is in the first sentence of the paragraph (often called the topic sentence), and the following sentences give examples/reasons in support of the main idea.
In English, there is a famous saying about both written and oral communication: tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. (Hinds, 1987: 144). It may be a little more complicated than this in academic writing, but this is nevertheless very good advice that will help you to use a more deductive approach. The introductory paragraph should summarise the essay’s argument, the body of the essay should give the evidence, and the conclusion should summarise the findings.