What Is Deductive Reasoning?

Definition & Examples of Deductive Reasoning

Female scientist working in a lab, using a computer screen.
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Deductive reasoning is a type of logical thinking that starts with a general idea and reaches a specific conclusion. It's sometimes is referred to as top-down thinking or moving from the general to the specific.

Learn more about deductive reasoning and its value in the workplace.

What Is Deductive Reasoning?

Deductive reasoning is a form of logical thinking that's widely applied in many different industries and valued by employers. It relies on a general statement or hypothesis—sometimes called a premise—believed to be true. The premise is used to reach a specific, logical conclusion.

A common example is the if/then statement. If A = B and B = C, then deductive reasoning tells us that A = C.

  • Alternate name: Deduction

How Deductive Reasoning Works

With deductive reasoning, premises are used to reach a conclusion. For example, a marketing manager might realize that their department is going over budget on advertising. After reviewing the numbers, they observe that while the company's Facebook advertisements get a lot of clicks, they have a higher number of contacts through their email list.

The manager decides to reduce Facebook advertising to stay under budget and focus on getting consumers to sign up for their email list. Over the next quarter, the department stays under budget and sales are steady.

The manager followed the deductive reasoning process. Here's how deductive reasoning in the workplace typically works:

  1. Clarify the issue, making sure to understand what's at stake.
  2. Look at data relating to the issue, asking questions.
  3. Formulate a hypothesis, which is a possible reason for the issue.
  4. Test the hypothesis by implementing a solution that resolves the reason for the issue.
  5. Evaluate your results, repeating the steps until the desired results are achieved.

Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning differs from inductive reasoning, sometimes know as bottom-up thinking. Inductive thinking starts with specific observations which are used to reach a broad conclusion. Deductive reasoning starts with broad observations which are used to reach specific conclusions.

Deductive Reasoning Inductive Reasoning
Uses a general idea to reach specific conclusion.  Uses specific observations to reach a general conclusion. 
A marketing professional might use deductive reasoning to formulate and test advertising strategies.  A coffee shop owner observes that a few customers are waiting to enter when the store opens each day and decides to open an hour earlier on weekdays. 

Examples of Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is an important skill in many different jobs and industries. For example, it's particularly useful for people in management positions who have to make critical business decisions every day.

If you're looking for a new position, highlighting your deductive reasoning can show employers you know how to use logic to benefit the organization.

To prepare, think of ways you've used deductive reasoning in the workplace. Consider these examples:

  • Based on market research, a marketing team believes that professional women are overloaded with family and work responsibilities and strapped for time. They decide to advertise that their hair coloring product can be applied in less time than their competition's hair coloring product. They see a modest increase in sales.
  • A human resources department has identified public speaking skills as an important qualifier for a particular position. They decide to require candidates to make an oral presentation on a predetermined topic as a part of their second interview. The candidate they decide to hire proves successful in this aspect of their work.
  • After reviewing their numbers, development executives at a college believe that professionals working in the financial sector are the best donors. They direct their two most effective staff members to target alumni working in finance when it comes time to plan their next fundraising strategy. 
  • A liquor store owner identifies a trend that customers are buying more bourbon than other types of alcohol. The store owner then allocates prime ad space to bourbon and offers related discounts.
  • Detectives believe that robberies at banks are usually inside jobs planned by experienced thieves. To narrow down their suspects after a bank robbery, they decide to do criminal background checks on employees with access to cash reserves. 

You can develop your deductive reasoning skills by developing your knowledge base through reading and research and by doing puzzles that challenge you to see new patterns.

Benefits of Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning allows you to use logic to justify work-related decisions. Even when the decision doesn't work out, you can explain why you decided to do what you did. Being able to use deductive reasoning is valuable to employers. Employers value decisive, proactive employees.

When applying for jobs, it's a good idea to highlight your deductive reasoning skills. This is particularly important if you're applying for a managerial position in which you will have to make important decisions that will affect the organization.

You don’t need to include the phrase “deductive reasoning” on your job materials unless it's a specific requirement of the job. Instead, you might mention in your cover letter or resume an example of when you used deductive reasoning to benefit your organization. Specific examples will clearly show employers how you use your logic to bring value to the company you work for.

Key Takeaways

  • Deductive reasoning starts with a general idea and reaches a specific conclusion. 
  • It's a form of logical thinking that's valued by employers. 
  • You may use deductive reasoning without realizing it to make decisions about your work. 
  • It's an important skill to highlight by providing examples in your cover letter, resume, or during your interview. 

Article Sources

  1. Motlow State. "Deductive and Inductive Reasoning." Accessed June 28, 2020.

  2. Cleverism. "Learn Why Employers Value Deductive Reasoning, and How You Can Show It." Accessed June 28, 2020.