Induction: In the process of induction, you begin with some data, and then determine what general conclusion(s) can logically be derived from those data. In other words, you determine what theory or theories could explain the data. For example, you note that the probability of becoming schizophrenic is greatly increased if at least one parent is schizophrenic, and from that you conclude that schizophrenia may be inherited. That is certainly a reasonable hypothesis given the data. However, induction does not prove that the theory is correct. There are often alternative theories that are also supported by the data. For example, the behavior of the schizophrenic parent may cause the child to be schizophrenic, not the genes. What is important in induction is that the theory does indeed offer a logical explanation of the data. To conclude that the parents have no effect on the schizophrenia of the children is not supportable given the data, and would not be a logical conclusion. 1
A classic example of inductive reasoning within sociology is the premise of Émile Durkheim's study of suicide. Considered one of the first works of social science research, the famous and widely taught book, Suicide , details how Durkheim created a sociological theory of suicide -- as opposed to a psychological one -- based on his scientific study of suicide rates among Catholics and Protestants. Durkheim found that suicide was more common among Protestants than Catholics, and he drew on his training in social theory to create some typologies of suicide and a general theory of how suicide rates fluctuate according to significant changes in social structure and norms.