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An abductive approach to qualitative built environment research : a viable system methodological exposé

Awuzie, BO; McDermott, P


BO Awuzie


Qualitative researchers are often confronted with a dilemma of selecting an appropriate approach within which to situate their research. This has led to successive attempts by qualitative researchers in the built environment (BE) to combine two dominant approaches – deductive and inductive; in the conduct of their inquiry. Such attempts can be traced to the poor comprehension of the abductive approach. The purpose of this paper is to elucidate the principles of the abductive approach and illustrate its applicability within the context of BE qualitative research.

In this study, an illustrative case study is used to depict the usefulness of the abductive approach in BE research. The case relied upon is a recently completed study of an infrastructure delivery system and an assessment of the system’s ability to deliver on socio-economic sustainability objectives.

It was established that extant theories, particularly those with a history of provenance, could be used as a basis for the development of testable propositions for assessing certain phenomena, qualitatively. However, the manner in which these propositions are utilised under an abductive approach is pivotal to the generation of credible findings.

Research limitations/implications
It is expected that the findings of this paper would create awareness among researchers on the relevance of an abductive approach to qualitative research.

This study makes an authentic contribution towards resolving the challenge confronting qualitative researchers within the BE discipline as it pertains to selecting between deductive and inductive approaches. In this case, an abductive approach is suggested and its modalities shown through a comprehensive study.


Awuzie, B., & McDermott, P. (2017). An abductive approach to qualitative built environment research : a viable system methodological exposé. Qualitative Research Journal, 17(4), 356-372.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 24, 2017
Publication Date Sep 28, 2017
Deposit Date Jan 8, 2018
Journal Qualitative Research Journal
Print ISSN 1443-9883
Publisher RMIT Publishing
Volume 17
Issue 4
Pages 356-372
Keywords General Social Sciences, Education
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