PurposeQualitative 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.Design/methodology/approachIn 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.FindingsIt 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/implicationsIt is expected that the findings of this paper would create awareness among researchers on the relevance of an abductive approach to qualitative research.Originality/valueThis 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.
Qualitative Research Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 13, 2017
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