There are two ways of thinking in research. On the one hand, researchers can transfer knowledge from practice into theory or transfer knowledge from theory into practice. The following figure shows these two ways of thinking. First I would like to show the more usual procedure for a thesis and then how you can pull through a topic without literature.

Reading tip: Build research design

Overview of deduction and induction

Deduction: The standard for theses

Deduction means transferring information from theory into practice. In other words, deduction means concretely to derive / derive. For example, you know: goldfish live in water. I have a goldfish. So this goldfish has to live in the water too.

Reading tip: Find literature

I would like to show you this using the example of change strategies in companies. You can find out more in the literature: What change strategies are there (Kotter, Lewin, …). Now you ask experts: How relevant are these and can they be used? You then derive recommendations for action from this. From theory to practice!

Deduction using the example of change strategies

Usually this is the absolute standard case in a thesis. I also usually don’t recommend deviating from it, otherwise it will be very complicated. So, in a nutshell, do the following:

  • Read something
  • ask practitioners how relevant this is and
  • derive recommendations from it.

Induction: pulling through the topic without literature

Induction means bringing about or causing and is generalized thinking. Let’s stay with our goldfish: My goldfish lives in the water. My goldfish is a fish. So all fish have to live in the water.

Reading tip: Grounded theory

Now, however, you definitely want to work on a topic even though there is no literature. Then start with expert interviews and see: What findings are available on my topic in practice. To do this, you conduct several rounds of interviews. For example, you could ask: “How are you currently digitizing?”. As soon as you have enough information, check the literature to see if something already exists. You then derive theories and models from the findings. So you are in charge from practice in theory!


This case is quite complicated and not easy. You should know that you have an increased effort and ask yourself, “Do I want this? Am I so motivated? “


You have two options in research. I basically recommend that you prefer the first case. For you as your first research work, the second case is a tough nut to crack, but it brings much more exciting results. Decide for yourself! An example of both research can be found in my studies. The deduction is the study on work 4.0 and the induction is the study on leadership.

Lindner, D., Ludwig, T., & Amberg, M. (2018). Work 4.0 – Concepts for a new way of working in SMEs. HMD Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik , 6th (1), 17.

Lindner, D., & Greff, T. (2018). Leadership in the age of digitization – what do managers say. HMD – Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik , 7th (1), 20.

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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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