Theorising and practitioners in HRD: the role of abductive reasoning

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Gold, J (2011)
  • Publisher: Emerald

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to argue that abductive reasoning is a typical but usually unrecognised process used by HRD scholars and practitioners alike. Design/methodology/approach – This is a conceptual paper that explores recent criticism of traditional views of theory-building, based on the privileging of scientific theorising, which has led to a relevance gap between scholars and practitioners. The work of Charles Sanders Peirce and the varieties of an abductive reasoning process are considered. Findings – Abductive reasoning, which precedes induction and deduction, provide a potential connection with HRD practitioners who face difficult problems. Two types of abductive reasoning are explored – existential and analogic. Both offer possibilities for theorising with HRD practitioners. A range of methods for allowing abduction to become more evident with practitioners are presented. The authors consider how abduction can be used in engaged and participative research strategies. Research limitations/implications – While this is a conceptual paper, it does suggest implications for engagement and participation in theorising with HRD practitioners. Practical implications – Abductive reasoning adds to the repertoire of HRD scholars and practitioners. Originality/value – The paper elucidates the value of abductive reasoning and points to how it can become an integral element of theory building in HRD.
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