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Theorising and practitioners in HRD: the role of abductive reasoning

Jeff Gold (Leeds Business School, Leeds, UK)
John Walton (London Metropolitan University, London, UK)
Peter Cureton (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)
Lisa Anderson (University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Article publication date: 5 April 2011




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.


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.


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.


The paper elucidates the value of abductive reasoning and points to how it can become an integral element of theory building in HRD.



Gold, J., Walton, J., Cureton, P. and Anderson, L. (2011), "Theorising and practitioners in HRD: the role of abductive reasoning", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 230-246.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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