Znaniecki’s Analytic Induction as a Method of Sociological Research
Jacques Tacq 1  
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the Catholique University of Brussels, Belgium
Publication date: 2007-09-21
Polish Sociological Review 2007;158(2):187–208
The Polish sociologist and philosopher Florian Znaniecki, well-known by his research together with W. I. Thomas on Polish immigrants in the United States, explicated the principles of his “analytic induction” in a later publication The Method of Sociology. This is a method in which research units are examined one by one and in which theoretical insights are adjusted to each observation. This process of continuous re-formulation of the research hypotheses completes when new observations do no longer offer new insights, i.e., when theoretical saturation takes place. In this paper a treatment of the original view of Znaniecki is offered. His starting-points—inductive approach, respect for the facts, dynamical fundamental attitude, special treatment of exceptions, attention for validity and intensional approach—are explained, as well as his formulation of analytic induction in four steps and the principle of structural dependence and the principle of causality. Starting from this original view, the advantages and disadvantages of analytic induction are balanced against each other and this method is examined with the aim of application. Critiques of the approach in the period around 1950, by Robinson, Lindesmith and Cressey and, later in time, by Peter Manning, are discussed and additional research examples from Belgium and the Netherlands serve as illustration of the arguments.