There are two major intellectual processes that usually go on in most essays: deductive and inductive reasoning.
Deductive reasoning starts with making general points, formulating a generalized argument and then looking at the particular. For example, if you were writing an essay on Othello, you might make a statement such as “Jealousy can be very destructive” and then examine the ways in which Othello’s jealousy leads to him killing his wife, Desdemona, because he suspects her of having an affair with another man.
If you were taking an inductive approach, you’d be taking the opposite approach; you’d look at the evidence in the play, and then show that Othello’s jealousy is destructive. Induction starts with the particular and then generalizes having examined it.
Inductive reasoning moves from the particular to the general.
Most essays will shift between the two approaches, but it is important to understand that they are quite different ways of reasoning because they both have strengths and weaknesses.
The deductive approach can risk not finding sufficient evidence to back up its central argument, while the inductive approach can get lost in the “particulars” of a text and then never formulate any generalized points.
English students regularly fall into both traps: some students make too many generalized arguments without any evidence to back them up, while others are so bogged down in analysing a text that they never quite offer an overview.
When asking students to write PEE paragraphs is well worth getting them to think about these two approaches when making a “Point”; is their point the result of inductive or deductive reasoning?