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# Inductive Reasoning Help (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 29, 2011

## Inductive Reasoning in Practice

Detectives, like scientists, also use inductive reasoning. In the following excerpt from the story "The Reigate Puzzle," for example, the famous fictional character Sherlock Holmes uses inductive reasoning to solve a tricky crime. By examining a piece of a torn document, he is able to conclude that two different men wrote the document, and he's able to determine which of the two men is the "ringleader." Read how he does it:

"And now I made a very careful examination of the corner of paper which the Inspector had submitted to us. It was at once clear to me that it formed part of a very remarkable document. Here it is. Do you not now observe something very suggestive about it?" [said Holmes.]

"It has a very irregular look," said the Colonel.

"My dear sir," cried Holmes, "there cannot be the least doubt in the world that it has been written by two persons doing alternate words. When I draw your attention to the strong t's of 'at' and 'to,' and ask you to compare them with the weak ones of 'quarter' and 'twelve,' you will instantly recognize the fact. A very brief analysis of these four words would enable you to say with the utmost confidence that the 'learn' and the 'maybe' are written in the stronger hand, and the 'what' in the weaker."

"By Jove, it's as clear as day!" cried the Colonel. "Why on earth should two men write a letter in such a fashion?"

"Obviously the business was a bad one, and one of the men who distrusted the other was determined that, whatever was done, each should have an equal hand in it. Now, of the two men, it is clear that the one who wrote the 'at' and 'to' was the ringleader."

"How do you get at that?"

"We might deduce it from the mere character of the one hand as compared with the other. But we have more assured reasons than that for supposing it. If you examine this scrap with attention you will come to the conclusion that the man with the stronger hand wrote all of his words first, leaving blanks for the other to fill up. These blanks were not always sufficient, and you can see that the second man had to squeeze to fit his 'quarter' in between the 'at' and the 'to,' showing that the latter were already written. The man who wrote all his words first is undoubtedly the man who planned the affair."

Notice how Holmes looks carefully at the document and uses what he sees to make logical inferences (draw logical conclusions) about the two men responsible for the crime. The difference in the t's indicates two different writers and the uneven spacing of the words indicates who wrote first, thus leading Holmes to conclude that the man who wrote first was the man "who planned the affair."

#### Tip

To practice your ability to use inductive reasoning, try reading a few of Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories about Sherlock Holmes and watch for the clues. Underline or highlight them as you read (not in library or school books!) and then see if you can figure out the solution before Holmes does.

## Inductive Reasoning In Short

Inductive reasoning is the process of drawing conclusions from evidence. A good inductive argument is one in which it is very likely that the premises lead to the conclusion. Past experience and common sense can be used to measure that likelihood.

#### Skill Building until Next Time

• Notice how often you use inductive reasoning throughout your day. At home, work, or school, as you travel from place to place, what conclusions do you draw from what you see around you?
• Read a detective story or watch a detective show like Without a Trace, NYPD Blue, or Law & Order. Pay special attention to how detectives use evidence to draw conclusions about the crime.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Inductive Reasoning Practice.

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