Leaping Into Real-World Relevance: An “Abduction” Process for Nonprofit Research

R. Taylor*, N. Torugsa, A. Arundel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Positioned in the midst of the heated debate about the production of relevant and usable knowledge for practitioners in the nonprofit sector and a serious shortage of high-impact research that speaks to practice, the purpose of this Research Note is to direct nonprofit scholarship toward embracing “abduction,” which is the initial creative stage in scientific inquiry that facilitates the formulation of testable explanatory hypotheses and makes new discoveries in a sensory and logically structured way. We use an emerging interest in social innovation by the nonprofit sector as an illustrative example to show the advantages of using abductive reasoning as the primary method of reasoning for discovering new knowledge of a nascent but vital phenomenon. The novel contribution of this Research Note lies in encouraging scholarship on the nonprofit sector to an applied “practice-led” research process that is intellectually relevant and has the potential to bridge the scholar–practice divide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-227
Number of pages22
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

JEL classifications

  • o30 - "Technological Change; Research and Development; Intellectual Property Rights: General"


  • abduction
  • methods of reasoning
  • phenomenon-driven research
  • research relevance
  • social innovation

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