Personal Bible Study Made Simple: What is Inductive Bible Study?

Sometimes I read my Bible. Other times, I study it.

When I study a passage of Scripture, I use the OIA Bible study method to organize my thoughts and questions.

OIA stands for Observation, Interpretation, Application.

These steps are not original to me. I first learned about them by reading Living by the Book by Professor Howard Hendricks. Kay Arthur, a popular Inductive Bible Study teacher, also uses this basic method.

I recommend that you have a notebook handy to write down your findings for each of these steps.  I just use a simple notebook that costs $.25 at back to school time. Or a yellow legal notepad.

Next, pick any Bible passage that you want to study and go through each of these steps.


Observation is listing out the facts of the passage. Although this step is very basic, do it anyway!

Ask questions like this when observing the passage:

  • Who is writing or speaking?
  • Who were the original recipients of this message?
  • When was this passage written?
  • What is happening in the passage?
  • Are there any repeated words in the passage? What are they?
  • How do the author or the recipients feel?
  • Where are the events taking place?
  • Are there any contrasts made in the passage?
  • What literary style is this passage?

I also like to highlight or circle key words in my Bible or notice what words or concepts are repeated in the passage.


In this step, you find out what the passage means for the first original audience or recipients of the message.

Compare the passage to the surrounding passages in the Bible. Do they expand on a similar idea?

Cross-reference other Scripture passages to find what else God has to say about the ideas in the passage.

Consult trusted resources to find out what others say about the passage. Try or

Consider the culture of the time period. Is there an action or a word spoken in the passage that doesn’t make sense to us today, but made sense in the Bible time culture?


Howard Hendricks suggests these nine questions. You will not answer all of them in every passage.

  • Is there an example for me to follow?
  • Is there a sin to avoid?
  • Is there a promise to claim?
  • Is there a prayer to repeat?
  • Is there a command to obey?
  • Is there a condition to meet?
  • Is there a verse to memorize?
  • Is there an error to mark?
  • Is there a challenge to face?

These three steps, Observation, Interpretation, and Application, guide me in my personal Bible study. Now I can confidently unfold a passage of Scripture so I can understand what it says, what it means, and what it means for me.

I generally just use a cheap notebook to record my OIA findings. I was thinking about designing my own Inductive Bible Study journal or notebook for Read the Hard Parts readers like you, but then I came across Heart and Hive. Melissa writes Bible study resources and devotional articles on her website and available on Amazon.

Melissa has created a beautiful guided Bible study journal that includes space for Observation, Interpretation, and Application along with additional room to write more reflections. The guided Bible study journal is available on the Heart and Hive Etsy store.

Melissa did not ask me to promote her journal. I am just really excited about it since she created exactly what I was thinking of creating! This journal is on my Christmas list!

Have you ever studied using the OIA method? Is there another thing you do to help you organize your personal Bible study thoughts and findings? Comment below and let us know!

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon affiliate program. If you purchase from Amazon after clicking on one of the above Amazon links, I will earn a very small percentage of qualifying purchases.)


  1. I have used and loved the inductive method for almost 20 years. I lead both in-class and online studies using this method (mostly using Kay Arthur’s workbooks). It’s a wonderful form of study!

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