Substantive and formal theory

Substantive / empirical area of inquiry


Formal or conceptual area of inquiry

Need to pick one –

E.g. The act of dying (substantive / empirical) versus the ritual of death as a status passage (like birth or marriage or buying a house) (Formal / conceptual)

I think I’m more in the substantive camp – as I’m not intending to look at the ritual / conceptual elements of these farms – more at the practical realities? Although I do want to look at actual concepts…

This section on p34 I’m finding really helpful for thinking about why I am feeling resistance to my supervisors questions about what is my substantive area – I’m intending to allow it to emerge. It also connects to the idea of perhaps undertaking a later foray into the literature:

Our approach, allowing substantive concepts and hypotheses to emerge first, on their own, enables the analyst to ascertain which, if any, existing formal theory may help him to generate his substantive theories. He can be more faithful to his data rather than forcing it to fit a theory. He can be more objective and less theoretically biased.”

Barney G. Glaser & Anselm L. Strauss. 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. P34