From Form to Substance: A “Further Step” in Sociological Research

China Social Science Review

No.1, 2022


From Form to Substance: A “Further Step” in Sociological Research



Xiao Ying


The criteria for substantive research in the social sciences are the improvement of cultural self-consciousness, empathy, and the ability to discern substance and trends in early signs. It requires the social sciences to be able to consciously reveal or relate to the “world image” of the context in which the object of study is located. Substantive research, as opposed to formal research that focuses on peripheral indicators such as conceptual systems and “scientific” methodology, is a “further step” based on the latter. Substantive sociological research is an essential part of the sociological imagination. If we acknowledge that “family” is the source of the “world image” of Chinese civilization, we can use “family” as a reference to reflect on some important theoretical designs and case studies in China and expand the space and depth of sociological research. Advancing substantive research in sociology requires changing the current situation of over-specialization in sociological education in China, reassessing the position of sociology in Chinese civilization as a whole, expanding the boundaries of the discipline, and enhancing researchers’ theoretical sense, historical sense and empirical sense.