Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Form refers to the physical shape or manifestation of an object or social phenomenon.

explanatory context

As a noun form refers to the outward appearance of an object or social practice. This is usually refers to its physical shape (the form of a sculpture) or its observable manifestations (as in the form taken by a religion).


As a verb form refers to the shaping principle, as in the action of forming something from indeterminate material.

analytical review

Esaak (undated) wrote:

(noun) - Form is an element of art. At its most basic, a form is a three-dimensional geometrical figure (i.e.: sphere, cube, cylinder, cone, etc.), as opposed to a shape, which is two-dimensional, or flat.

In a broader sense, form, in art, means the whole of a piece's visible elements and the way those elements are united. In this context, form allows us as viewers to mentally capture the work and understand it.

Finally, form refers to the visible elements of a piece, independent of their meaning. For example, when viewing Leonardo's Mona Lisa, the formal elements therein are: color, dimension, lines, mass, shape, etc., while the feelings of mystery and intrigue the piece evokes are informal products of the viewer's imagination.


Marder (2019) wrote :

The term form can mean several different things in art. Form is one of the seven elements of art and connotes a three-dimensional object in space. A formal analysis of a work of art describes how the elements and principles of artwork together independent of their meaning and the feelings or thoughts they may evoke in the viewer. Finally, form is also used to describe the physical nature of the artwork, as in a metal sculpture, an oil painting, etc. When used in tandem with the word art as in art form, it can also mean a medium of artistic expression recognized as fine art or an unconventional medium done so well, adroitly, or creatively as to elevate it to the level of a fine art


associated issues


related areas

See also





Esaak, S., undated, 'Form' available at , accessed 28 February 2013, still available 20 December 2016. The address goes to a new page, 3 June 2019, viz. Marder (2019).

Marder, L., 2019, 'The Definition of 'Form' in Art' available at, accessed 3 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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