It is no easy matter to come up with a precise definition of peripheral rural areas since this term covers a multiplicity of area types displaying quite diverse structures with regard to their economies, social matters and populations. In the course of the discussion it becomes clear that rural areas cannot be regarded as one internally consistent category to set in contrast to densely populated areas. A more nuanced approach is called for which takes account of both the problematic factors which apply to peripheral rural areas as well as their specific strengths. But even then, this does not automatically produce a definition of rural peripheral areas. This is due not least to the existence of an array of different theoretical and empirical approaches to clarification. A close examination of the inductive/generalising and the deductive/empirical approaches results in the adoption of a system for categorising area types which treads the middle ground between these two approaches.