How to Build an Effective Theoretical Framework

Every dissertation should have a theoretical foundation or conceptual framework (or both) discussed in its literature review chapter. A theoretical framework is essential because it is the lens through which the writer evaluates the research question and research problem. The theoretical framework part is usually a requirement for quantitative studies, whereas a conceptual framework is […]

Posted: October 13th, 2021

Every dissertation should have a theoretical foundation or conceptual framework (or both) discussed in its literature review chapter. A theoretical framework is essential because it is the lens through which the writer evaluates the research question and research problem. The theoretical framework part is usually a requirement for quantitative studies, whereas a conceptual framework is a necessity in qualitative studies. After identifying the theory or theories to utilize, it is essential to know the information you will include and how to incorporate it in the discussion.

Theories are developed to understand, predict, and explain phenomena, mostly to extend and challenge existing knowledge within critical bounding assumption limits. The theoretical framework is a structure that supports of holds the theory of a research study. It describes and introduces the theory that describes the existence of the research problem under investigation.

The Purpose of a Theoretical Framework

Before you begin your research, you have to evaluate what models and theories that have already been developed by researchers. The purpose of a theoretical framework is to introduce and explain this information. During your research, you may come across many different theories concerning your topic, so a theoretical framework also entails selecting, comparing and evaluating the most relevant theory. By “framing” your research in a clearly distinct field, the reader will be aware of the assumptions that enlighten your approach, displaying the reasoning behind your choices. This section of your dissertation is the foundation upon which to support your analysis, help interpret your results and derive broader generalizations.

Your theoretical framework should support your research through relevant and necessary background information and help the reader evaluate the significance of your study. This should also include measurable variables. You not only need to present the research question and explain it, you should also describe the fundamental theory appropriately to enable you investigate it.

Theoretical Framework Structure

There are no particular guidelines to follow for theoretical framework structure. But, you should develop a reasonable structure based on your key terms and hypotheses.  Dedicate one section or one paragraph to each concept, hypothesis, or question to develop a comprehensive framework. Reflect on relevant models and theories.

Although there are no strict rules concerning the word count, most teachers recommend a length of 3 to 5 pages for a theoretical framework. You can also apply some visuals and include them in an appendix section.

Bear in mind that a theoretical framework is not the same thing as a conceptual framework. When writing your dissertation, you may realize that a theoretical framework is not forthcoming and decide to create a conceptual framework instead. A conceptual framework involves using ideas and findings that are not founded on theories. In such a case, you will depend on various interconnected concepts, beliefs, and assumptions that can support your conclusions and arguments.

Elements of Theoretical Framework

You should identify the key terms, questions, concepts, and cite the current ideas and theories. To achieve this, you first have to locate the right sources. Our suggestion is for you to use a literature review to establish how your primary concepts have been defined by others. Compare current definitions and choose the ones to use in your dissertation. If you establish a connection between various definitions, describe the connection. Furthermore, you have to explain the relevance of certain concepts and your reason for choosing them.

Depending on what you are studying, you can also include an in-depth review of the present situation in your area of research. While doing this, keep in mind the expectations of your professor. You should search for familiar studies and consider your quantitative studies or qualitative research in relation to the already available knowledge.

To write a good outline, ensure that you:

  • Describe the models, theories, and methods used by other researchers
  • Explain relevant discussions in credible books and academic papers
  • Describe how you can add to the knowledge on your subject
  • Evaluate the similarities and differences of your research and other studies

Your theoretical framework can be helpful in answering descriptive questions and analyzing your hypothesis. It can also serve as the foundation for your hypothesis to enable you study and test it later.

How to Create a Theoretical Framework

  1. Understand the Literature Review

Before you proceed to a dissertation, you should have an idea of the gaps and how to fill the gaps. You should do a lot of research to identify the theories of other researchers and scholarly journals and how they relate to your research. When you comprehend this entire scenario, you will better understand the literature review and create a remarkable theoretical framework based on your dissertation topic. It is also significant to determine if a dissertation entails any current studies and theories. Without comprehending the primary findings and questioning your dissertation topic from various aspects, the whole theoretical framework and research may seem redundant.

  1. Assess your Purpose of Developing a Theoretical Framework

Understanding the significance of a theoretical framework allows your readers to comprehend the scope and the objective of your dissertation. The researcher also gets a direction to write the dissertation. Just like an appropriate plan is essential to complete any construction work, you need a theoretical framework to develop a flawless dissertation. For any theoretical framework, you should include the following points:

  • The meaning and description of ideas
  • The background behind the concept
  • The relevance of published literature connected to your research including citations
  • Highlight limitations faced by previous researchers and gaps in your research paper

In short, you should demonstrate the reasons for your dissertation, previous developments on the topic from other researchers, and how they are significant to your dissertation.

  1. Align your Theoretical Framework with the Dissertation

We have previously indicated that the purpose of a theoretical framework is to support your idea. At this stage, you need to align all previous theories with your dissertation topic. Here, you should mention and validate all the theories you have included in your theoretical framework.

Before you proceed, please make sure that your chosen theories are non-redundant. The theories should complement your research and not cause confusion. In this part, you have an opportunity to display your writing skills and philosophical knowledge to merge various theories to scientifically support your research. The theories can be used to interpret the final outcomes.

  1. Mention the Actual Points

You are allowed to describe all the theories but do not talk about all the theories. Try and write the entire theoretical framework in 3-5 pages or as per the length of your entire research or dissertation. You should mention all relevant points as you maintain the required length. Often, researchers look for professional assistance to explain the consistency and the length of the theoretical frameworks.

  1. Use Graphics and Models

A theoretical framework stresses on clarifying all the theories and generalizations used in a dissertation. It is often an excellent idea to apply various academic models to uphold your research. As the researcher, you can also use graphics to maintain the specific format of your dissertation.

Normally, the theoretical framework is placed in the literature review chapter after you explain the outline, approaches, and analysis. But, if a certain research paper entails complex ideas, the researcher can create a different section to include the theoretical framework. No matter how or where you place the theoretical framework, ensure that it complements your research and that it is logical.

How to Correctly Write your Theoretical Framework

You should take the following steps to enable you come up with the best theoretical framework:

  • Write an introduction to capture the attention of your reader
  • Explain the basis of your chosen research problem
  • Explain a case for the study
  • Connect your problem, audience, and research

Begin by writing your introduction to make your reader develop interest in your topic. The theoretical framework should mention previous research and unexplored areas to establish a purpose for the work and explore existing knowledge.  Explain how the study you propose can result in a useful investigation or gaps in prior research and explain its basis in extensive terms.

Explain a case for the study and present significant references. This is because a literature review is an essential part of your research paper, dissertation, or thesis, and the theoretical framework presents it by talking about primary themes of the proposed study. Link all the dots between your project, problem, and audience. As you conclude the theoretical framework, your intended readers should now understand its content and context, its future impact on the chosen field, and probable benefits. There are particular issues that you need to succeed, including:

  • Application of a concrete thesis
  • Your special research idea
  • Models of applicable sources of information

Writing Tips

  1. Borrowing Theoretical Frameworks from Other Disciplines

An increasingly essential trend in the behavioral and social sciences is to try to understand and think about research problems from the perspective of various disciplines. One way of doing this is by not exclusively relying on theories developed within your specific discipline. You are encouraged to think about how a problem may be informed by theories created in other disciplines. For instance, let’s say that you are a political science student who is investigating the rhetorical strategies applied by female incumbents in the campaigns for state legislature, you can derive theories about the application of language. These can be obtained not only from political science, but psychology, philosophy, communication studies, linguistics, and, in this specific case, feminist studies. Developing theoretical frameworks based on hypotheses and postulates built in other disciplinary contexts can be an effective and an enlightening way to get more involved in your research topic.

  1. Do Not Under-Theorize

Under-theorizing is leaving the theory hanging in the introduction and not mentioning it again in the paper, this weakens your paper. Your theoretical framework under description should provide direction for your study throughout your paper. Ensure that you always link the theory to relevant literature and describe in the discussion section of the paper how your chosen theoretical framework sustains analysis of the research question. On the other hand you can explain how the theoretical framework was found unsuitable to explain the phenomenon you were examining. If this is the case, do not hesitate to propose a theory based on your outcomes.

  1. What is the Difference between a Theory and a Hypothesis?

Sometimes, people use the terms theory and hypothesis interchangeably, especially in non-academic settings. Nevertheless, the difference between the two in scholarly research is significant, especially when applying an experimental design.

A theory is a deep-rooted principle that has been created to describe some feature of the natural world. Theories emerge from repeated testing and observation and integrates tested assumptions, predictions, laws, and facts that are accepted widely, for example, critical race theory, grounded theory, or rational choice theory.

A hypothesis is a particular, testable forecast about what you anticipate to happen in your study. For examples, an experiment to study the relationship between test anxiety and study habits can have a hypothesis stating, “We envisage that students with enhanced study habits suffer less test anxiety.” Unless the hypothesis is naturally explanatory, it should always describe what you anticipate to occur during the research process.

The main distinctions are:

  • A theory forecasts events in general and broad contexts, while a hypothesis makes a particular prediction about a definite set of circumstances
  • A theory is extensively tested and universally accepted among scholars, while a hypothesis is a notional guess that still has to be tested.
  1. Be Ready to Challenge the Legitimacy of an Existing Theory

Theories are predestined to be tested and their fundamental assumptions challenged; they are not inflexible or rigid, they are destined to set in motion universal principles for predicting outcomes or describing phenomena. Given this, it is important to test theoretical assumptions to grow and develop knowledge in any discipline. If you are requested to apply a current theory to a research problem, your analysis might include the anticipation by your professor that you should provide changes to the theory based on your research outcomes.

Signs that you may need to modify your theoretical assumptions include:

  • Your findings imply that the theory does not account or explain for current circumstances or conditions
  • The study discloses an outcome that is significantly unrelated with what the theory is trying to predict or explain
  • Your analyses discloses that the theory excessively generalizes actions or behaviors without considering specific factors, such as, issues related to socioeconomic status, social class, religion, customs or legal norms, geographic location, age, ethnicity, gender, history, nationality, culture, etc.

Before you submit your paper, use this checklist to justify the authority of your theoretical framework.

  • All the theories are explained in brief
  • All the theories and information relate to your idea
  • All research gaps are properly noted and covered
  • Explanations and theories show the authenticity of your research
  • All graphics and models are appropriately included
  • Determine if you have answered the research question properly
  • You have used expert proofreading and editing tools to ensure consistency at all levels

Hire Experts to Help with your Theoretical Framework

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