Developing a Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework, also known as the foundation of reference, is the part that supports the research work. In any research project or thesis, it is essential to search for books in libraries or the Internet for information that will help us solve the problem. From this moment, we are building the foundations of our research, presented to the reader as a theoretical framework. It must be written from the beginning of the project; thus, it begins to build what will be the bases of the research.

In this article, we will look at what this concept means and tips to develop a theoretical framework for your research work.

What is a Theoretical Framework?

One of the major aspects of academic research is the theoretical framework. This is because it involves the development of the theory that will give credence to the research being undertaken based on the research problem that has been identified.

There are numerous possibilities for preparing it, which depends on the creativity of the researcher. Once the topic under study has been selected, and the questions that guide the research have been formulated, the next move is to review the literature on the topic. This consists of searching the documentary sources that allow us to detect, extract, and compile the information of interest to build the theoretical framework pertinent to the research problem posed.

Before we continue, what is the importance of this framework for research?

The Importance of a theoretical framework:

  • It provides the necessary conceptual frame of reference to delimit the problem, formulate definitions, support the hypotheses or statements that will later have to be verified, and interpret the study results.
  • The theoretical framework is the understanding guide that will lead the reader of our thesis or research work to know everything necessary to approach our work.
  • Furthermore, a good theoretical framework provides a secure base of knowledge that will help address research work questions. It also shows that the work did not come out of “nothing” and has a scientific basis.

In fact, it is from the search for a research problem and ways to solve it that we start the construction of the theoretical framework.

What is the theoretical framework for?

The major purpose of employing a theoretical framework is to prevent our work from being labelled a plagiarised work.

Functions of the theoretical framework:

  • Theoretical framework plays a fundamental role in the production of new knowledge.
  • It allows us to guide both the research and the epistemological approach supported and the formulation of questions and points out the significant facts that must be investigated.
  • It is fundamental because it provides a frame of reference to interpret the research results since, without theory, it is impossible to develop an investigation.
  • It allows the researcher to be guided to maintain his focus, that is, to be perfectly focused on his problem and prevent deviation from the original approach.
  • Theoretical framework makes it easier to establish statements that will later have to be tested for reality in the fieldwork, which helps inspire new lines and research areas.

Aside from the above, there other functions of theoretical framework which must be known:

  • It helps prevent mistakes that have been made in other studies.
  • Document the need for the study.

Characteristics of the theoretical framework

Structure

The theoretical framework must follow a logical structure. A chapter can be made for each aspect to be treated, with titles or subtitles. It will always be convenient if they have a coherent sequence.

Length

The length of a theoretical framework will depend on many factors. As a general rule, it must be long enough to present what is essential, that is, all the necessary or fundamental information to understand the subject and approach the research work.

How to make a good theoretical framework?

  • Write as if you are explaining the subject to yourself before knowing everything you learned during the research project.
  • Write defensively, that is, be aware of any concept that can lead to confusion to explain it better, so that there are no doubts.
  • Show the revision made on the methods and techniques that can be used to solve the problem posed.
  • Only include material that is relevant for the thesis.
  • Facilitate reading fluency by avoiding long lists or extensive information tables. This information can be perfectly placed in the appendix section.
  • Assume that the jury or thesis examiner does not know the subject of the research work in depth. The person who carried out all the research work and the search for information is the one who best knows the topic.

What should not be in the theoretical framework

  • That material or information that, in the end, was not necessary for the realization of the project.
  • Ideas or personal contributions: these should be reserved for the stage of discussion or conclusions.
  • Hints of how the research will be done

How to create the theoretical framework

Review relevant theories, works, and models: When posing the problem, it was surely necessary to do a bibliographic review in which we found models or works related to our research. You can build your theoretical framework by reviewing related literature, this in fact, is the first step to build a theoretical framework. Make use of primary, secondary and tertiary sources to determine what has been covered on the research idea. 

Context: Establish the context of study or research in time, place, and culture. This means delimiting or framing all the information you collected to a specific space.

Conceptual framework: Another next step is to engage in conceptual clarification of terms to avoid misinterpretation. Every theoretical framework must define the key concepts or terms to be used in the research to avoid interpretation errors.

Concepts must also be used to organize the data and determine the relationships between them. 

Show what your research will contribute

Aside from showing what has been done about your research problem by other researchers, a theoretical framework can be used to exhibit what your research problem will be bringing on board to that field of knowledge.

It is worthy to note that depending on the field or discipline in which the research is carried out, the framework of a research idea depends on the type of research that is carried out, be it descriptive, explanatory or predictive. This will help the readers to put themselves in the context of the work.

Things to note when developing a theoretical perspective

When we are developing our theoretical framework, we can be presented with various scenarios: we can find a fully developed theoretical perspective for our problem, or we can find several theories to interpret, we can also find parts of theories with little empirical support or guides not yet studied and vague ideas related to our research problem.

The scenarios mentioned above refer to different levels of knowledge and existing theoretical development on the subject and the problem we are investigating. They imply different possibilities regarding the scope or depth of our research.

In this way, the elaboration of the theoretical framework is the last opportunity we have as researchers to review and refine the research objectives and adjust them to the possibilities of theoretical development that we have.

It is important to develop a concise theoretical perspective that establishes, in a clear way, the relationships that allow adequate theoretical support to our study.

Final Thought

Indeed, from the foregoing, it is safe to say that the theoretical framework is important for research because it functions as a support for the research and serves as the basis for interpreting the results obtained from the study carried out.