A theoretical framework is an essential tool for writing a dissertation. This tool serves as a lens through which you can examine a topic, providing you with a strong research base.
After developing a theoretical framework, you can better analyze and discuss the theories relevant to your study, informing the reader of the assumptions behind your research approaches. Unfortunately, many students are unfamiliar with the steps of developing a theoretical framework and thus struggle with developing relevant theoretical statements for their papers.
Here, we will discuss tips on how to write a thesis framework and highlight the various types of frameworks that you may encounter.
What is a theoretical foundation?
As suggested by the name, a theoretical framework is the outline of theories related to your research arguments. This chapter of the dissertation defines terms mentioned in the hypothesis and also elaborates on your research questions and problem statement in light of the existing knowledge.
Often, the theoretical framework may be tackled as part of the literature review. However, complex papers may set the theoretical framework aside as an independent section of your paper, allowing you to exhaust the supporting theories and existing research in your field.
Purpose of a theoretical framework
Alike the conceptual framework, the theoretical framework aims to connect the existing ideas in a field, highlighting the theories behind your research. this helps the reader to familiarize themself with your approach in investigating a research topic, clarifying the research gaps in a topic.
The theoretical framework thus serves to:
- Demonstrate an understanding of theories and concepts relevant to the research topic.
- Connect the research to the existing knowledge in a field.
- Specify the key variables that influence a phenomenon and highlight the necessity to examine them for different circumstances.
- Facilitate the understanding of concepts and variables according to the provided definitions.
- Explain assumptions that inform your project.
- Highlight the scholarly literature you intend to use in structuring your research.
Types of theoretical frameworks
- Dynamic and sustainability framework
- Implementation results framework
- Theoretical domain framework
- Consolidated implementation framework
- Active research framework
- Evaluation framework
How to write a theoretical framework in research
Having tackled the types and purposes of a theoretical framework, let’s consider the steps to designing your theoretical framework:
- Identify the key concepts
Often, your research topic contains multiple theories and terms that require elaboration to update the reader on the purpose of your paper. for this, take time to define each term and the key concepts on which your research hangs.
- Evaluate relevant theories
Often, your research paper may aim to contest existing theories or to provide support to various ideas from existing literature. For this, determine how various researchers previously defined the concept at hand and draw connections between various approaches.
Where possible, highlight the inadequacies of various literature by comparing these approaches to better-structured works. Also, highlight the definitions that fit your research and place your study to address the research gaps.
- Connect your paper to existing research
Finally, elaborate on how you intend to use existing theories to develop your arguments. Here, you can critique a theory or uniquely combine theories, showing the relevance of your research to the field.
- Develop an outline
After collecting your facts, organize them in an outline, to have a coherent flow of arguments. The outline will allow you to gauge the completeness of your research, helping you conduct further investigation to complete your research before diving into the writing stage.
Finally, write the theoretical framework and edit it to ensure the coherence of your arguments and to correct structural and referencing issues.
How long should a theoretical framework be?
There isn’t a defined length for a theoretical framework. However, like the abstract, tackling too much information in this section could bore your reader with unnecessary details and ideas that don’t relate to the topic.
Preferably, limit your paper to three or five pages offering a gist of your research and elucidating the research gaps to address in your paper. Also, the theoretical framework can be infused into your literature review unless you are handling a complex topic.
Structure of a theoretical framework
The theoretical framework does not adhere to any structure. You can thus organize your paragraphs in the order in which you’ll be looking at the hypothesis or take a chronological approach that sorts ideas based on how they relate.
However, be keen to cite your ideas properly, overcoming plagiarism claims.
Research framework example
Hendricks (2003) defines business success as the attainment of the goals that are outlined in the business plan. This definition is further developed in Thomas’s (2008) work where he defines business success as the ability to meet targets that were set while staying ahead of competitors.
Unlike the former, the latter better expresses the success of a business as it accounts for the influence of competitors in achieving success. When goals are achieved but the competitors are commanding a bigger market share, the business may not realize its full potential and thus fails to achieve the criteria for success (Marquinhos, 2019).
Marquinhos’s definition is more relevant as it gives primacy to the competitive advantage of a business which helps a company command a bigger market share.