A theoretical framework is used whenever a study is to be carried out. It is a tool that connects the basic principles related to the subject, and provides a base for the premise of the study. It can be linked to the foundation and frame on which a house (study) is built.
Forming theoretical frameworks influenced by other hypotheses and postulates is an effective way to broaden the scope of the study and to evaluate all possible aspects related to the subject to be studied.
According to the definition put forth by LoBiondo-Wood and Haber in 1998, a theoretical framework is a frame of reference that is a basis for observations, definitions of concepts, research designs, interpretations, and generalizations.
It consists of interconnected core concepts that would help in explaining and conducting the aims of a study. It lends a structural support to the study and guides the researcher in interpreting the acquired data during the course of examination.
Theoretical frameworks are often confused with conceptual frameworks, due to the similar nature of a theory and a concept, but both concepts are quite different.
A theoretical framework involves the inter-linking of various concepts related to a single theory whereas the conceptual framework is used when the concept to be studied is not complementary to any theory. Conceptual frameworks may also include the merging of two or more theoretical frameworks.
Theoretical Framework in Research
The theories that make up a theoretical framework, act as lenses or viewpoints that allow the researcher to identify and understand the various facets of the topic of research.
The theoretical framework functions to provide the researcher with an empirical pathway to follow while trying to find experimental proof for the premise of the research.
It outlines all the methodologies to be used and the reason for using them in a given study. It gives direction and demarcates the scope of the study. Research studies can be of two types - qualitative and quantitative.
Quantitative research is based on determining an objective value of a variable in a scenario where the other variables are constant. In comparison, qualitative research is the recording of the subjective value of a variable in relation with changing values of related variables.
Research is carried out by inductive and deductive reasoning based on the theoretical framework of study. Inductive processes refer to methods used to evaluate and test the postulates put forth by existing theories.
It allows for the modification of the theory based on the observed relationships between studied variables. These frameworks are not easily found in research literature, as they form the skeleton of the research. They must be reviewed and understood from the various research theories, models, and analytics used by other researchers.
Developing a Theoretical Framework
♦ To develop a framework for one's study, one must first examine the title of the study and identify the main research query.
♦ Next, all the variables associated with or related to the query should be identified and enumerated. ♦ These variables must then be researched thoroughly to gain an insight towards addressing the research problem.
♦ Relevant research papers and literature should be reviewed to understand the methods adopted by other researchers to address the query. ♦ Any relevant methods, theoretical constructs, or variables should be noted down and grouped into appropriate categories.
♦ Once this grouping is done, review the various related theories so as to be able to choose a theory that is capable of establishing and explaining relationships between the groups of variables involved in the research.
♦ The selection of a suitable theory should be then followed by a discussion of the postulates put forth by the theory and how they may be relevant and implementable in solving the research problem. ♦ Following these steps would lead to the establishment of an appropriately relevant theoretical framework.
Writing a Theoretical Framework
▣ While transcribing a framework, one must keep in mind the main research query to be addressed and how the particular implementation of the selected theory is the most feasible approach towards the problem.
▣ Describe the framework in detail, and explain the various concepts, theories, and models that are involved. Explain how the framework forms the base of the study. ▣ The theoretical assumptions should be explicit and precise. They should be explained so thoroughly that there occurs a natural progression from the assumptions to the methodologies adopted.
▣ Provide a context by establishing connections between this framework and other related frameworks or general theories. Explain the chosen theories in such a way as to provide a historical contextual view of the research problem, while also explaining the chosen approach towards solving the problem.
▣ Justify the reasons behind choosing that particular theory. Explain the reasoning behind rejecting other similar theories. State the chosen theory in the present tense since it is actively being applied in the present research. Also mention any modifications done to that theory. Noted research and theorists related to it may be stated in past tense.
▣ Do not depict the theory as an absolute entity. Its scope and limitations should be sufficiently explained so as to allow a layman to understand the research findings adequately and correctly.
Significance of a Theoretical Framework
It helps the researcher to be critical towards his research strategy and help produce an efficient and precise research plan. The development of the framework allows the researcher to gain access to already existing theories and research findings that may prove helpful or may help define the study.
Also, while its developing, a researcher addresses the underlying reasons and methodologies to be used for the study. This helps to create a smooth transition from the scientific knowledge gained from the theories and concepts, to its application in proving its objectives. Thus, the researcher also becomes aware of the scope and limits of the study.
Examples of a Theoretical Framework
❖ Antonio Gramsci's theory of 'cultural hegemony' is an example of a Marxist theory that has seen applications in context to historical studies. ❖ The application of Pavlovian conditioning in the field of behavior modification.
❖ The use of cultural anthropology to reconstruct historical events and their significance. ❖ The application of Freudian theories of human psyche to determine the process of human reasoning.
An effective theoretical framework should help in providing a better analysis and explanation of the historical context, present problem, and the posited solution addressed in the research paper, so as to be easily understood by any individual reading the research paper. It should convey a clear and unbiased perspective of the research.