In your research dissertation, one of the most important parts is the theoretical framework. This theoretical framework explains the theories that support your research. It explains the research work as an established idea. These theories are used to explain the phenomenon, draw connections, and make predictions required in your research dissertation. According to Grant C., “The theoretical framework is the “blueprint” for the entire dissertation inquiry. It serves as the guide to build and support your study, and also provides the structure to define how you will philosophically, epistemologically, methodologically, and analytically approach the dissertation as a whole.” Your problem statement, research questions and literature review will serve as the basis for preparing your theoretical framework.
The main goals of the theoretical framework in your dissertation are to define the key concepts, evaluate and combine all the relevant theories and the models, lead the research towards the assumptions and expectations that guide your research work and dissertation. Theories and models explain the reason and methods of a definite outcome happen in general. Use the theoretical framework to justify your research. Sometimes, theoretical concepts and models help to develop hypotheses for the research. A hypothesis is an expected outcome that may be tested based on data collected.
The length & complexity of theoretical framework depends on the domain and topic of research work. Well-established theories may not require much explanation while lesser-known may need a more detailed explanation and justification. To begin with, all the keywords or key concepts in the research problem statement should be defined and explained. Then the theories are explained one after the other. You may combine theories from different fields to make it relevant to the research work. The models and their diagrams are included along with the explanation of the models. Then the theories and models included are justified in the light of the research work. You have to use the data collected to discuss the theory or to give new evidence. The data may either prove the established data, challenge or criticize it. Your data collected is new or unique and so it should be relevant to the theories and models. In this process, the theories are used to understand the research work and interpret the data.
Steps for writing a better theoretical framework:
- Before writing the theoretical framework, you must know its scope. Hence you will have to start with research gaps. Next is a complete review of the literature. A combination of research gaps and theory or models helps in developing the theoretical framework. You have to choose theories or models that fit into the research gaps. The data collected through extensive research will help in identifying the research gap by using the theoretical concepts or models to establish the research gap.
- There are no strict rules on the length of pages or words for the theoretical framework. Citations in the past need to be reviewed while theory or models are being included in the framework.
- Diagrams, figures, images can be used for explaining the theory or the model in the theoretical framework chapter. It is useful to clarify the concepts and explain them in detail.
- The entire theoretical framework must be free from grammatical, syntax, spelling or punctuation mistakes. The chapter has to be logical and in sync with the research problem, literature review, data collection, and research gaps.
According to Grant and Osanloo:
“The importance of utilising a theoretical framework in a dissertation study cannot be stressed enough. The theoretical framework is the foundation from which all knowledge is constructed (metaphorically and literally) for a research study. It serves as the structure and support for the rationale of the study, the problem statement, the purpose, the significance, and the research questions. The theoretical framework provides a grounding base, or an anchor, for the literature review, and most importantly, the methods and analysis.”