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Introduction To Theoretical
Framework in Research


Theories are
formulated to explain, predict, and understand phenomena and, in many cases, to
challenge and extend existing knowledge within the limits of critical bounding
assumptions. The theoretical framework is the structure that can hold or
support a theory of a research study. The theoretical framework introduces and
describes the theory that explains why the research problem under study exists.

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The theoretical
framework must demonstrate an understanding of theories and concepts that are
relevant to the topic of your research paper and that relate to the broader
areas of knowledge being considered. Although this assertion would seem to most
to be non-controversial, it is common to find research studies in the
literature without the grounding of theory. Some would claim that theory is not
necessary, because research should be focused on answering narrow questions
that would more likely appeal to practitioners. Nevertheless, theory-driven
research has advantages for the development and growth of the discipline of
chemical education. Theory can guide research, practice, curriculum
development, evaluation, and help develop effective instructional tactics and
strategies. Furthermore, it is not clear that theory-free research can exist. A
researcher who doesn’t articulate an underlying theory about how learning takes
place is probably still operating on a theory of learning and making
educational decisions about how learning takes place. Theory about learning
chemistry can be derived from established disciplines like psychology,
sociology, and philosophy. A consideration of prominent learning theories
derived from these sources demonstrates the power of theory-based research




                          What Is Theoretical Framework?

The theoretical framework is the “blueprint” for
the entire dissertation inquiry. It serves as the guide on which 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. Eisenhart defined a theoretical framework as “a
structure that guides research by relying on a formal theory…constructed by
using an established, coherent explanation of certain phenomena and
relationships” (1991, p. 205). Thus, the theoretical framework consists of the selected
theory (or theories) that undergirds your thinking with regards to how you
understand and plan to research your topic, as well as the concepts and
definitions from that theory that are relevant to your topic. Lovitts (2005)
empirically defines criteria for applying or developing theory to the
dissertation that must be appropriate, logically interpreted, well understood,
and align with the question at hand. We assert that students must select and
clarify a theoretical framework from the time the dissertation topic is
initially conceptualized. Philosophers such as Dooyeweerd (as cited in Sire,
2004, p. 35) have even gone so far as to call for “pretheoretical commitments”
by the researcher to specifically identify one’s “worldview of the heart rather
than the mind.” We profess that the researcher’s choice of theory must be
clearly stated and explicitly mentioned early in the writing of the


The importance of theory-driven thinking and acting should be emphasized
in relation to the selection of a topic, development of research questions,
focus of the literature review, the design approach, and analysis plan for the
dissertation study. Anderson, Day, and McLaughlin (2006) capture the necessity
of including a sound theoretical underpinning in a dissertation study with a
quote from a dissertation supervisor who stated, “I don’t see how you can do a
good piece of work that’s a theoretical”.Similarly, Sarter addressed the
“limited usefulness of findings and conclusions” when a study is not justified
by a theoretical framework. Evidence across disciplines is clear that the
explicit identification and inclusion of a theoretical framework is a necessity
of sound research.

    Need and Importance of Theoretical Framework

The main aim of a theoretical framework is to
define the dependent variable and independent variable and the possible
relationship between the variables for the purpose of research. According to
Sekaran & Bougie (2010),theoretical framework represents the beliefs on how
certain phenomena (or variables or components) are related to one another (a
model) and an explanation of why we believe that these variables are associated
with one another (a theory).

The model and the theory flow logically from the
previous research in the problem area.

The variables have already been identified from the
literature review done in the earlier chapters.The theoretical frame work helps
to test the need for NPM type reforms in developing countries.


Theories are
formulated to explain, predict, and understand phenomena and, in many cases, to
challenge and extend existing knowledge within the limits of critical bounding
assumptions. The theoretical framework
is the structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study.

It provides a context for
examining a problem i.e. theoretical rationale

Developing hypotheses

A frame of reference/base for


Definition of research


Research design


Ø  Serves
as a guide to systematically identify logical, precisely defined relationship
among variables

Ø  An
explicit statement of  theoretical assumptions permits the reader to
evaluate them critically

Ø  The
theoretical framework connects the researcher to existing knowledge. Guided by
a relevant theory, you are given a basis for your hypotheses and choice of
research methods


Ø  Articulating
the theoretical assumptions of a research study forces you to address questions
of why and how. It permits you to intellectually transition from simply
describing a phenomenon you have observed to generalizing about various aspects
of that phenomenon

Ø  Having
a theory helps you identify the limits to those generalizations. A theoretical
framework specifies which key variables influence a phenomenon of interest and
highlights the need to examine how those key variables might differ and under
what circumstances

Ø  The
development of the theoretical framework helps to clarify your implicit theory
in a manner that is more clearly defined.  It helps you to consider other
possible frameworks and to reduce biases that may sway your interpretation. As
you develop your theoretical framework you will consider alternative theories
that might challenge your perspective. You will also consider the limitations
associated with your theory, and quite possibly, that your problem could be
better understood by other theoretical frameworks

Ø  The
theoretical framework is how you conceptualize the nature of your research
problem, its basis and the analysis you will choose to investigate that
problem. This framework determines how you perceive, make sense of, and
interpret your data. Explanation of the theoretical framework helps the reader
understand your perspective and context. 



 A concept
which can take on different quantitative values is called a variable. According
to Sekaran & Bougie (2010) a good theoretical framework.
Identifies and defines the important variables in the situation that are
relevant to the problem. According to Sekaran (2000) ‘the dependent variable is
the variable of primary interest to the researcher. It is the main variable
that lends itself for investigation’.


        The use of theoretical framework as a
guide in a 



Ø  Theories
are constructed in order to explain, predict and master phenomenon (eg.
Relationship, events or the behaviour). In many instances we are constructing
models of reality.

Ø  A
theory makes generalisation about observations and consist of an interrelated,
coherent set of ideas and models.

Ø  If
the framework is logically sound and substantiated by previous research studies
, there is a strong possibility that the prediction or hypotheses evolving from
that from that framework will be supported.

Ø  In
some cases, a theoretical rationale in inappropriate used. eg .a theory is
designed to explain a particular behaviour in infant may not be appropriate for
the study of those behaviour in adults.



Of Formulating Theoretical Framework

It  helps the researcher see clearly the
variables of the study

It can provide him with
a general framework for data analysis

It is essential in
preparing a research proposal using descriptive and experimental methods.

Means  for prescribing or evaluating solutions to
research problems

Response to new
problems that have no previously identified solution strategy.

Means of giving old
data new interpretations and new meaning

Means by which to
identify important new issues and prescribe the most critical research
questions that need to be answered to maximize understanding of the issues.


Means of providing
members of a professional discipline with a common language and a frame of
reference for defining the boundaries of their profession.


Means to guide and
inform research so that it can, in turn, guide research efforts and improve
professional practice.


Ways of discerning
certain facts among the accumulated knowledge that are important.



         Formulating The Theoretical


Through the literature
review, an investigator become aware of or confirms identified theoretical
connections between variables

In evaluating the
formulation of the theoretical rationale , the internal structures ,such as
concepts and their definitions, should have clarity and continuity , and the
approach to understanding phenomenon , whether inductive or deductive, should
be logical.

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