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Understanding the Significance of Theoretical Framework

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Picture this – You have bought a shiny new gadget. You cannot make heads or tails of how to operate it, and then you remember you’ve got the good old user manual by your side. It’s the user manual that helps you finally unlock the complete potential of the gadget, navigating you through its functions, premium features, and quirks. Well, think of the theoretical framework in the world of dissertation research or academic research papers as the user manual for ideas! 

Akin to how a user manual offers you the lowdown on the inner workings of your gadget, the theoretical framework offers a detailed blueprint for comprehending key concepts, phenomena, and even the entire field of study. It’s like having a roadmap for your brain – guiding you through the twists and turns of comprehension.  

However, here’s the kicker – these frameworks aren’t simply dry, technical documents. They’re more similar to treasure maps, leading you to hidden insights, deepest discoveries, and ‘Aha!’ moments. They’re fundamental components of any research study or dissertation, providing the lens through which the research problem is assessed and comprehended. Unlike technical report writing, in a research paper or dissertation it illustrates various concepts, theories, and existing research that contribute to supporting the study, creating a bridge between critical research questions and the methodology or research methods. 

In today’s comprehensive post, we will walk you through what the theoretical framework truly is, its significance as well as step-by-step guidelines for designing and writing the framework. We will also provide certain examples that will enable you to nail your frameworks like a champion. 

Ready? Fasten your seatbelts. Let’s take off! 

What is a Theoretical Framework? 

Now, before you plunge deep to master the structure and writing style of composing the perfect framework, it is crucial to develop a deeper understanding of theoretical framework definition theories.  

A theoretical framework consists of concepts, together with their definitions and existing theories or theory that are used for your specific study. Whether you are crafting a political science or psychology research paper, a theoretical framework acts as the foundational review of existing theories that serve as a roadmap for developing the key arguments you will utilize in your work. 

In a theoretical framework, it is crucial to explain the existing theory or theories that support your conducted research, demonstrating your paper is relevant and grounded in established ideas. To put it in other words, the framework justifies and contextualizes your later research and it is the first crucial step for drafting an information research paper, thesis, or dissertation. Further, a remarkable framework can set you up for success later on in your research and writing phase. 

Designing a theoretical framework in scholarly research can be beneficial in the below-enlisted scenarios – 

  • It helps in conducting research on complex phenomena because the framework helps in organizing the most critical research questions, hypotheses, and findings. 
  • It can be designed when the research problem requires an in-depth understanding of the underlying concepts. 
  • It can be used when conducting research that seeks to address a specific gap in the knowledge. 
  • Further, it can be designed when conducting research that involves the analysis of existing theories. 

Now that you’re well-versed in what a theoretical framework truly is, let’s check the below-enlisted table that lists various kinds of frameworks in research –  


Conceptual Defines key concepts and relationships 

Begins with a general hypothesis and then uses data to test it. It is mainly used in quantitative research. 

Begins with data and then establishes a hypothesis. It is primarily used in qualitative research. 


Emphasizes the assimilation and analysis of empirical data. It is mainly used in scientific research. 

Defines a set of norms that guide behavior. It is mainly used in ethics and social sciences. 
Explanatory Describe the causes of specific behavior. This is mainly used in social and behavioral sciences. 

Importance of a Theoretical Framework

Before you start conducting your own research, it’s important to become familiar with the relevant theories and vital models that other researchers have already developed. Remember, the framework is your golden chance to present and describe what you’ve mastered, located within the future research topic.  

There is a high chance that numerous theories on your subject matter already exist, particularly if your subject matter is broad. In the theoretical or conceptual framework, you will need to analyze, compare, and choose the most relevant ones. 

When you ‘frame’ your research within a clearly defined field, you make your readers aware of the challenging theoretical assumptions that inform your approach. By doing this, you also demonstrate the rationale behind the choices you made for later segments like the research methods (methodology) and discussion. This segment of your dissertation establishes the foundations that will back up your evaluation, enabling you to interpret your results and make broader generalizations. 

Further, a theoretical framework strengthens the study in the below-enlisted ways – 

  • An explicit statement of theoretical assumptions permits the reader to analyze them critically. 
  • The theoretical framework connects the research to the existing knowledge. Guided by a relevant theory, you are offered a basis for the hypotheses and a selection of research methods. 
  • Enunciating the theoretical assumptions of the research study forces you to resolve the questions of why and how. It allows you to make the transition intellectually from merely describing a phenomenon that you have observed to generalizing about different aspects of that phenomenon. 
  • Having a theory enables you to determine the limits to those generalizations. The theoretical framework specifies which key variables impact the phenomenon of interest and outlines the need to investigate ways those key variables might differ and under what scenarios. 
  • The theoretical framework adds context to the theory itself on the basis of how scholars have priorly investigated the theory in relation to their overall research design. 

Getting the hang of it? We’re sure you are. So, let’s now quickly proceed to comprehend the essential guidelines for structuring the perfect theoretical framework. 

How to Write a Theoretical Framework?

Whether you’re a political science student writing a dissertation or a business management student crafting a business research paper, writing the perfect framework may seem incredibly daunting. No need to worry. 

Relax, take a deep breath, drink a hot cup of cappuccino and begin with comprehending the basis of a theoretical framework. This includes – 

Definition of Terms 
This allows for determining key concepts and defining any uncommon terms, words or phrases in your paper to offer a basis for understanding and a reference point for the reader.

Explanations of Theories 

Your theoretical framework must offer a description for each of the theories you plan to use and demonstrate how they relate to the research. 

Logical Explanations 

A theoretical framework must connect critical concepts, theories, and terms logically so they’re incredibly easy to read and understand. This can also help in supporting the theory during scientific questions and investigations. 

Now, let’s proceed to understand the essential steps to nail your theoretical framework like a pro – 

  • Determine Key Concepts 

One of the first and most significant steps is to choose the key terms from your problem statement and research questions. Essential concepts generally have multiple definitions, so your theoretical framework should also clearly define what you mean to say by every term. 

Let’s try to understand through an example we have given here – 

“A new boutique in the town is striving with the fact that most of their online customers do not return to make next purchases. This is a huge issue for the fast-growing store. The management aims to increase customer loyalty,  and they believe that enhanced customer satisfaction will play a huge role in accomplishing their objective of increased return clients. 

To investigate this issue, you have determined and plan to emphasize the below-enlisted problem statement, goal, and research questions – 

Problem – Numerous online customers never return to the store to make purchases. 

Objective – To increase the number of returning customers. 

Research Question – In what ways can the satisfaction of Company X’s online customers be enhanced to increase the number of return of customers?

 The theories of ‘customer loyalty’ and ‘customer satisfaction’ are apparently central to this study, along with their connection to the chances that a customer will return. Hence, you need to create a framework that defines these concepts and discuss theories about the connection between these variables.” 

  • Analyze and Describe Relevant Theories 

To create an effective theoretical framework, it is essential to conduct a detailed literature review. By doing this, you can figure out how other researchers have defined these critical concepts and drawn connections between them. When you design your framework, your main objective should be to compare and critically evaluate all the approaches that various authors should have taken. 

After explaining different significant theories and models, you can easily establish the definitions that seem to fit your research remarkably and justify the reasons effectively. You can also combine theories from various fields to develop your own framework if this suits your subject matter remarkably. 

Ensure to at least mention briefly every critical theory related to your significant concepts. If there’s a well-established theory that you do not want to implement in your own research, describe why it isn’t appropriate for your objectives. 

Now remember a literature review and a theoretical framework are not similar and cannot be ever used interchangeably. The framework explains the theoretical underpinnings of your work, while a literature review critically analyzes sources related to your subject matter. 

  • Demonstrate How the Research Fits into the Existing Research 

Apart from discussing and summarizing an existing theory or theories, your framework must demonstrate how your project will utilize these ideas and take these theories a step further. 

To do this successfully, you can aim to do one or more of the below-enlisted steps – 

  • Investigate whether a theory holds in a particular, priorly unexamined content. 
  • Utilize an existing theory as a basis for interpreting the results. 
  • Challenge or critique a concept 
  • Combine numerous theories in a different or unique way. 
  • Develop a Structure for the Framework

Though a theoretical framework can often be integrated into a literature review, it can also be incorporated as its own chapter or section in the dissertation. As a rule of thumb, if your research includes tackling numerous complicated theories, it’s wise to incorporate a separate chapter of the theoretical framework. 

Now, there exist no fixed rules for structuring the framework. However, it’s wise to double-check with your educational institution or department to ensure they don’t have any formatting guidelines. The most vital thing is to create a logical and clear structure. Here are certain ways to do this effectively –

  • Draw on the research question, structuring every section around a question or key concept. 
  • Organize the section by theory cluster
  • Organize the segment by date. 
  • Test the Framework 

The last and final step in creating a theoretical framework is to test it through relevant data collection and analysis. This will enable you to identify whether the framework is reliable and valid. 

Strategies for Developing the Theoretical Framework

Remember, developing a theoretical framework is no rocket science. 

To help you create the best framework possible, we have provided certain foolproof strategies that would definitely craft your research paper or online dissertation structure like a pro. Not only that, but it will help you take your framework to the next level. 

Have a look – 

  • Comprehend the Difference between a Hypothesis & Theory 

Before you delve deep into creating a theoretical framework, it is crucial to know the differences between a hypothesis and a theory. However, akin to basic research & applied research, the difference between them in scholarly research is critical, especially when utilizing an experimental design. A theory is a well-developed principle that has been developed to describe certain aspects of the natural world. These arise from repeated observation and testing and include facts, laws, predictions, and tested hypotheses that are accepted widely. ( For example – rational choice theory, grounded theory, etc.) 

This implies a theory predicts events in a general and broader context, whereas a hypothesis makes a particular prediction about a specified set of scenarios. Again, a theory has been put to the test extensively and is generally accepted among scholars, whereas a hypothesis is an untested guess that has yet to be put to the test. 

  • Examine Your Thesis Title & Research Problem 

The research problem is the anchor of the whole study and forms your research methods knowledge base. This also forms the basis on which you can create your theoretical framework. 

  • Consider the Key Variables 

While developing the framework, be sure to brainstorm the aspects you consider to be key variables in the research. Try to find an answer to the question – What are the key factors that contribute to the predicted effect? 

  • Review the Literature 

Review related literature to get remarkable answers to your research question. 

  • List Constructs & Variables 

Make sure to list the constructs and variables that can be relevant to your study. Try to group these variables into independent and dependent categories. 

  • Review the Key Social Science Theories 

Go through the main political science or social science theories that are introduced to you in the course readings. Make sure to choose your own theory or theories that can be used to describe the relationships between the key variables in your study. 

  • Discuss the Assumptions 

Ensure to explain the propositions or assumptions of the theory and indicate their relevance to the research. 

  • Be Clear 

Make sure to describe the framework, concepts, any theoretical model, or specific theories that underpin your study.  This incorporates taking note of who the principal theorists are in the field who have conducted research on the issue you’re investigating. Further, when it is necessary, ensure to consider the historical context that supports in development of that theory. This latter element is especially crucial if the theory is relatively unknown or it is taken from another discipline. 

  • Position it Correctly 

The key to creating an effective theoretical framework is positioning it within a broader context of related frameworks, models, concepts, or theories. There’s a high chance there are already numerous concepts, models,  or theories that can be utilized to develop a framework for comprehending the research problem. Hence, note why the framework you’ve selected is the most suitable one. 

  • Be Explicit 

Try to make these theoretical assumptions as explicit as possible. Later, make sure to link your discussion of methodology to this framework. 

  • Don’t Take What the Theory Says As a Given 

Truth be said, reality is never represented in such a simplistic way accurately. If you assert that it can be, you are distorting a reader’s capability to comprehend the findings that emerge. Given this, always remember the restrictions of the framework you’ve selected. 

To offer an in-depth insight into what a remarkable theoretical framework should look like, we have provided an inspiring example below. Go through this example to connect the relevant theory into the practice as well as have a remarkable visual understanding of the structure as well as the writing style – 

Example of a Theoretical Framework

Example 1 – 

A health insurance company is encountering difficulties in cross-selling its products. The sales department denotes that most customers only have one health insurance policy, even though the company has more than 20 different policies. The organization would want its clients to buy more than one policy as most customers are buying different policies that they are offering from other organizations. 

Goal – Selling more health insurance products to existing clients. 

Problem – Most clients are buying additional health policies from other organizations. 

Research-Question – In what way the customer product awareness be enhanced to increase the cross-selling of health insurance products? 

Sub-Questions – What is the connection between sales and product awareness? Which crucial aspects determine product awareness? 

Since ‘product awareness’ is the key focus of this study, the theoretical framework must evaluate this concept and investigate the previous literature on this subject. It should also propose critical theories that discuss the connection between product awareness and its enhancement in sales of other products. 

Example 2 – 

A shoe company is encountering a constant steep decline in its profitability and sales. The key reason for this reduction in profitability is mediocre service, which has led to an increasing level of dissatisfaction among clients and, consequently, a reduction in the loyalty of customers. The management is aiming to focus on increasing the satisfaction and loyalty of clients. 

Goal – The main aim is to offer remarkable service to customers and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Problem – Constant reduction in profitability and sales. 

Research Question – In what ways the customer satisfaction can aid in increasing profitability and sales? 

Sub-Questions – What is the connection between sales and customer loyalty? Which crucial aspects impact the satisfaction level gained by customers? 

Since customer satisfaction, profitability, sales, and loyalty are the critical topics in this example, the theoretical framework must focus on these significant theories. 

Wrapping Up, 

Creating a theoretical framework is a significant yet nuanced process critical for robust research. Now, while these frameworks serve as essential guides, their efficiency lies in their responsiveness and adaptability to evolving landscapes of research. By steering various complexities, you can make sure that your frameworks contribute meaningfully, thereby navigating research with relevance and precision in the dynamic realm of scientific enquiry. Here’s wishing you all the luck!

Frequently Asked Questions 

  • What is another word for theoretical framework? 

The terms ‘theoretical framework’ and conceptual frameworkare often used interchangeably to imply the same thing. Although they are both used to comprehend a research problem and guide the development, assimilation, and data analysis of research, it’s crucial to understand the basic difference between the two. 

A theoretical framework is a single formal theory. When a study is devised around a theoretical framework, the theory is the primary means by which the research problem is understood and investigated. Whereas, a conceptual framework includes one or more formal theories as well as other critical concepts and empirical findings from the literature. It is used to demonstrate connections among these ideas and the way they relate to the research study. 

  • What are examples of theoretical frameworks for qualitative research? 

Qualitative research often utilizes different theoretical frameworks to guide inquiry and analysis. Here are certain remarkable examples – 

  • Grounded Theory
  • Phenomenology 
  • Ethnography 
  • Narrative Inquiry 
  • Critical Theory 
  • Feminist Theory 
  • Symbolic Interactionism 
  • Constructivism 
  • How many theories are needed in a theoretical framework? 

One can use multiple theories as long as there exists value in doing that and any complexities that can arise have been taken into consideration. However, it is recommended not to use more than two, with three being the maximum. 

  • What is a theoretical approach? 

A theoretical approach in the research process indicates the overarching interdisciplinary perspective or lens through which a researcher conceptualizes and investigates a specific phenomenon. It offers a framework for comprehending, evaluating, and interpreting research data within a specific field of study. The theoretical framework consists typically – 

  • Conceptual Framework 
  • Theoretical Assumptions and Propositions 
  • Methodological Implications 
  • Interpretive Lens 
  • What is a theoretical framework example? 

The perfect example of a complete theoretical framework is considering a study that examines the impact of social media on body image among adolescents. The theoretical perspective might be rooted in social constructivism, based on the presumption that our understanding of reality is originally shaped by social interactions and cultural context. 

  • Is it necessary to incorporate a theoretical framework in every research study? 

The theoretical framework essentially connects researchers to existing knowledge. Hence, incorporating an effective theoretical framework will enable researchers to develop a lucid idea of the research process and help in structuring their study remarkably clearly, defining an objective, a research question, and a research problem. 

  • What is the key difference between a literature review and a theoretical framework? 

A review-related literature always explores already existing studies about a specific topic to highlight a gap that becomes the focus of the current research study. A theoretical framework can be considered the next step in the process, in which the researcher plans a particular conceptual and analytical approach to address the determined gap in the research. 

Hence, theoretical frameworks are the crucial components of the research process, and researchers should invest considerable time to develop a solid framework so that it can effectively steer their research in a suitable direction. 

  • Can multiple theoretical frameworks be used in a single study? 

Using multiple theoretical frameworks in a single study is acceptable as long as every theory is defined clearly and related to the study. Every theory should also be discussed individually. However, this approach can be tedious and demand significant research efforts. Hence, multiple frameworks must be used only if absolutely essential for the study.

Hi, I am Mark, a Literature writer by profession. Fueled by a lifelong passion for Literature, story, and creative expression, I went on to get a PhD in creative writing. Over all these years, my passion has helped me manage a publication of my write ups in prominent websites and e-magazines. I have also been working part-time as a writing expert for for 5+ years now. It’s fun to guide students on academic write ups and bag those top grades like a pro. Apart from my professional life, I am a big-time foodie and travel enthusiast in my personal life. So, when I am not working, I am probably travelling places to try regional delicacies and sharing my experiences with people through my blog. 

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