Theoretical Framework for a Dissertation

A theoretical framework is the starting point of an academic project. It is where writers describe the relevance of their research, any problems that are left unsolved (and that they plan to tackle), as well as methods used in data analysis. The main purpose of a theoretical framework is to explain how an author is going to solve these problems, though. Think of it as a model (or a concept, if you will) for the whole paper. Technically, it's present in any academic project in some form, but it's especially important for Ph.D. dissertations.

Another goal behind a paper framework is to show readers (in your particular case, professors) that you can thoroughly investigate the subject and come up with meaningful research on a given topic. Of course, to achieve this kind of effect, one is expected to base their paper on relevant scientific theories. This presupposes analyzing all of the variables and considering any relationships between past research on a topic and one you are about to start.

Next, comes your theory or hypothesis the writer is about to prove. Hypothesis presentation should be convincing — this way, it will spark your readers' interest and urge them to keep reading the paper until its concluding part. And, of course, it is critical to present the problem under analysis and its potential solutions so that your rationale would impress your academic audience.

Existing Theoretical Frameworks and Their Definition

Since a framework highlights the value of your academic work, it should always focus on an unbiased analysis of current theories, directly related to your subject matter. Moreover, as the name suggests, this framework sets boundaries that help organize your work on the entirety of your project. A framework may deal with one theory or any combination thereof that makes sense. The most widespread theories, regardless of the discipline, are: behavioral, cognitive (sometimes, a cognitive-behavioral theory is also applicable), critical, gender, feminists, Marxist, situational, and transformational. Depending on the scope of your work, you may operate with several theories instead of one.

These theories, along with any other concepts you plan to mention will comprise the analytical ground for your work. Potential practical application and research methods used in this analysis are also a part of your final paper, but you'll get to that point a bit later.

Theoretical Framework Relevance

Once an author has stated their problem and formulated their research topic, it is crucial to credit other researchers that have contributed to the subject. First of all, it shows your awareness of the present-day understanding of the topic, as well as its main problems and variables. Besides, if any see any gaps or unanswered questions in previous studies, it creates a perfectly justified ground for conducting further research.

Literature Review as an Essential Part of your Framework

Since you are to credit other researches and their influence on your subject matter, a literature review is an essential part of your framework. Here, the goal is to choose a list of sources directly related to your work and give a synopsis of each publication. Note, that you do not always have to give a detailed summary — sometimes, focusing on aspects directly related to your study is a wiser choice.

Going On with Other Elements

Another essential millstone of any framework is describing the current state of events regarding your research question. Once again, think if there are any gaps in previous studies. Are there any questions that need answering? Are there any limitations in the way? At this point, you should also consider your readers' expectations. There must be studies that have particularly influenced them; so, it would be wise to mention them in your framework.

Organizing Your Theoretical Framework

Putting together a theoretical framework is a highly individual task for every given project. As such, there are no universal guidelines for doing it right. The only ground principle is that all concepts and theories must be linked logically and self-explanatorily. Most of the time, your framework will be just one paragraph in a dissertation. Still, it will include explanations of every concept, model, and theory used in this paper. The trick is to structure this section comprehensively so that the readers will have no difficulty following your logic.

Theoretical Framework Length

Experience shows that most dissertations have anywhere between 3 and 5 pages dedicated to the theoretical framework. That's the volume that your professor will most likely suggest, — so that's the volume you should keep in mind. This may include any possible graphics that you may want to add. If there are too many graphics to fit into the suggested volume, feel free to place them in an appendix instead.

Conceptual VS Theoretical Framework

It may happen that you want to write about people's ideas or findings that are based on their beliefs, assumptions, or other concepts that aren't based on any rigid theories. If there are no theories, then — apparently — there can be no theoretical framework. Instead, you will need a conceptual framework. It works similarly to a theoretical framework, but an author connects those non-theoretical concepts instead of theories.

Structuring your Framework

Once again, a lot will depend on your research question, but these tips should prove in handy to make sure this section runs smoothly:

  • Make your intro engaging and try to hook the readers
  • State the problem and mention possible solutions
  • Give a few words about the case you are studying
  • Draw connections between past research and the one you're working on

If you successfully implement all of these suggestions into your framework intro, your whole paper will be more engaging and interesting to read. This is, without any doubt, the first step to a successful dissertation that will impress the committee and grant you that Ph.D. you're working on.

Next thing to focus on at this point of writing is the bibliography. You should carefully choose all the sources for a literature review and references section because your audience will mostly be quite savvy on the subject. If any of the materials have been discredited, they'll know. If any of the materials have become outdated, they'll know as well. So, the trick is to choose only the most relevant studies, directly related to your subject matter.

When working on a literature review, it's crucial to highlight the connection between past research and your analysis of the subject matter. To make it apparent, you can add the following elements:

  • A mention of your previous work (e.g., your master's thesis)
  • Emphasis on the uniqueness of your research idea
  • Quotes from your sources

Your references must include:

  • Names of authors whom you reference
  • Dates when they published works where your referenced ideas are stated
  • Precise parts where those ideas are postulated (remember to cite them appropriately to avoid plagiarism)
  • Synthesis of those valuable findings and your theory or hypothesis

Since your theoretical framework comes at the beginning of your dissertation, it has to interest your reader by giving them what they expect to find there, namely:

  • Your awareness about the existing knowledge in a given area
  • The angle and/or scope of your research
  • Your reasons for choosing such an approach
  • Your application of this knowledge and your approach to them
  • Foreseeable setbacks

Both you and your reader are aware of how differently one can interpret a theory. That's why it's imperative that you explain your choice. Besides, you are to highlight the benefits that make it a solid ground for valuable research. It should be useful to mention some authors who have used a similar approach and how beneficial it was in their cases.

When analyzing your theory, it's crucial to focus on its flaws. Since you are working on an important academic paper, there will always be certain limitations and gaps — just like in most sources you've been analyzing so far. If you do not address the potential flaws of your research, other academics will. So, avoid this mistake and mention how you plan to go around any challenges that might stand in your way.

And now, it's time to think about how you impress your target reader.

Postulating Questions and Answering Them

Often, one can build a theory for a project on sheer suspicion. Of course, it must come from one's knowledge of the subject and current research data that are also included in your theoretical framework. There must also be a plan of using the existing knowledge, interpreting it, and beginning the investigation. This plan will require solid rationale on your side, and it must also be easily understandable to your reader. Putting it briefly, authors must prove that they base their suspicion on evidence from reputable sources and not on a sheer guess.

While developing a theoretical framework, an author inevitably gets a drastically clearer idea of their future project. Throughout this process, the author refines their ideas and eliminates any remains of possible bias. To do that, it's helpful to consider alternative theories and opponent approaches to be able to refute them later on. It's also helpful to conceptualize your research question, i.e., to set limitations for your work and not let you get carried away. Remember that this section is not a mere explanation of the theoretical ground behind your research. It also shows how you work with the available information, how you analyze it, and how you come up with relevant solutions to acute problems.

Developing a Winning Theoretical Framework

Any author should base one's framework on knowledge and thorough understanding of the data. To highlight these two aspects, it's beneficial to point out the gaps in relevant literature sources, summarize and analyze them, and thus impress your reader. At this point, it's possible to present those gaps as variables, which allows describing new connections and telling your reader about them.

Naturally, an overview of existing knowledge will come at the beginning. Most likely, an author will have plenty of possible sources to dwell upon — because most publications in one field are related. It's up to the author to pick sources that fit best and explain to their readers why these materials are important. It goes without saying that's impossible without an explicit connection to previous research and theories. Once this connection is established, an author goes informing one's readers about what they will find in this paper, what theories will be applied to the problem, and what outcomes the author intends to achieve.

Applying Theoretical Framework to Quantitative Research

Quantitative research will be closely connected to a theoretical framework. To realize how you develop a theoretical framework for your quantitative research, in particular, you will have to review the entire bulk of relevant literature with regard to your research goals. This will involve plenty of deductive reasoning and help come up with an ultimate structure for your theoretical framework. This will be the ground for your study that sets the direction for your research. It must also be flawlessly compatible with the referenced theories to look irrefutable to your reader.

Help with Theoretical Framework

Everybody who has to develop a theoretical framework for their Ph.D. dissertation does it for the first time. Since a dissertation is the first project where a scholar begins to contribute to the academic process (as opposed to relatively passive analysis and interpretation they did in their previous works), it's easy to get confused. Unlike most previous academic projects, a dissertation will allow you a degree of liberty regarding the term during which you must accomplish your work: you define it yourself in your dissertation proposal. You determine how much time you need for each stage. Developing a theoretical framework is arguably the newest and, as such, the toughest type of work a scholar has to accomplish while writing their dissertation. This is the most vulnerable stage where a scholar may fall behind or get otherwise disappointed with the whole undertaking.

Rest assured that facing difficulties with one stage doesn't mean you're incapable of accomplishing the project. You are welcome to let our team of pro writers take care of your theoretical framework or any other part of your work, and we'll handle it top-notch for you. We employ writers with Ph.D. degrees in every field of knowledge; so, your project will be in the most capable hands regardless of the topic. We'll be glad to help you out even with the most pressing deadline.

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