A theoretical framework consists of concepts and, together with their definitions and reference to relevant scholarly literature, existing theory that is used for your particular study. Theoretical frameworks provide a perspective through which to examine a topic, especially when constructing your dissertation. There are many different lenses, which may be used to define specific concepts and explain phenomena. Different lenses can be:
Sometimes frameworks may come from an area outside of your immediate academic discipline. Using a theoretical framework for your dissertation will help you to better analyze past events by providing a particular set of questions to ask and a perspective to use when examining your topic.
Traditionally, Ph.D. and Applied Degree research must include relevant theoretical framework(s) to frame, or inform, every aspect of the dissertation. Dissertations should make an original contribution to the field by adding support for the theory or demonstrating ways in which the theory may not be as explanatory as originally thought.
It can be difficult to find scholarly work that takes a particular theoretical approach because articles, books, and book chapters are typically described according to the topics they tackle rather than the methods they use to tackle them.
Unfortunately, there is no single database or search technique for locating theoretical information. However, the suggestions below provide techniques for locating possible theoretical frameworks and theorists in the CUC library databases. In addition to your Library research, you should discuss possible theories your Dissertation Chair to ensure they align with your study. You will likely find and discard several potential theoretical frameworks before one is finally chosen.
I. Developing the Framework
Here are some strategies to develop of an effective theoretical framework:
A theoretical framework is used to limit the scope of the relevant data by focusing on specific variables and defining the specific viewpoint [framework] that the researcher will take in analyzing and interpreting the data to be gathered. It also facilitates the understanding of concepts and variables according to given definitions and builds new knowledge by validating or challenging theoretical assumptions.
Think of theories as the conceptual basis for understanding, analyzing, and designing ways to investigate relationships within social systems. To that end, the following roles served by a theory can help guide the development of your framework.
Adapted from: Torraco, R. J. “Theory-Building Research Methods.” In Swanson R. A. and E. F. Holton III , editors. Human Resource Development Handbook: Linking Research and Practice. (San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 1997): pp. 114-137; Jacard, James and Jacob Jacoby. Theory Construction and Model-Building Skills: A Practical Guide for Social Scientists. New York: Guilford, 2010; Sutton, Robert I. and Barry M. Staw. “What Theory is Not.” Administrative Science Quarterly 40 (September 1995): 371-384.
No framework is necessarily more effective than another. Frameworks serve to provide a conceptual overview, separate from methodologies or implementation. Though there are thousands of theoretical frameworks leveraged in teaching, some of the more popular frameworks are: