Theoretical Framework

theoretical framework

Social problems and issues are very complex and interrelated, so it is not always possible to undertake a comprehensive and satisfactory analysis of an observed phenomenon.

To explain, interpret, probe, or analyze any process or phenomenon, social scientists usually develop a framework for analyzing data by combining some established theories into an integrated framework of analysis.

This, in research parlance, is called a theoretical or conceptual framework.

A theoretical framework is an intermediate theory that attempts to connect all aspects of the research process, including problem definition, objectives, methodology, data collection, and data analysis.

It discusses through an overview of existing literature which theories exist to explain the relations between concepts/variables relevant for our research.

A theoretical framework can help us explain why we are researching using a particular method and not others to reach a certain point.

A theoretical framework can act like a travel map that gives coherence to empirical inquiry.

Because it is potentially so close to empirical inquiry, it can take different forms depending upon the research questions or problems. In other words, there are many ways to explain a theoretical framework.

It can be any or all of the following:

  • A set of coherent ideas or concepts organized in a manner that makes it easy to communicate with others.
  • It is an organized way of thinking about how and why a project occurs and how we understand its activities.
  • The basis for thinking about what we do and what it means is influenced by the ideas and research of others.
  • An overview of ideas and practices that shape the way the work is done in a project.
  • A set of assumptions, values, and definitions under which we all work together.

A conceptual or theoretical framework is needed when researching the following grounds:

  • A framework can help us to explain why we are doing a project or study in a particular way.
  • It can help us to understand and use the ideas of others who have already done similar works.
  • It can help us to decide and explain the route we are following: why we would use certain methods and not others to arrive at a certain point.
  • With a conceptual framework, we can explain why we would approach this or other paths based on the experiences of others and on what we would like to explore or discover when we do not have any preconceived idea of the issue under investigation.

Very close to the idea of a theoretical framework, a framework of analysis in research is extremely helpful in understanding the relationships between the variables of interest, if any.

This is what we call an analytical framework. The difference between a theoretical and analytical framework, at least within the social sciences, is seldom made.

A theoretical framework only explains the concepts, not the relation between these concepts/variables in terms of dependent and independent variables.

An analytical framework takes care of this shortfall. That is, an analytical framework concerns a scheme of how you want to study the relationship between concepts/variables in a particular case in terms of dependent and independent variables.

A schematic diagram of the conceptual model described in the analytical framework can help the reader to visualize the theorized relationships.

The relationships between contributing factors and the problem can be indicated by arrows, either one-way (for cause-effect relationships) or two-way arrows (for mutual relationships).

The core problems can be identified by drawing a double line around them.

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