How to Develop a Theoretical Framework of Your Research Paper

Theoretical Framework for a Research Paper

If you still don’t fully understand what a theoretical framework is, or you are looking to develop it, and have no idea where to start, this article is for you.

The most feared part by authors of research papers is the elaboration of the theoretical framework of the paper, since it is the body that supports all the work, and without it, the author does not have the authority to defend and support their arguments. The elaboration of a well-done theoretical foundation requires a lot of study/reading by the author of the work because even before preparing his paper, the author needs to have a sufficient theoretical foundation to build his theoretical framework. This can only be achieved with the student’s dedication and ability to search for sources that are reliable and good enough to support the topic you will address in your scientific article.

What is the Theoretical Framework of a Research Paper?

The theoretical framework may also receive other names, depending on your institution, such as theoretical foundation, theoretical framework, conceptual framework, theoretical-practical framework, among others. But, apart from the choice of the term that we will use to refer to this important section of an academic study, it is also necessary to keep in mind what is the theoretical framework of a paper and its function:

The theoretical framework fulfils a basic function in our research, which is to support the arguments of the work. An author uses the theoretical framework to explain the relationships between the variables that make up their research problem. In other words, by developing a theoretical framework, we help the reader understand the relationship that the author of the study establishes with its variables, within the context of the study in which research is being carried out.

How to Make the Theoretical Framework of a Research Paper?

When we find ourselves elaborating our theoretical foundation, we may come across different scenarios:

Depending on your study/theme, you can find a fully developed theoretical perspective for your problem, that is, you will find various contents and works by theorists discussing the same topic as you, which will make it easier to do a survey that gives authority to your text. Or you can get into an underexplored topic, where there is little theoretical support to back your article. Maybe you must look for productions from abroad. This is not all bad, as it demonstrates that your study is original and will be very well used by your scientific community. These scenarios that we mentioned refer to different levels of knowledge and depend on the existing theoretical development about the researched theme or problem.

In this way, in the elaboration of the theoretical framework, we have an opportunity, as researchers, to review and refine our research objectives, and adjust them to the possibilities of theoretical development that we have. You must develop a concise theoretical perspective that clearly and concisely establishes the relationships that allow us to provide adequate theoretical support for our study.

Structuring your theoretical framework

First, it’s important that you already have your research problem and that you’ve read about the subjects that comprise it. Only in this way will it be possible to trace relationships between the sources and create an adequate narrative. Among the various possibilities of structure in this chapter, we will mention 4 ways:

1. Chronology

Structure your chapter writing in chronological order of publications. This organization depends on the year of publication of the articles that will make up its theoretical framework. Start by presenting the oldest publications and, from there, tell the story of the concept’s development, citing the works until you reach the most recent ones. In this way, you situate the reader on how a certain area or topic has undergone changes and what remains to be studied or developed. Care must be taken with the chronology, as the temporal relationship between the articles is often not clear, which can make the text very confusing for those who are going to read it.

Remember: It’s no use just telling what each author has written about the topic. You need to explain how important this is, how it relates to other texts, and what it contributes to what you intend to do in your work.

2. Concepts

Another way to structure the theoretical framework chapter is to discuss each of the main concepts of your research in a subchapter. You can write a few paragraphs for each concept, explaining its origins, meaning, applications, and the latest studies. The important thing is that, in the end, a subchapter is intended to unify all your concepts and relate them to your research.

3. Models

You can also present your benchmark by showing the main models you’ve found. This form of organization will make the most sense when your work is intended to analyse, compare, or choose models. Here, it’s important that you don’t stray too far from the main subject of your work. Always discuss the relationships of the identified models with what you are researching.

4. Methods

If relevant to your research, you can organize the theoretical framework chapter by different methods that were used in the documents you read. Review articles, experiment articles, qualitative research, quantitative research, among others. Organize the text and group studies by method, showing the relationships between research that adopt the same approach and the study you intend to carry out.

Basic Tips for Developing the Benchmark

See below some basic advice so that you can develop the theoretical framework of your study:

a. Review the information you found when you prepared the background of your research question: the research background that is part of your study can give you the necessary premise to kick-start your theoretical foundation.

b. Focus on the variables that make up your research problem and the research objectives: the theoretical framework is the space where you must define these variables and theoretically support the relationship between them.

c. Before starting with the writing of the theoretical framework, you can create a list of the contents that you should develop. Some people also draw up a conceptual map or scheme. The idea is that you can find, in a clear and organized way, the ideas and themes that you want to cover in the theoretical framework, or what will be useful for guiding the writing part.

d. Use quality information be sure to consult reliable sources (especially in internet searches). You can also visit university libraries, or thesis and dissertation banks. Another efficient alternative is to read books by reputable authors, theses, articles published in reputable journals, among others. Just always make sure that the authors you are using are experts in the subject you are dealing with in your research paper.

e. The theoretical framework must be written correctly: this means that your ideas and contents must be organized and presented clearly and coherently. No filling your reference with quotes without any linearity. It’s important to tailor your speech with the authors’ sayings. With that, you will have much more authority.

f. It is recommended that you divide your theoretical foundation into subheads: this helps to present the information you want to your reader in a more organized way, making it easier to read and understand.

g. Regardless of the format of your research paper, you must always cite the authors you will use, and, in addition, you must correctly prepare your bibliographic references.

h. The number of pages of the theoretical framework may vary, depending on its course and rules established by the journal (if you are going to publish the work): However, keep in mind that a good theoretical framework must have the number of pages necessary to theoretically support the study that is being presented, covering all the variables or concepts that are part of the planning of the problem and the research objectives.
i. The theoretical framework must be revised several times until there is a certainty that the theory used is adequate for the research.