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Theoretical Framework Example for a Thesis or Dissertation

Published on October 14, 2015 by Sarah Vinz . Revised on July 18, 2023 by Tegan George.

Your theoretical framework defines the key concepts in your research, suggests relationships between them, and discusses relevant theories based on your literature review .

A strong theoretical framework gives your research direction. It allows you to convincingly interpret, explain, and generalize from your findings and show the relevance of your thesis or dissertation topic in your field.

Table of contents

Sample problem statement and research questions, sample theoretical framework, your theoretical framework, other interesting articles.

Your theoretical framework is based on:

  • Your problem statement
  • Your research questions
  • Your literature review

A new boutique downtown is struggling with the fact that many of their online customers do not return to make subsequent purchases. This is a big issue for the otherwise fast-growing store.Management wants to increase customer loyalty. They believe that improved customer satisfaction will play a major role in achieving their goal of increased return customers.

To investigate this problem, you have zeroed in on the following problem statement, objective, and research questions:

  • Problem : Many online customers do not return to make subsequent purchases.
  • Objective : To increase the quantity of return customers.
  • Research question : How can the satisfaction of the boutique’s online customers be improved in order to increase the quantity of return customers?

The concepts of “customer loyalty” and “customer satisfaction” are clearly central to this study, along with their relationship to the likelihood that a customer will return. Your theoretical framework should define these concepts and discuss theories about the relationship between these variables.

Some sub-questions could include:

  • What is the relationship between customer loyalty and customer satisfaction?
  • How satisfied and loyal are the boutique’s online customers currently?
  • What factors affect the satisfaction and loyalty of the boutique’s online customers?

As the concepts of “loyalty” and “customer satisfaction” play a major role in the investigation and will later be measured, they are essential concepts to define within your theoretical framework .

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Below is a simplified example showing how you can describe and compare theories in your thesis or dissertation . In this example, we focus on the concept of customer satisfaction introduced above.

Customer satisfaction

Thomassen (2003, p. 69) defines customer satisfaction as “the perception of the customer as a result of consciously or unconsciously comparing their experiences with their expectations.” Kotler & Keller (2008, p. 80) build on this definition, stating that customer satisfaction is determined by “the degree to which someone is happy or disappointed with the observed performance of a product in relation to his or her expectations.”

Performance that is below expectations leads to a dissatisfied customer, while performance that satisfies expectations produces satisfied customers (Kotler & Keller, 2003, p. 80).

The definition of Zeithaml and Bitner (2003, p. 86) is slightly different from that of Thomassen. They posit that “satisfaction is the consumer fulfillment response. It is a judgement that a product or service feature, or the product of service itself, provides a pleasurable level of consumption-related fulfillment.” Zeithaml and Bitner’s emphasis is thus on obtaining a certain satisfaction in relation to purchasing.

Thomassen’s definition is the most relevant to the aims of this study, given the emphasis it places on unconscious perception. Although Zeithaml and Bitner, like Thomassen, say that customer satisfaction is a reaction to the experience gained, there is no distinction between conscious and unconscious comparisons in their definition.

The boutique claims in its mission statement that it wants to sell not only a product, but also a feeling. As a result, unconscious comparison will play an important role in the satisfaction of its customers. Thomassen’s definition is therefore more relevant.

Thomassen’s Customer Satisfaction Model

According to Thomassen, both the so-called “value proposition” and other influences have an impact on final customer satisfaction. In his satisfaction model (Fig. 1), Thomassen shows that word-of-mouth, personal needs, past experiences, and marketing and public relations determine customers’ needs and expectations.

These factors are compared to their experiences, with the interplay between expectations and experiences determining a customer’s satisfaction level. Thomassen’s model is important for this study as it allows us to determine both the extent to which the boutique’s customers are satisfied, as well as where improvements can be made.

Figure 1 Customer satisfaction creation 

Framework Thomassen

Of course, you could analyze the concepts more thoroughly and compare additional definitions to each other. You could also discuss the theories and ideas of key authors in greater detail and provide several models to illustrate different concepts.

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Example Of A Theoretical Framework In A Dissertation

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An example of a theoretical framework anchors a research paper to a specific theory. Researchers use theoretical frameworks in various fields to provide a premise for the ideas proposed in a research publication. It typically entails the key concepts, theories, and ideas that shape the methodology and research question.   This article delves into an example of a theoretical framework, exploring how it functions as an integral component of research design, leading to the conclusion.


  • 1 Example of a Theoretical Framework – In a Nutshell
  • 2 Definition: Example of a theoretical framework
  • 3 Example of a theoretical framework – Problem statement & research questions

Example of a Theoretical Framework – In a Nutshell

  • An example of a theoretical framework outlines the theory-based approach taken when conducting research.
  • The example of a theoretical framework comprises the problem statement , research question, and relevant literature review .
  • A well formulated example of a theoretical framework is essential to guide your research and methodology to explain and summarize your findings convincingly.

Definition: Example of a theoretical framework

An example of a theoretical framework is a structure that defines the main ideas in a thesis or dissertation . It limits the breadth of the study by narrowing the focus to key variables and their relationship. Theoretical frameworks also give a researcher the specific structure that guides the collection and interpretation of the relevant data in a research proposal .

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Example of a theoretical framework – Problem statement & research questions

The example of a theoretical framework is based on:

  • The problem statement – involves contextualizing the research problem . The researcher describes the specific issue that the study seeks to address and justifies the study’s relevance and primary objectives.
  • The research questions – are focused on a specific issue, and they should be feasible and researchable using various credible sources.
  • The literature review – is an overview of published works about a certain topic, and it outlines what is currently known versus the existing gaps.

Examples of a problem statement and research questions

Find an example of a research question and problem statement below:

An insurance company is having a hard time cross-selling its products. The sales department has realized that most of the customers hold just one policy, although the company offers over ten unique policies. The company would like to have its customers purchase more than one policy since it is clear most customers are purchasing other policies from other companies.

The sales and marketing department wants to increase product awareness. They have concluded that more product awareness will improve the uptake of other products by the existing customers.


To analyze this problem, you have formulated a problem statement, objective, and a research question as follows:

  • Problem: Many customers are purchasing additional policies from other companies.
  • Objective: Selling more products to existing customers.
  • Research question: How can customer product awareness be improved to increase cross-selling of insurance products?

In this study, the concept of “product awareness” is the main focus, alongside the chances that it will improve sales across other products. The example of a theoretical framework should analyze this concept and propose theories that discuss the relationship between the two variables.

  • What is the relationship between product awareness and sales ?
  • How informed are the existing customers about the company’s products?
  • Which factors determine product awareness?

Example of a theoretical framework

In the following example, we define the concept of product awareness mentioned above.

Spacey’s description is more compatible with the study as it highlights the importance of conscious marketing strategies to improve product awareness. Although Kopp and Marrs clearly define product awareness, they don’t propose an actionable step in analyzing product awareness.

The insurance company wants to maximize product awareness as part of its long-term strategy. As a result, targeted marketing will ensure the products are divided and advertised to the most potential buyers.

Spacey’s Product Awareness Work Plan

According to Spacey, the more aware your target customer base is of your range of products, the easier it is to sell more products to an individual customer. Spacey explains that product awareness simplifies promoting your products through different mediums, introducing new products, building a strong reputation, and retaining customers.

What is an example of a theoretical framework based on?

An example of a theoretical framework is based on the problem statemen t, research questions , and review of literature sources . These essential elements guide data collection , analysis, and generalization of the findings.

What is a research question?

A research question is a component of an example of a theoretical framework in research. It is the specific question that forms the basis of the solution proposed by a researcher at the end of a study.

When do you need an example of a theoretical framework?

You need an example of a theoretical framework when undertaking a study with several existing theories. The theoretical framework assists you in reviewing your sources and creating the most relevant research questions.

How do you create an example of a theoretical framework?

Begin by identifying your main concepts and variables. Evaluate and summarize probable theories and show how your findings correspond to the identified theories.

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31 Theoretical Framework Examples

theoretical framework examples and definition, explained below

A theoretical framework is a theory that can be applied to interpret and understand data in your research study.

A useful working definition comes from Connaway and Radford (2021):

“…a theoretical framework utilizes theory/theories and their constituent elements as the presumed ‘working model’ that drives the investigation and analysis of a social phenomenon.” (Connaway & Radford, 2021)

There are a range of theories that each look at the world through different lenses. Each will shape how we look at and interpret our data.

For example:

  • Feminists look at the world through the lens of power and oppression of women. 
  • Functionalists look at the world and see how the concepts and ideas in our societies have a role in maintaining social order. 
  • Behaviorists look at the world and see how incentives – rewards and punishments – shape human behavior .
  • Postmodernists look at the world and see how language and discourse shape belief systems .

When selecting a theoretical framework, we’re making a conscious decision about our approach and focus. For example, ‘feminism’ and ‘critical theory’ are theoretical frameworks that will focus on how power functions in society. This might be useful in a sociological or cultural studies analysis. But they won’t be so useful in a study of classroom learning, which might best be served by ‘behaviorism’ or ‘constructivism’ as your theoretical frames.

Theoretical Framework Examples

1. constructivism.

Scholarly Fields: Psychology, Education

Constructivism is a theory in educational psychology about how people think and learn.

It states that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.

When new information challenges past beliefs, cognitive dissonance occurs, which is overcome through processes of assimilation and accommodation until we develop a new understanding of what we observe, which is ideally a closer approximation of the truth.

It challenges the previously dominant concept in psychology, behaviorism , that states we learn best through rewards, punishments, and forming associations between concepts.

Example of Constructivism in the Classroom

A researcher examines how students learn about the concept of gravity in a physics classroom. The study would observe the process as the students first encounter basic information, then explore related concepts through hands-on experiments and classroom discussions. The focus of the study would be on how students construct their understanding utilizing prior knowledge and evolving their understanding through experience and reflection.

2. Behaviorism

Behaviorism is a learning theory in behavioral psychology that holds that behaviors are learned through association, trial and error.

This theory takes a principled stance that learning needs to be measurable . Inner cognitive states are not taken into account because thoughts are, to behaviorists, not possible to be measured. Therefore, the theory suggests that behavior must be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states.

A famous behaviorist study is Pavlov’s study of how his dog learned to salivate when he heard a bell ringing, because the dog associated the bell with food. This is now known as a Pavlovian response .

Similarly, B.F. Skinner found that rewarding and punishing rats can lead them into learning how to navigate mazes at faster and faster speeds, demonstrating the observable effects of rewards and punishments in learning.

If you were to use Behaviorism as your theoretical framework, it would likely inform both your research question – where you may want to focus on a situation where you will measure changes in behaviors through rewards and punishments – as well as your research methods, where you’ll likely employ a quantitative research method that measures changes in behaviors, such as application of pre-tests and post-tests in an educational environment.

Example of a Study Using a Behaviorist Theoretical Framework

In a study using a behaviorist framework, a psychologist might investigate the effects of positive reinforcement on the classroom behavior of elementary school children. The experiment could involve implementing a rewards system for a selected behavior, such as raising a hand before speaking, and observing any changes in the frequency of this behavior. The behaviorist theoretical framework would guide the researcher’s expectation that the reinforcement (reward) would increase the occurrence of the desired behavior.

3. Psychoanalytic Theory

Scholarly Fields: Psychology, Social Work

Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories , originally proposed by Sigmund Freud, posit that human behavior is the result of the interactions among three component parts of the mind: the id, ego, and superego .

This theory might be used by a psychology student in their research project where they test patients’ behaviors, comparing them to Freud’s (or, for that matter, Carl Jung’s) theoretical ideas about stages of development, interaction between id, ego, and superego, or the power of the subconscious to affect thoughts and behavior.

This theoretical frame is rarely used today, although it acts as a foundation to subsequent theories that are held in higher esteem, such as psychosocial theory, explained next.

Example of a Study Using a Psychoanalytic Theoretical Framework

A researcher using a psychoanalytic framework might study the influence of early childhood experiences on adult relationship patterns. Through in-depth interviews, the study would examine participants’ recollections of their early relationships with their parents and the unconscious conflicts and defenses that may have arisen from these experiences. The study would then look for patterns in the participants’ current relationships that might reflect these early experiences and defense mechanisms.

4. Psychosocial Theory

Psychosocial theory builds upon (and, in some ways, rejects) Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. This theory maintains that subconscious thoughts affect behavior, but focuses on how early social interactions affect outcomes later in life.

Erik Erikson, a central figure in the history of psychosocial theory, theorized that humans go through roughly set-in-stone stages of life, where in each stage, we must overcome challenges like industry vs inferiority (where we need to learn to embrace an industrious and creative personality or else risk having an inferiority complex later in life).

Psychosocial theory can be applied in the study of how people develop psychological complexes in their lives and helps them overcome them by exploring the origins of these complexes.

Example of a Study Using a Psychosocial Theoretical Framework

A study based on a psychosocial framework could explore individual patients’ core challenges and relate them to Erikson’s psychosocial states. The psychosocial theory would guide the interpretation of the results, suggesting that past events, such as being berated by parents, can lead to increased psychological stress.

5. Feminist Theory

Scholarly Fields: Sociology, Cultural Studies, and more

Feminism is a social and political framework that analyzes the status of women and men in society with the purpose of using that knowledge to promote women’s rights and interests.

Generally, a person applying a feminist framework would have at the core of their research question an interest in how women are positioned in society in relation to men, and how their lives and personal agency is shaped and structured by a manufactured gender hirearchy.

Of course, within Feminism, there are a range of conflicting views and perspectives. The intersectional feminists are highly concerned with how black, working-class, and other marginalized women face compounding disadvantages; whereas other feminists might focus exclusively on gender in the workforce, or even how women’s rights intersect with, and are possibly impacted by, trans* rights.

Example of a Study Using a Feminist Theoretical Framework

A researcher could use a feminist theoretical framework to investigate gender bias in workplace promotions within a large corporation. The study might involve collecting and analyzing qualitative data and quantitative data on promotion rates, gender ratios in upper management, and employee experiences related to promotion opportunities. From a feminist perspective, the study would aim to identify any potential systemic inequalities and their impact on women’s career trajectories.

7. Conflict Theory

Scholarly Fields: Sociology, Cultural Studies

Conflict theory is a framework derived from Marxism’s teachings about the operation of power through economic and cultural apparatuses in a society.

It generally works to highlight the role of coercion and power, particularly as it relates to social class and possession of economic capital .

Generally, this approach will involve an examination of the ways the economy, policy documents, media, and so forth, distribute power in a capitalist context . Other conflict theorists might examine non-capitalist contexts, such as workers’ cooperatives with the intention of exploring possibilities for economic and cultural life in a post-capitalist society.

Example of a Study Using a Conflict Theory Framework

A sociologist might utilize conflict theory to study wealth and income disparities within a specific urban community. This study might involve the analysis of economic data, alongside a consideration of social and political structures in the community. The conflict theory would guide an understanding of how wealth and power disparities contribute to social tensions and conflict.

8. Functionalism

Scholarly Fields: Sociology (see the separate concept: Functionalism in Psychology )

Functionalism , based on the works of Durkheim. Merton and their contemporaries, is an approach to sociology that assumes each aspect of society is interdependent and contributes to society’s functioning as a whole.

Functionalism often leans on the analogy of the human body to describe society. Just as the human body has organs which each have a purpose (i.e. a function), each social institution also serves a function to support the whole.

So, a functionalist theoretical framework aims to examine social institutions and social structures (e.g. economic conditions, family relationships, religious practices, media outlets, etc.) to explore how they do or do not fulfill their purposes.

Building on Merton’s work in functionalism, many functionalist studies in sociology also explore how institutions have both manifest functions (intended purposes and consequences) and latent functions (unintended purposes and functions).

Key social institutions explored in functionalism in sociology include: the education system, hospitals, workplaces, factories, religion, and families.

Example of a Study Using a Functionalist Theoretical Framework

A  key question in functionalism is: “What is the role of this institution in upholding society, the status quo, and social hierarchies?” Following this approach, an educational researcher using a functionalist framework might study the role of schools in preparing students for various roles in society. They might collect data on curriculum, teaching methods, student performance, and post-graduation outcomes. Using a functionalist lens, the researcher would be interested in how each aspect of the education system contributes to the socialization process and preparation of individuals for adulthood and societal roles.

9. Symbolic Interactionism

Scholarly Fields: Sociology (see: symbolic interactionism in sociology )

The symbolic interaction theory states that the meaning we ascribe to objects, processes, ideas, concepts, and systems are subjective. They are constructed through language, words, and communication, and differ from context to context and culture to culture.

Symbolic interactionism is very common in qualitative research in the social sciences, especially work that involves interviews as a research method.

Symbolic interaction is a theoretical frame that challenges that of functionalism by focusing on microsociology rather than macrosociology .

Whereas functionalists are generally concerned with how social structures, institutions, and concepts have meaning on a social level , symbolic interactionists are concerned with how people make their own meanings of things in their surroundings.

For example, symbolic interactionism argues that people derive their understanding of their world through social interactions and personal experiences and interpretations.

Example of a Study Using a Symbolic Interactionist Framework

A researcher applying symbolic interactionist theory might investigate how medical patients and doctors negotiate understandings of illness during medical consultations. The study would likely involve observations and perhaps recordings of consultations, focusing on the language and symbols used by both parties. A symbolic interactionist approach would highlight how shared meanings and interpretations are built in these interactions, impacting the patient-doctor relationship and treatment decisions.

10. Postmodernism

Scholarly Fields: Sociology, Cultural Studies, Media Studies

Postmodern theory critiques social narratives, beliefs, and definitions, arguing that they’re historically, culturally and socially situated.

A key concept in postmodernism is discourse , which refers to how knowledge is constructed through language. The ways people talk about something constructs normative ideas about it (i.e. ideas, like gender, a socially constructed).

Postmodernists are therefore skeptical of truth-claims made about anything. Their research aims to demonstrate how truth-claims, such as “men are natural-born leaders” emerge through language and social narratives that normalize such as belief.

Postmodernism’s role, therefore. Is to highlight the relativity of truths and social narratives propagated by media and culture.

Example of a Study Using a Postmodern Theoretical Framework

A researcher using a postmodernist framework might conduct a study analyzing the portrayal of reality in contemporary television news. They might examine the selection and presentation of stories, the use of imagery and language, and the underlying assumptions about truth and objectivity. From a postmodernist perspective, the study would not be looking for an objective reality represented in the news but would explore how the news constructs multiple, subjective realities.

List of Additional Theoretical Frameworks

In communication studies.

  • Uses and Gratifications Theory
  • Agenda-Setting Theory
  • Spiral of Silence Theory
  • Cultivation Theory
  • Muted Group Theory

In Psychology

  • Cognitive Development Theory
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Socio-cultural Theory

In Sociology

  • Social Action Theory
  • Poststructuralism
  • Labeling Theory
  • Strain Theory
  • Differential Opportunity Theory
  • Differential Association Theory
  • Postcolonialism

In Economics

  • Keynesian Economics
  • Neoclassical Economics
  • Marxist Economics
  • Behavioral Economics

Choosing a theoretical framework is an early step in developing your research study. Once it is selected, it will go on to inform your research methodology and methods of data collection and analysis. Furthermore, in your analysis chapters of your dissertation, you will be regularly leaning upon the ideas and concepts within your chosen theoretical framework to shed light on your observations. Academic research that uses theoretical frameworks is all about using theory to interpret the world and shed new light on phenomena. With theory, we can develop a cohesive understanding of our subjects and construct detailed, well-thought-out arguments throughout our work.

Anfara Jr, V. A., & Mertz, N. T. (Eds.). (2014). Theoretical frameworks in qualitative research . Sage publications.

Borsboom, D., van der Maas, H. L., Dalege, J., Kievit, R. A., & Haig, B. D. (2021). Theory construction methodology: A practical framework for building theories in psychology.  Perspectives on Psychological Science ,  16 (4), 756-766.

Connaway, L. S., & Radford, M. L. (2016). Research methods in library and information science . Los Angeles: ABC-CLIO.

Given, L. M. (Ed.). (2008). The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods . Sage publications.

Gelso, C. J. (2006). Applying theories to research.  The psychology research handbook: A guide for graduate students and research assistants ,  455 .


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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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Theoretical vs Conceptual Framework

What they are & how they’re different (with examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) | March 2023

If you’re new to academic research, sooner or later you’re bound to run into the terms theoretical framework and conceptual framework . These are closely related but distinctly different things (despite some people using them interchangeably) and it’s important to understand what each means. In this post, we’ll unpack both theoretical and conceptual frameworks in plain language along with practical examples , so that you can approach your research with confidence.

Overview: Theoretical vs Conceptual

What is a theoretical framework, example of a theoretical framework, what is a conceptual framework, example of a conceptual framework.

  • Theoretical vs conceptual: which one should I use?

A theoretical framework (also sometimes referred to as a foundation of theory) is essentially a set of concepts, definitions, and propositions that together form a structured, comprehensive view of a specific phenomenon.

In other words, a theoretical framework is a collection of existing theories, models and frameworks that provides a foundation of core knowledge – a “lay of the land”, so to speak, from which you can build a research study. For this reason, it’s usually presented fairly early within the literature review section of a dissertation, thesis or research paper.

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Let’s look at an example to make the theoretical framework a little more tangible.

If your research aims involve understanding what factors contributed toward people trusting investment brokers, you’d need to first lay down some theory so that it’s crystal clear what exactly you mean by this. For example, you would need to define what you mean by “trust”, as there are many potential definitions of this concept. The same would be true for any other constructs or variables of interest.

You’d also need to identify what existing theories have to say in relation to your research aim. In this case, you could discuss some of the key literature in relation to organisational trust. A quick search on Google Scholar using some well-considered keywords generally provides a good starting point.

foundation of theory

Typically, you’ll present your theoretical framework in written form , although sometimes it will make sense to utilise some visuals to show how different theories relate to each other. Your theoretical framework may revolve around just one major theory , or it could comprise a collection of different interrelated theories and models. In some cases, there will be a lot to cover and in some cases, not. Regardless of size, the theoretical framework is a critical ingredient in any study.

Simply put, the theoretical framework is the core foundation of theory that you’ll build your research upon. As we’ve mentioned many times on the blog, good research is developed by standing on the shoulders of giants . It’s extremely unlikely that your research topic will be completely novel and that there’ll be absolutely no existing theory that relates to it. If that’s the case, the most likely explanation is that you just haven’t reviewed enough literature yet! So, make sure that you take the time to review and digest the seminal sources.

Need a helping hand?

example of framework of the study in research paper

A conceptual framework is typically a visual representation (although it can also be written out) of the expected relationships and connections between various concepts, constructs or variables. In other words, a conceptual framework visualises how the researcher views and organises the various concepts and variables within their study. This is typically based on aspects drawn from the theoretical framework, so there is a relationship between the two.

Quite commonly, conceptual frameworks are used to visualise the potential causal relationships and pathways that the researcher expects to find, based on their understanding of both the theoretical literature and the existing empirical research . Therefore, the conceptual framework is often used to develop research questions and hypotheses .

Let’s look at an example of a conceptual framework to make it a little more tangible. You’ll notice that in this specific conceptual framework, the hypotheses are integrated into the visual, helping to connect the rest of the document to the framework.

example of a conceptual framework

As you can see, conceptual frameworks often make use of different shapes , lines and arrows to visualise the connections and relationships between different components and/or variables. Ultimately, the conceptual framework provides an opportunity for you to make explicit your understanding of how everything is connected . So, be sure to make use of all the visual aids you can – clean design, well-considered colours and concise text are your friends.

Theoretical framework vs conceptual framework

As you can see, the theoretical framework and the conceptual framework are closely related concepts, but they differ in terms of focus and purpose. The theoretical framework is used to lay down a foundation of theory on which your study will be built, whereas the conceptual framework visualises what you anticipate the relationships between concepts, constructs and variables may be, based on your understanding of the existing literature and the specific context and focus of your research. In other words, they’re different tools for different jobs , but they’re neighbours in the toolbox.

Naturally, the theoretical framework and the conceptual framework are not mutually exclusive . In fact, it’s quite likely that you’ll include both in your dissertation or thesis, especially if your research aims involve investigating relationships between variables. Of course, every research project is different and universities differ in terms of their expectations for dissertations and theses, so it’s always a good idea to have a look at past projects to get a feel for what the norms and expectations are at your specific institution.

Want to learn more about research terminology, methods and techniques? Be sure to check out the rest of the Grad Coach blog . Alternatively, if you’re looking for hands-on help, have a look at our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through the research process, step by step.

example of framework of the study in research paper

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This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 


Thank you for giving a valuable lesson

Muhammed Ebrahim Feto

good thanks!

Benson Wandago


olawale rasaq

thanks for given very interested understand about both theoritical and conceptual framework


I am researching teacher beliefs about inclusive education but not using a theoretical framework just conceptual frame using teacher beliefs, inclusive education and inclusive practices as my concepts


good, fantastic

Melese Takele

great! thanks for the clarification. I am planning to use both for my implementation evaluation of EmONC service at primary health care facility level. its theoretical foundation rooted from the principles of implementation science.

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example of framework of the study in research paper

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  • Chapter 1: Home
  • Narrowing Your Topic
  • Problem Statement
  • Purpose Statement
  • Conceptual Framework

Designing the Theoretical Framework

Theoretical framework guide, making a theoretical framework, example framework, additional framework resources.

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What is it?

  • A foundational review of existing theories. 
  • Serves as a roadmap or blueprint for developing arguments and supporting research.
  • Overview of the theory that the research is based on.
  • Can be made up of theories, principles, and concepts.

What does it do?

  • Explains the why and how of a particular phenomenon within a particular body of literature.
  • Connects the research subject with the theory.
  • Specifies the study’s scope; makes it more valuable and generalizable.
  • Guides further actions like framing the research questions, developing the literature review, and data collection and analyses.

What should be in it?

  • Theory or theories that the researcher considers relevant for their research, principles, and concepts.
  • Theoretical Framework Guide Use this guide to determine the guiding framework for your theoretical dissertation research.

How to make a theoretical framework

  • Specify research objectives.
  • Note the prominent variables under the study.
  • Explore and review the literature through keywords identified as prominent variables.
  • Note the theories that contain these variables or the keywords.
  • Review all selected theories again in the light of the study’s objectives, and the key variables identified.
  • Search for alternative theoretical propositions in the literature that may challenge the ones already selected.
  • Ensure that the framework aligns with the study’s objectives, problem statement, the main research question, methodology, data analysis, and the expected conclusion.
  • Decide on the final framework and begin developing.
  • Theoretical Framework Example for a Thesis or Dissertation This link offers an example theoretical framework.

Some additional helpful resources in constructing a theoretical framework for study:

  • https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/theoretical-framework/
  • https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/theoretical-framework-example/
  • https://www.projectguru.in/how-to-write-the-theoretical-framework-of-research/

Theoretical Framework Research

The term conceptual framework and theoretical framework are often and erroneously used interchangeably (Grant & Osanloo, 2014). A theoretical framework provides the theoretical assumptions for the larger context of a study, and is the foundation or ‘lens’ by which a study is developed. This framework helps to ground the research focus understudy within theoretical underpinnings and to frame the inquiry for data analysis and interpretation.  The application of theory in traditional theoretical research is to understand, explain, and predict phenomena (Swanson, 2013).

Casanave, C.P.,& Li,Y.(2015). Novices’ struggles with conceptual and theoretical framing in writing  dissertations and papers for publication. Publications,3 (2),104-119.doi:10.3390/publications3020104

Grant, C., & Osanloo, A. (2014). Understanding, Selecting, and Integrating a Theoretical Framework in Dissertation Research: Creating the Blueprint for Your “House. ” Administrative Issues Journal: Connecting Education, Practice, and Research, 4(2), 12–26

Swanson, R. (2013). Theory building in applied disciplines . San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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Organizing Academic Research Papers: Theoretical Framework

  • Purpose of Guide
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Theories are formulated to explain, predict, and understand phenomena and, in many cases, to challenge and extend existing knowledge, within the limits of the critical bounding assumptions. The theoretical framework is the structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study. The theoretical framework introduces and describes the theory which explains why the research problem under study exists.

Importance of Theory

A theoretical framework consists of concepts, together with their definitions, and existing theory/theories that are used for your particular study. The theoretical framework must demonstrate an understanding of theories and concepts that are relevant to the topic of your  research paper and that will relate it to the broader fields of knowledge in the class you are taking.

The theoretical framework is not something that is found readily available in the literature . You must review course readings and pertinent research literature for theories and analytic models that are relevant to the research problem you are investigating. The selection of a theory should depend on its appropriateness, ease of application, and explanatory power.

The theoretical framework strengthens the study in the following ways .

  • An explicit statement of  theoretical assumptions permits the reader to evaluate them critically.
  • The theoretical framework connects the researcher to existing knowledge. Guided by a relevant theory, you are given a basis for your hypotheses and choice of research methods.
  • Articulating the theoretical assumptions of a research study forces you to address questions of why and how. It permits you to move from simply describing a phenomenon observed to generalizing about various aspects of that phenomenon.
  • Having a theory helps you to identify the limits to those generalizations. A theoretical framework specifies which key variables influence a phenomenon of interest. It alerts you to examine how those key variables might differ and under what circumstances.

By virtue of its application nature, good theory in the social sciences is of value precisely because it fulfills one primary purpose: to explain the meaning, nature, and challenges of a phenomenon, often experienced but unexplained in the world in which we live, so that we may use that knowledge and understanding to act in more informed and effective ways.

The Conceptual Framework. College of Education. Alabama State University; Drafting an Argument . Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Trochim, William M.K. Philosophy of Research. Research Methods Knowledge Base. 2006.

Strategies for Developing the Theoretical Framework

I.  Developing the Framework

Here are some strategies to develop of an effective theoretical framework:

  • Examine your thesis title and research problem . The research problem anchors your entire study and forms the basis from which you construct your theoretical framework.
  • Brainstorm on what you consider to be the key variables in your research . Answer the question, what factors contribute to the presumed effect?
  • Review related literature to find answers to your research question.
  • List  the constructs and variables that might be relevant to your study. Group these variables into independent and dependent categories.
  • Review the key social science theories that are introduced to you in your course readings and choose the theory or theories that can best explain the relationships between the key variables in your study [note the Writing Tip on this page].
  • Discuss the assumptions or propositions of this theory and point out their relevance to your research.

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, understanding concepts and variables according to the given definitions, and building knowledge by validating or challenging theoretical assumptions.

II.  Purpose

Think of theories as the conceptual basis for understanding, analyzing, and designing ways to investigate relationships within social systems. To the end, the following roles served by a theory can help guide the development of your framework.*

  • Means by which new research data can be interpreted and coded for future use,
  • Response to new problems that have no previously identified solutions strategy,
  • Means for identifying and defining research problems,
  • Means for prescribing or evaluating solutions to research problems,
  • Way of telling us that certain facts among the accumulated knowledge are important and which facts are not,
  • Means of giving old data new interpretations and new meaning,
  • Means by which to identify important new issues and prescribe the most critical research questions that need to be answered to maximize understanding of the issue,
  • Means of providing members of a professional discipline with a common language and a frame of reference for defining boundaries of their profession, and
  • Means to guide and inform research so that it can, in turn, guide research efforts and improve professional practice.

*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; Sutton, Robert I. and Barry M. Staw. “What Theory is Not.” Administrative Science Quarterly 40 (September 1995): 371-384.

Structure and Writing Style

The theoretical framework may be rooted in a specific theory , in which case, you are expected to test the validity of an existing theory in relation to specific events, issues, or phenomena. Many social science research papers fit into this rubric. For example, Peripheral Realism theory, which categorizes perceived differences between nation-states as those that give orders, those that obey, and those that rebel, could be used as a means for understanding conflicted relationships among countries in Africa. A test of this theory could be the following: Does Peripheral Realism theory help explain intra-state actions, such as, the growing split between southern and northern Sudan that may likely lead to the creation of two nations?

However, you may not always be asked by your professor to test a specific theory in your paper, but to develop your own framework from which your analysis of the research problem is derived . Given this, it is perhaps easiest to understand the nature and function of a theoretical framework if it is viewed as the answer to two basic questions:

  • What is the research problem/question? [e.g., "How should the individual and the state relate during periods of conflict?"]
  • Why is your approach a feasible solution? [I could choose to test Instrumentalist or Circumstantialists models developed among Ethnic Conflict Theorists that rely upon socio-economic-political factors to explain individual-state relations and to apply this theoretical model to periods of war between nations].

The answers to these questions come from a thorough review of the literature and your course readings [summarized and analyzed in the next section of your paper] and the gaps in the research that emerge from the review process. With this in mind, a complete theoretical framework will likely not emerge until after you have completed a thorough review of the literature .

In writing this part of your research paper, keep in mind the following:

  • Clearly describe the framework, concepts, models, or specific theories that underpin your study . This includes noting who the key theorists are in the field who have conducted research on the problem you are investigating and, when necessary, the historical context that supports the formulation of that theory. This latter element is particularly important if the theory is relatively unknown or it is borrowed from another discipline.
  • Position your theoretical framework within a broader context of related frameworks , concepts, models, or theories . There will likely be several concepts, theories, or models that can be used to help develop a framework for understanding the research problem. Therefore, note why the framework you've chosen is the appropriate one.
  • The present tense is used when writing about theory.
  • You should make your theoretical assumptions as explicit as possible . Later, your discussion of methodology should be linked back to this theoretical framework.
  • Don’t just take what the theory says as a given! Reality is never accurately represented in such a simplistic way; if you imply that it can be, you fundamentally distort a reader's ability to understand the findings that emerge. Given this, always note the limitiations of the theoretical framework you've chosen [i.e., what parts of the research problem require further investigation because the theory does not explain a certain phenomena].

The Conceptual Framework. College of Education. Alabama State University; Conceptual Framework: What Do You Think is Going On? College of Engineering. University of Michigan; Drafting an Argument . Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Lynham, Susan A. “The General Method of Theory-Building Research in Applied Disciplines.” Advances in Developing Human Resources 4 (August 2002): 221-241; Tavallaei, Mehdi and Mansor Abu Talib. A General Perspective on the Role of Theory in Qualitative Research. Journal of International Social Research 3 (Spring 2010); Trochim, William M.K. Philosophy of Research. Research Methods Knowledge Base. 2006.

Writing Tip

Borrowing Theoretical Constructs from Elsewhere

A growing and increasingly important trend in the social sciences is to think about and attempt to understand specific research problems from an interdisciplinary perspective. One way to do this is to not rely exclusively on the theories you've read about in a particular class, but to think about how an issue might be informed by theories developed in other disciplines. For example, if you are a political science student studying the rhetorical strategies used by female incumbants in state legislature campaigns, theories about the use of language could be derived, not only from political science, but linguistics, communication studies, philosophy, psychology, and, in this particular case, feminist studies. Building theoretical frameworks based on the postulates and hypotheses developed in other disciplinary contexts can be both enlightening and an effective way to be fully engaged in the research topic.

Another Writing Tip

Don't Undertheorize!

Never leave the theory hanging out there in the Introduction never to be mentioned again. Undertheorizing weakens your paper. The theoretical framework you introduce should guide your study throughout the paper. Be sure to always connect theory to the analysis and to explain in the discussion part of your paper how the theoretical framework you chose fit the research problem, or if appropriate, was inadequate in explaining the phenomenon you were investigating. In that case, don't be afraid to propose your own theory based on your findings.

Still Another Writing Tip

What's a Theory? What's a Hypothesis?

The terms theory and hypothesis are often used interchangeably in everyday use. However, the difference between them in scholarly research is important, particularly when using an experimental design. A theory is a well-established principle that has been developed to explain some aspect of the natural world. Theories arise from repeated observation and testing and incorporates facts, laws, predictions, and tested hypotheses that are widely accepted [e.g., rational choice theory; grounded theory].

A hypothesis is a specific, testable prediction about what you expect to happen in your study. For example, an experiment designed to look at the relationship between study habits and test anxiety might have a hypothesis that states, "We predict that students with better study habits will suffer less test anxiety." Unless your study is exploratory in nature, your hypothesis should always explain what you expect to happen during the course of your research.

The key distinctions are:

  • A theory predicts events in a broad, general context;  a hypothesis makes a specific prediction about a specified set of circumstances.
  • A theory has been extensively tested and is generally accepted among scholars; a hypothesis is a speculative guess that has yet to be tested.

Cherry, Kendra. Introduction to Research Methods: Theory and Hypothesis . About.com Psychology; Gezae, Michael et al. Welcome Presentation on Hypothesis . Slideshare presentation.

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Sacred Heart University



Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks for Thesis Studies: What you must know

example of framework of the study in research paper

A theoretical framework is a conceptual model that provides a systematic and structured way of thinking about a research problem or question. It helps to identify key variables and the relationships between them and to guide the selection and interpretation of data. Theoretical frameworks draw on existing theories and research and can be used to develop new hypotheses or test existing ones. They provide a foundation for research design, data collection, and analysis and can help to ensure that research is relevant, rigorous, and coherent. Theoretical frameworks are common in many disciplines, including social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities, and are essential for building knowledge and advancing understanding in a field.

This article explains the importance of frameworks in a thesis study and the differences between conceptual frameworks and theoretical frameworks. It provides guidelines on how to write a thesis framework, definitions of variable types, and examples of framework types.

What is a research framework and why do I need one?

When planning your thesis study, you need to justify your research and explain its design to your readers. This is called the research framework.

When planning your thesis study, you need to justify your research and explain its design to your readers. This is called the research framework. Think of it as the foundation of a building. A good building needs a strong foundation. Similarly, your research needs to be supported by reviewing and explaining the existing knowledge in the field, describing how your research study will fit within or contribute to the existing literature (e.g., it could challenge or test an existing theory or address a knowledge gap), and informing the reader how your study design aligns with your thesis question or hypothesis.

Important components of the framework are a literature review of recent studies associated with your thesis topic as well as theories/models used in your field of research. The literature review acts as a filtering tool to select appropriate thesis questions and guide data collection, analysis, and interpretation of your findings. Think broadly! Apart from reviewing relevant published papers in your field of research, also explore theories that you have come across in your undergraduate courses, other published thesis studies, encyclopedias, and handbooks.

There are two types of research frameworks: theoretical and conceptual .

What is a conceptual framework?

A conceptual framework is a written or visual representation that explains the study variables and their relationships with each other. The starting point is a literature review of existing studies and theories about your topic.

Steps to develop a conceptual framework

  • Clarify your study topic by identifying and defining key concepts in your thesis problem statement and thesis question. Essentially, your thesis should address a knowledge gap.
  • Perform a literature review to provide a background to interpret and explain the study findings. Also, draw on empirical knowledge that you have gained from personal experience.
  • Identify crucial variables from the literature review and your empirical knowledge, classify them as dependent or independent variables, and define them.
  • Brainstorm all the possible factors that could affect each dependent variable.
  • Propose relationships among the variables and determine any associations that exist between all variables.
  • Use a flowchart or tree diagram to present your conceptual framework.

Types of variables

When developing a conceptual framework, you will need to identify the following:

  • Independent variables
  • Dependent variables
  • Moderating variables
  • Mediating variables
  • Control variables

First, identify the independent (cause) and dependent (effect) variables in your study. Then, identify variables that influence this relationship, such as moderating variables, mediating variables, and control variables. A moderating variable changes the relationship between independent and dependent variables when its value increases or decreases. A mediating variable links independent and dependent variables to better explain the relationship between them. A control variable could potentially impact the cause-and-effect relationship but is kept constant throughout the study so that its effects on the findings/outcomes can be ruled out.

Example of a conceptual framework

You want to investigate the hours spent exercising (cause) on childhood obesity (effect).

example of framework of the study in research paper

Now, you need to consider moderating variables that affect the cause-and-effect relationship. In our example, the amount of junk food eaten would affect the level of obesity.

example of framework of the study in research paper

Next, you need to consider mediating variables. In our example, the maximum heart rate during exercise would affect the child’s weight.

example of framework of the study in research paper

Finally, you need to consider control variables. In this example, because we do not want to investigate the role of age in obesity, we can use this as a control variable. Thus, the study subjects would be children of a specific age (e.g., aged 6–10 years).

example of framework of the study in research paper

What is a theoretical framework?

A theoretical framework provides a general framework for data analysis. It defines the concepts used and explains existing theories and models in your field of research.

A theoretical framework provides a general framework for data analysis. It defines the concepts used and explains existing theories and models in your field of research. It also explains any assumptions that were used to inform your approach and your choice of specific rationales. Theoretical frameworks are often used in the fields of social sciences.

Purpose of a theoretical framework

  • Test and challenge existing theories
  • Establish orderly connections between observations and facts
  • Predict and control situations
  • Develop hypotheses

Steps to develop a theoretical framework

  • Identify and define key concepts in your thesis problem statement and thesis question.
  • Explain and evaluate existing theories by writing a literature review that describes the concepts, models, and theories that support your study.
  • Choose the theory that best explains the relationships between the key variables in your study.
  • Explain how your research study fills a knowledge gap or fits into existing studies (e.g., testing if an established theory applies to your thesis context).
  • Discuss the relevance of any theoretical assumptions and limitations.

A thesis topic can be approached from a variety of angles, depending on the theories used.

  • In psychology, a behavioral approach would use different methods and assumptions compared with a cognitive approach when treating anxiety.
  • In literature, a book could be analyzed using different literary theories, such as Marxism or poststructuralism.

Structuring a theoretical framework

The structure of a theoretical framework is fluid, and there are no specific rules that need to be followed, as long as it is clearly and logically presented.

The theoretical framework is a natural extension of your literature review. The literature review should identify gaps in the field of your research, and reviewing existing theories will help to determine how these can be addressed. The structure of a theoretical framework is fluid, and there are no specific rules that need to be followed, as long as it is clearly and logically presented. The theoretical framework is sometimes integrated into the literature review chapter of a thesis, but it can also be included as a separate chapter, depending on the complexity of the theories.

Example of a theoretical framework

The sales staff at Company X are unmotivated and struggling to meet their monthly targets. Some members of the management team believe that this could be achieved by implementing a comprehensive product-training program, but others believe that introducing a sales commission structure will help.

Company X is not achieving their monthly sales targets

To increase monthly sales.

Research question:

How can Company X motivate their sales team to achieve its monthly sales targets?


  • Why do the sales staff feel unmotivated?
  • What is the relationship between motivation and monetary rewards?
  • Do the sales staff feel that they have sufficient product knowledge?

Theoretical framework:

A literature search will need to be performed to understand the background of the many different theories of motivation in psychology. For example, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (basic human needs—physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization—have to be fulfilled before one can live up to their true potential), Vroom’s Theory of Expectancy (people decide upon their actions based on the outcomes they expect), and Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory (goals are a key driver of one’s behavior). These theories would need to be investigated to determine which would be the best approach to increase the motivation of the sales staff in Company X so that the monthly sales targets are met.

A robust conceptual or theoretical framework is crucial when writing a thesis/dissertation. It defines your research gap, identifies your approach, and guides the interpretation of your results.

A thesis is the most important document you will write during your academic studies. For professional thesis editing and thesis proofreading services, check out Enago's Thesis Editing service s for more information.

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What type of framework is used in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) domain? +

Theoretical frameworks are typically used in the HSS domain, while conceptual frameworks are used in the Sciences domain.

What is the difference between mediating versus moderating variables? +

The difference between mediators and moderators can be confusing. A moderating variable is unaffected by the independent variable and can increase or decrease the strength of the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. A mediating variable is affected by the independent variable and can explain the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. T he statistical correlation between the independent and dependent variables is higher when the mediating variable is excluded.

What software should I use to present my conceptual framework? +

The software program Creately provides some useful templates that can help you get started. Other recommended programs are SmartDraw , Inkscape , and diagrams.net .

Educational resources and simple solutions for your research journey

theoretical framework

What is a Theoretical Framework? How to Write It (with Examples) 

What is a Theoretical Framework? How to Write It (with Examples)

Theoretical framework 1,2 is the structure that supports and describes a theory. A theory is a set of interrelated concepts and definitions that present a systematic view of phenomena by describing the relationship among the variables for explaining these phenomena. A theory is developed after a long research process and explains the existence of a research problem in a study. A theoretical framework guides the research process like a roadmap for the research study and helps researchers clearly interpret their findings by providing a structure for organizing data and developing conclusions.   

A theoretical framework in research is an important part of a manuscript and should be presented in the first section. It shows an understanding of the theories and concepts relevant to the research and helps limit the scope of the research.  

Table of Contents

What is a theoretical framework ?  

A theoretical framework in research can be defined as a set of concepts, theories, ideas, and assumptions that help you understand a specific phenomenon or problem. It can be considered a blueprint that is borrowed by researchers to develop their own research inquiry. A theoretical framework in research helps researchers design and conduct their research and analyze and interpret their findings. It explains the relationship between variables, identifies gaps in existing knowledge, and guides the development of research questions, hypotheses, and methodologies to address that gap.  

example of framework of the study in research paper

Now that you know the answer to ‘ What is a theoretical framework? ’, check the following table that lists the different types of theoretical frameworks in research: 3

Developing a theoretical framework in research can help in the following situations: 4

  • When conducting research on complex phenomena because a theoretical framework helps organize the research questions, hypotheses, and findings  
  • When the research problem requires a deeper understanding of the underlying concepts  
  • When conducting research that seeks to address a specific gap in knowledge  
  • When conducting research that involves the analysis of existing theories  

Importance of a theoretical framework  

The purpose of theoretical framework s is to support you in the following ways during the research process: 2  

  • Provide a structure for the complete research process  
  • Assist researchers in incorporating formal theories into their study as a guide  
  • Provide a broad guideline to maintain the research focus  
  • Guide the selection of research methods, data collection, and data analysis  
  • Help understand the relationships between different concepts and develop hypotheses and research questions  
  • Address gaps in existing literature  
  • Analyze the data collected and draw meaningful conclusions and make the findings more generalizable  

Theoretical vs. Conceptual framework  

While a theoretical framework covers the theoretical aspect of your study, that is, the various theories that can guide your research, a conceptual framework defines the variables for your study and presents how they relate to each other. The conceptual framework is developed before collecting the data. However, both frameworks help in understanding the research problem and guide the development, collection, and analysis of the research.  

The following table lists some differences between conceptual and theoretical frameworks . 5

example of framework of the study in research paper

How to write a theoretical framework  

The following general steps can help those wondering how to write a theoretical framework: 2

  • Identify and define the key concepts clearly and organize them into a suitable structure.  
  • Use appropriate terminology and define all key terms to ensure consistency.  
  • Identify the relationships between concepts and provide a logical and coherent structure.  
  • Develop hypotheses that can be tested through data collection and analysis.  
  • Keep it concise and focused with clear and specific aims.  

Examples of a theoretical framework  

Here are two examples of a theoretical framework. 6,7

Example 1 .   

An insurance company is facing a challenge cross-selling its products. The sales department indicates that most customers have just one policy, although the company offers over 10 unique policies. The company would want its customers to purchase more than one policy since most customers are purchasing policies from other companies.  

Objective : To sell more insurance products to existing customers.  

Problem : Many customers are purchasing additional policies from other companies.  

Research question : How can customer product awareness be improved to increase cross-selling of insurance products?  

Sub-questions: What is the relationship between product awareness and sales? Which factors determine product awareness?  

Since “product awareness” is the main focus in this study, the theoretical framework should analyze this concept and study previous literature on this subject and propose theories that discuss the relationship between product awareness and its improvement in sales of other products.  

Example 2 .

A company is facing a continued decline in its sales and profitability. The main reason for the decline in the profitability is poor services, which have resulted in a high level of dissatisfaction among customers and consequently a decline in customer loyalty. The management is planning to concentrate on clients’ satisfaction and customer loyalty.  

Objective: To provide better service to customers and increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.  

Problem: Continued decrease in sales and profitability.  

Research question: How can customer satisfaction help in increasing sales and profitability?  

Sub-questions: What is the relationship between customer loyalty and sales? Which factors influence the level of satisfaction gained by customers?  

Since customer satisfaction, loyalty, profitability, and sales are the important topics in this example, the theoretical framework should focus on these concepts.  

Benefits of a theoretical framework  

There are several benefits of a theoretical framework in research: 2  

  • Provides a structured approach allowing researchers to organize their thoughts in a coherent way.  
  • Helps to identify gaps in knowledge highlighting areas where further research is needed.  
  • Increases research efficiency by providing a clear direction for research and focusing efforts on relevant data.  
  • Improves the quality of research by providing a rigorous and systematic approach to research, which can increase the likelihood of producing valid and reliable results.  
  • Provides a basis for comparison by providing a common language and conceptual framework for researchers to compare their findings with other research in the field, facilitating the exchange of ideas and the development of new knowledge.  

example of framework of the study in research paper

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1. How do I develop a theoretical framework ? 7

A1. The following steps can be used for developing a theoretical framework :  

  • Identify the research problem and research questions by clearly defining the problem that the research aims to address and identifying the specific questions that the research aims to answer.
  • Review the existing literature to identify the key concepts that have been studied previously. These concepts should be clearly defined and organized into a structure.
  • Develop propositions that describe the relationships between the concepts. These propositions should be based on the existing literature and should be testable.
  • Develop hypotheses that can be tested through data collection and analysis.
  • Test the theoretical framework through data collection and analysis to determine whether the framework is valid and reliable.

Q2. How do I know if I have developed a good theoretical framework or not? 8

A2. The following checklist could help you answer this question:  

  • Is my theoretical framework clearly seen as emerging from my literature review?  
  • Is it the result of my analysis of the main theories previously studied in my same research field?  
  • Does it represent or is it relevant to the most current state of theoretical knowledge on my topic?  
  • Does the theoretical framework in research present a logical, coherent, and analytical structure that will support my data analysis?  
  • Do the different parts of the theory help analyze the relationships among the variables in my research?  
  • Does the theoretical framework target how I will answer my research questions or test the hypotheses?  
  • Have I documented every source I have used in developing this theoretical framework ?  
  • Is my theoretical framework a model, a table, a figure, or a description?  
  • Have I explained why this is the appropriate theoretical framework for my data analysis?  

Q3. Can I use multiple theoretical frameworks in a single study?  

A3. Using multiple theoretical frameworks in a single study is acceptable as long as each theory is clearly defined and related to the study. Each theory should also be discussed individually. This approach may, however, be tedious and effort intensive. Therefore, multiple theoretical frameworks should be used only if absolutely necessary for the study.  

Q4. Is it necessary to include a theoretical framework in every research study?  

A4. The theoretical framework connects researchers to existing knowledge. So, including a theoretical framework would help researchers get a clear idea about the research process and help structure their study effectively by clearly defining an objective, a research problem, and a research question.  

Q5. Can a theoretical framework be developed for qualitative research?  

A5. Yes, a theoretical framework can be developed for qualitative research. However, qualitative research methods may or may not involve a theory developed beforehand. In these studies, a theoretical framework can guide the study and help develop a theory during the data analysis phase. This resulting framework uses inductive reasoning. The outcome of this inductive approach can be referred to as an emergent theoretical framework . This method helps researchers develop a theory inductively, which explains a phenomenon without a guiding framework at the outset.  

example of framework of the study in research paper

Q6. What is the main difference between a literature review and a theoretical framework ?  

A6. A literature review explores already existing studies about a specific topic in order to highlight a gap, which 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 specific conceptual and analytical approach to address the identified gap in the research.  

Theoretical frameworks are thus important components of the research process and researchers should therefore devote ample amount of time to develop a solid theoretical framework so that it can effectively guide their research in a suitable direction. We hope this article has provided a good insight into the concept of theoretical frameworks in research and their benefits.  


  • Organizing academic research papers: Theoretical framework. Sacred Heart University library. Accessed August 4, 2023. https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185919#:~:text=The%20theoretical%20framework%20is%20the,research%20problem%20under%20study%20exists .  
  • Salomao A. Understanding what is theoretical framework. Mind the Graph website. Accessed August 5, 2023. https://mindthegraph.com/blog/what-is-theoretical-framework/  
  • Theoretical framework—Types, examples, and writing guide. Research Method website. Accessed August 6, 2023. https://researchmethod.net/theoretical-framework/  
  • Grant C., Osanloo A. Understanding, selecting, and integrating a theoretical framework in dissertation research: Creating the blueprint for your “house.” Administrative Issues Journal : Connecting Education, Practice, and Research; 4(2):12-26. 2014. Accessed August 7, 2023. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1058505.pdf  
  • Difference between conceptual framework and theoretical framework. MIM Learnovate website. Accessed August 7, 2023. https://mimlearnovate.com/difference-between-conceptual-framework-and-theoretical-framework/  
  • Example of a theoretical framework—Thesis & dissertation. BacherlorPrint website. Accessed August 6, 2023. https://www.bachelorprint.com/dissertation/example-of-a-theoretical-framework/  
  • Sample theoretical framework in dissertation and thesis—Overview and example. Students assignment help website. Accessed August 6, 2023. https://www.studentsassignmenthelp.co.uk/blogs/sample-dissertation-theoretical-framework/#Example_of_the_theoretical_framework  
  • Kivunja C. Distinguishing between theory, theoretical framework, and conceptual framework: A systematic review of lessons from the field. Accessed August 8, 2023. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1198682.pdf  

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Home » Theoretical Framework – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

Theoretical Framework – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

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Theoretical Framework

Theoretical Framework


Theoretical framework refers to a set of concepts, theories, ideas , and assumptions that serve as a foundation for understanding a particular phenomenon or problem. It provides a conceptual framework that helps researchers to design and conduct their research, as well as to analyze and interpret their findings.

In research, a theoretical framework explains the relationship between various variables, identifies gaps in existing knowledge, and guides the development of research questions, hypotheses, and methodologies. It also helps to contextualize the research within a broader theoretical perspective, and can be used to guide the interpretation of results and the formulation of recommendations.

Types of Theoretical Framework

Types of Types of Theoretical Framework are as follows:

Conceptual Framework

This type of framework defines the key concepts and relationships between them. It helps to provide a theoretical foundation for a study or research project .

Deductive Framework

This type of framework starts with a general theory or hypothesis and then uses data to test and refine it. It is often used in quantitative research .

Inductive Framework

This type of framework starts with data and then develops a theory or hypothesis based on the patterns and themes that emerge from the data. It is often used in qualitative research .

Empirical Framework

This type of framework focuses on the collection and analysis of empirical data, such as surveys or experiments. It is often used in scientific research .

Normative Framework

This type of framework defines a set of norms or values that guide behavior or decision-making. It is often used in ethics and social sciences.

Explanatory Framework

This type of framework seeks to explain the underlying mechanisms or causes of a particular phenomenon or behavior. It is often used in psychology and social sciences.

Components of Theoretical Framework

The components of a theoretical framework include:

  • Concepts : The basic building blocks of a theoretical framework. Concepts are abstract ideas or generalizations that represent objects, events, or phenomena.
  • Variables : These are measurable and observable aspects of a concept. In a research context, variables can be manipulated or measured to test hypotheses.
  • Assumptions : These are beliefs or statements that are taken for granted and are not tested in a study. They provide a starting point for developing hypotheses.
  • Propositions : These are statements that explain the relationships between concepts and variables in a theoretical framework.
  • Hypotheses : These are testable predictions that are derived from the theoretical framework. Hypotheses are used to guide data collection and analysis.
  • Constructs : These are abstract concepts that cannot be directly measured but are inferred from observable variables. Constructs provide a way to understand complex phenomena.
  • Models : These are simplified representations of reality that are used to explain, predict, or control a phenomenon.

How to Write Theoretical Framework

A theoretical framework is an essential part of any research study or paper, as it helps to provide a theoretical basis for the research and guide the analysis and interpretation of the data. Here are some steps to help you write a theoretical framework:

  • Identify the key concepts and variables : Start by identifying the main concepts and variables that your research is exploring. These could include things like motivation, behavior, attitudes, or any other relevant concepts.
  • Review relevant literature: Conduct a thorough review of the existing literature in your field to identify key theories and ideas that relate to your research. This will help you to understand the existing knowledge and theories that are relevant to your research and provide a basis for your theoretical framework.
  • Develop a conceptual framework : Based on your literature review, develop a conceptual framework that outlines the key concepts and their relationships. This framework should provide a clear and concise overview of the theoretical perspective that underpins your research.
  • Identify hypotheses and research questions: Based on your conceptual framework, identify the hypotheses and research questions that you want to test or explore in your research.
  • Test your theoretical framework: Once you have developed your theoretical framework, test it by applying it to your research data. This will help you to identify any gaps or weaknesses in your framework and refine it as necessary.
  • Write up your theoretical framework: Finally, write up your theoretical framework in a clear and concise manner, using appropriate terminology and referencing the relevant literature to support your arguments.

Theoretical Framework Examples

Here are some examples of theoretical frameworks:

  • Social Learning Theory : This framework, developed by Albert Bandura, suggests that people learn from their environment, including the behaviors of others, and that behavior is influenced by both external and internal factors.
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs : Abraham Maslow proposed that human needs are arranged in a hierarchy, with basic physiological needs at the bottom, followed by safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization at the top. This framework has been used in various fields, including psychology and education.
  • Ecological Systems Theory : This framework, developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner, suggests that a person’s development is influenced by the interaction between the individual and the various environments in which they live, such as family, school, and community.
  • Feminist Theory: This framework examines how gender and power intersect to influence social, cultural, and political issues. It emphasizes the importance of understanding and challenging systems of oppression.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Theory: This framework suggests that our thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes influence our behavior, and that changing our thought patterns can lead to changes in behavior and emotional responses.
  • Attachment Theory: This framework examines the ways in which early relationships with caregivers shape our later relationships and attachment styles.
  • Critical Race Theory : This framework examines how race intersects with other forms of social stratification and oppression to perpetuate inequality and discrimination.

When to Have A Theoretical Framework

Following are some situations When to Have A Theoretical Framework:

  • A theoretical framework should be developed when conducting research in any discipline, as it provides a foundation for understanding the research problem and guiding the research process.
  • A theoretical framework is essential when conducting research on complex phenomena, as it helps to organize and structure the research questions, hypotheses, and findings.
  • A theoretical framework should be developed when the research problem requires a deeper understanding of the underlying concepts and principles that govern the phenomenon being studied.
  • A theoretical framework is particularly important when conducting research in social sciences, as it helps to explain the relationships between variables and provides a framework for testing hypotheses.
  • A theoretical framework should be developed when conducting research in applied fields, such as engineering or medicine, as it helps to provide a theoretical basis for the development of new technologies or treatments.
  • A theoretical framework should be developed when conducting research that seeks to address a specific gap in knowledge, as it helps to define the problem and identify potential solutions.
  • A theoretical framework is also important when conducting research that involves the analysis of existing theories or concepts, as it helps to provide a framework for comparing and contrasting different theories and concepts.
  • A theoretical framework should be developed when conducting research that seeks to make predictions or develop generalizations about a particular phenomenon, as it helps to provide a basis for evaluating the accuracy of these predictions or generalizations.
  • Finally, a theoretical framework should be developed when conducting research that seeks to make a contribution to the field, as it helps to situate the research within the broader context of the discipline and identify its significance.

Purpose of Theoretical Framework

The purposes of a theoretical framework include:

  • Providing a conceptual framework for the study: A theoretical framework helps researchers to define and clarify the concepts and variables of interest in their research. It enables researchers to develop a clear and concise definition of the problem, which in turn helps to guide the research process.
  • Guiding the research design: A theoretical framework can guide the selection of research methods, data collection techniques, and data analysis procedures. By outlining the key concepts and assumptions underlying the research questions, the theoretical framework can help researchers to identify the most appropriate research design for their study.
  • Supporting the interpretation of research findings: A theoretical framework provides a framework for interpreting the research findings by helping researchers to make connections between their findings and existing theory. It enables researchers to identify the implications of their findings for theory development and to assess the generalizability of their findings.
  • Enhancing the credibility of the research: A well-developed theoretical framework can enhance the credibility of the research by providing a strong theoretical foundation for the study. It demonstrates that the research is based on a solid understanding of the relevant theory and that the research questions are grounded in a clear conceptual framework.
  • Facilitating communication and collaboration: A theoretical framework provides a common language and conceptual framework for researchers, enabling them to communicate and collaborate more effectively. It helps to ensure that everyone involved in the research is working towards the same goals and is using the same concepts and definitions.

Characteristics of Theoretical Framework

Some of the characteristics of a theoretical framework include:

  • Conceptual clarity: The concepts used in the theoretical framework should be clearly defined and understood by all stakeholders.
  • Logical coherence : The framework should be internally consistent, with each concept and assumption logically connected to the others.
  • Empirical relevance: The framework should be based on empirical evidence and research findings.
  • Parsimony : The framework should be as simple as possible, without sacrificing its ability to explain the phenomenon in question.
  • Flexibility : The framework should be adaptable to new findings and insights.
  • Testability : The framework should be testable through research, with clear hypotheses that can be falsified or supported by data.
  • Applicability : The framework should be useful for practical applications, such as designing interventions or policies.

Advantages of Theoretical Framework

Here are some of the advantages of having a theoretical framework:

  • Provides a clear direction : A theoretical framework helps researchers to identify the key concepts and variables they need to study and the relationships between them. This provides a clear direction for the research and helps researchers to focus their efforts and resources.
  • Increases the validity of the research: A theoretical framework helps to ensure that the research is based on sound theoretical principles and concepts. This increases the validity of the research by ensuring that it is grounded in established knowledge and is not based on arbitrary assumptions.
  • Enables comparisons between studies : A theoretical framework provides a common language and set of concepts that researchers can use to compare and contrast their findings. This helps to build a cumulative body of knowledge and allows researchers to identify patterns and trends across different studies.
  • Helps to generate hypotheses: A theoretical framework provides a basis for generating hypotheses about the relationships between different concepts and variables. This can help to guide the research process and identify areas that require further investigation.
  • Facilitates communication: A theoretical framework provides a common language and set of concepts that researchers can use to communicate their findings to other researchers and to the wider community. This makes it easier for others to understand the research and its implications.

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