How to Formulate a Strong Theoretical Framework

Last Updated: 08 June 2024

If you are planning to write a research paper, proposal, thesis, or dissertation, you need to incorporate a theoretical framework to guide your paper. A theoretical framework plays a significant role in research and academic studies. It provides a structure for understanding and analyzing a given research subject and topic.

In this article, we will explore the theoretical framework, provide a guide for writing one, and list examples that you can use to integrate in your work.

What is a Theoretical Framework?

In research, we (researchers) formulate theories to explain, predict, or draw connections about a phenomenon, event, or behavior.

A theoretical structure refers to a model that can hold the theory of a particular research study. It encompasses the theory and narrative explanation of how the researcher will use the theory and its assumptions to investigate a particular research problem.

Thus, we can define a theoretical framework as a structure consisting of a set of ideas, assumptions and principles that serves as a foundation for understating a particular problems or phenomena. In other words, a theoretical framework is a set of theories and models providing a foundation for core knowledge. It helps connect the research subject with a theory. It consists of the following components:


Concepts are the basic building blocks of the theoretical model. They represent the things being studied, compared, or related to one another, and provide the foundation for understanding a subject matter. For instance, if you are studying consumer behavior, the concepts could be psychological factors influencing customers purchasing decisions, such as brand loyalty.


This describes the connection between concepts within a theoretical framework. Relationships help explain how the concepts within the framework are connected and how they can help understand the given research topic.

Relationships come in various forms and types, for instance, causal relationships, where one concept influences another, and correlation relationships, where two concepts are related without having direct causation.


Assumptions are beliefs and principles that underlie theoretical frameworks. They are based on existing theories or previous research and help shape a researcher's perspective and the reasoning behind the framework.

Importance of Theoretical Framework

If you are wondering why the theoretical framework is important, the answer is simple- it provides the foundation for understanding and interpreting behavior or a particular research topic. Theoretical frameworks are important in academic research because of the following reasons:

1. Provide Guidance and Direction for Research!

Theoretical frameworks provide researchers with a roadmap or a blueprint to guide their research. It defines the scope, boundaries, and research variables and outlines the relationship between concepts and ideas, thus guiding you through the reaching process.

2. Provides Clarity to Complex Ideas

The theoretical framework allows researchers to define terms and variables and operationalize them, thus enhancing precision throughout the research process. Doing this ensures that everyone understands the subject matter.

3. Provides Contextual Understanding

The theoretical framework enables researchers to comprehend the broader meaning and background of the research topic by reviewing existing theories. This allows researchers to identify gaps, contradictions, and new opportunities for research.

A theoretical framework allows you to move from describing a phenomenon that has been observed to generalizing its various aspects.

4. Helps in Formulating a Good Research Question

A good research question is necessary for guiding study design. Through a theoretical framework, a researcher can formulate a research question that can be examined empirically, thus contributing to the existing field.

Overall, a theoretical framework should demonstrate your understanding of the existing theories and concepts that are relevant to your research topic and will relate to the broader field of study.

How to Write a Theoretical Framework

If you are wondering how to write a theoretical framework, the following steps can help:

1. Define Your Objectives

Identify what you hope to achieve with the theoretical research and what new information you hope to bring to your field of study. A research objective will act as a roadmap guiding your study, thus ensuring your research is clear and achievable.

Your objective should be short, concise, and specific to help you stay focused throughout the research. It should include the topic, the research question, scope and limitations, measurable criteria, and desired outcomes.

2. Identify Your Research Problem

This is about raising awareness about an existing social problem that is worth investigating. For example, you could identify that there are no kindergarten schools in your community. This could lead to a research problem in which there is a need for a kindergarten school, and the objective is to create one.

Your research problem will guide your entire study and define its scope. Additionally, defining your research problem will help your literature review and in constructing a theoretical framework. Selecting a research problem will depend on your knowledge, skills, interests, motivation, creativity, expertise, etc.

3. Conduct a Literature Review

A literature review is simply an overview of previously published works in your research field. Conducting a literature review allows you to review scholarly work related to your research problem that will help you get the answers you need in your investigation.

The following is a literature review process you can follow:

Find Relevant Literature

Go through various resources such as books and journals and check scholarly databases such as JSTOR. Ensure you use relevant keywords to narrow down your search.

Assess and Choose Sources

Go through your sources' abstracts to determine their relevance in your research. Additionally, check the bibliography section for similar sources.

Analyze the Identify Literature

The literature analysis will help you look for patterns, themes, debates, and gaps in the research within these works.

Categorize These Sources

Once you have identified the sources to use in your research, divide them into the following.

Regardless of the division you use, each should be accompanied by a comprehensive discussion of their strengths and weaknesses.

When writing your theoretical framework, the aim is to identify, compare, and critically evaluate the different approaches used by other researchers.

The best way to conduct a literature review is to identify key theories, concepts, and empirical studies in your areas of study that are relevant to your research. Ensure you pay attention to the

4. Select Relevant Theories

Based on the literature review you have conducted, identify theories that are applicable to your research problem.

Remember, a theoretical framework provides a lens through which you can look at a particular problem and come up with appropriate solutions. There are many lenses to consider, such as social, organizational, and psychological theories.

There are many ways to find theories relevant to your research. First, you need to search through scholarly articles, books, and encyclopedias. Ensure you find theories that align with your research problem.

Moreover, when selecting theories, consider their appropriateness, ease of application, and explanatory power.

If there is a well-established theory that you don't want to use in your theoretical framework, explain why it isn't suitable.

5. Define Key Variables and Constructs

After identifying and selecting theories, identify and define the variables and constructs that will be involved in your research and relevant to the research problem. Ensure you also define how it will be measured.

All your variables need to align with the theories and concepts selected for your theoretical framework.

Ensure you briefly discuss each theory that is related to the key concepts. 

6. Establish Relationships

After defining the key variables, determine the relationships between them based on the theory and concepts selected. Mention whether they predict or interact with each other. Consider creating a diagram that clearly shows these relationships.

7. Develop Hypothesis

Next, you need to generate a hypothesis based on the relationships established. These hypotheses or research questions should be testable and should outline the expected outcome of the research.

8. Organize the Theoretical Framework

It is important to organize your variables, concepts, relationships, and hypotheses logically to make sense of what you will be working with. Use flowcharts or diagrams to visualize your theoretical framework. Doing this will also ensure that your study is well-grounded and understood by both researchers and readers.

9. Refine and Revise

After completing your initial draft of the theoretical framework, you need to ensure it aligns with your research problem. Consider asking for feedback from your colleagues or instructor. Tell them to review it and provide constructive feedback. This way, you will know where to make the necessary changes.

Based on the feedback, revise your theoretical framework and incorporate the suggestions, then ask them to review it again. Do this as many times as possible until you ensure the theoretical framework meets your research objectives.

Ensure your theoretical framework shows how your study will use existing ideas to further them in your field.

Examples of Theoretical Framework

The following are theoretical framework examples used in different fields. You can use them for your research.

Constructivism (psychology and education fields)

Constructivism theory emphasizes the role of learners in building upon existing knowledge to improve their understanding of things. Rather than simply perceiving information, learners can reflect on their experiences and other exciting knowledge of new ideas and concepts.


Behaviorism is a learning theory that states that a behavior is learned through association and interaction with the environment. Developed by John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner's theoretical framework explains that a person’s behavior is acquired through conditioning.

F Skinner argued that a person's behavior is shaped by the consequences that follow it. These consequences also determine whether a person will repeat the behavior in the future. On the other hand, Watson argued that people should focus on individual behaviors rather than internal processes like thoughts.

Psychosocial Development Theory

Erik Erickson developed this theory, which is an extension of Sigmund Freud's. Erickson argued that a person’s personality develops from infancy until late adulthood. He added that personality develops through eight different stages, which occur throughout a person's whole life.

During each stage of psychosocial development, individuals experience psychosocial crises which could affect them negatively or positively.

Psychoanalytic Theory

Sigmund Freud developed this theory, arguing that our unconscious desires and conflicts heavily influence human behavior. According to Freud, the unconscious mind plays a significant role in shaping thoughts, feelings, and, eventually, actions.

Freud argued that human beings experience a series of conflicts before taking any action. He theorized that these conflicts occur between the different components of the mind: the id, ego, and superego.

Feminist Theory

Feminist theory is a social framework that began with the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, a feminist writer in the liberal tradition. The theory aims to understand women's oppression and promote gender equality.

This theoretical framework example encompasses multiple philosophical perspectives, each focusing on challenging power systems, gender roles, and cultural and social norms that contribute to gender inequality.

One of the key premises of feminist theory is that gender inequality is socially contracted and not biologically determined.

Neoclassical Economics

This theoretical framework developed by various theorists, including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Alfred Marshall, and Vilfredo Pareto, focuses on supply and demand as the driving forces behind the production, pricing, and consumption of goods and services. The cost of production greatly determines the price of a product.

A good example of neoclassical economics is that a company's layoff decisions are based on the benefits of laying off an employee and the cost associated with it.

Neoclassical economics services are a basis for understanding the supply and demand of products and services as well as market behavior.

Social Cultural Theory

This theoretical framework example was developed by Lev Vygotsky, who believed that parents, guardians, caregivers, peers, and society and culture at large influence a person's psychological development.

Thus, social-cultural theory explores the influences social interaction has on an individual’s psychological development. Vygotsky believed that people acquire new skills through a process called the “zone of proximal development” (ZPD). According to the theorist, ZPD refers to the gaps existing between an individual’s current level of ability and their potential under guidance from a skillful person.

The social-cultural theory asserts that learning is a social process where psychological development occurs through interaction with people who are more knowledgeable and skilled than the learner.

The following is an example of social-cultural theory: a teacher or a parent could demonstrate a particular technique and have the learner practice it to improve their skills. This theory proposes that teachers should provide a conducive, supportive, and interactive environment where learners can acquire knowledge and skills and engage in collaborative discussions and problem-solving.

Symbolic Interactionist Theory

Symbolic interactionist theory can be traced back to George Herbert Mead, Charles Horton Cooley, and Herbert Blumer, who played a crucial role in shaping the sociology field. Mead laid the foundation for symbolic interaction theory and argued that individuals create a sense of self through their interactions with others.

Symbolic interactionist theory is considered a framework for building theories that see society as a product of our everyday interactions. This theoretical framework focuses on how society attaches meaning to things around it based on its interactions with others.

Symbolic interactionism is part of theoretical framework examples that focus on how people assign meanings to things and people around them based on their beliefs, values, and experiences.


Functionalism is a sociological theory developed by Emile Durkheim, who argued that society works together to maintain social order. Durkheim adopted the belief that society developed from traditional to modern society through the development and expansion of the division of labor.

This theoretical framework example views society as an organism with different parts, each working together to ensure smooth and orderly operation.

Durkheim argues that our collective consciousness is developed through social interactions. He thought of close-knit interactions between families and community members who share a common belief or values.

Social Comparison Theory

This theory was initially proposed by Loen Festinger, who proposed that individuals determine their own social and personal worth by comparing themselves to others. According to social comparison theory, people evaluate their opinions, values, appearance, beliefs, and abilities by comparing them to others.

According to Festinger, social comparison is a normal behavior where people seek to determine whether they are on track. However, it can also be harmful to a person's psychological and emotional development and lead to negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

How to Select a Suitable Theoretical Framework

Please remember that selecting a theoretical framework requires a deep understanding of your research problem, purpose, significance, and hypothesis. When the selection is poorly done, you risk ruining the entire study. In fact, it will be like using the wrong bolt to fix the wrong nut.

If you are choosing a theoretical framework for your research paper or dissertation, you need to consider the following questions to choose a suitable theoretical framework for your research inquiry:

The Bottom Line

The theoretical framework is a critical component of research, providing a structural lens through which to examine and conduct a study. By understanding and integrating theoretical frameworks, you can enhance your understanding of a given subject and provide valuable insights for advancement in your field of study.

Now that you have information to kick-start your theoretical framework formulation journey, we expect that you will come up with something great. However, if you need an expert to assist you with developing your theoretical framework, we have professional research writers who can help you. Reach out or place an order.