Without a theoretical framework, your dissertation can read as unfocused and unmoored – as if you’re floundering for rationale, or are lost within your research, without a clear path. It’s important to have a strong theoretical framework because it’s the blueprint, or skeleton, of the paper. We often have clients asking for help choosing a theoretical framework, and while we cannot tell you what to do or what to choose, we are happy to set up a one-hour consultation session with a coach, so you can talk through various frameworks and gain a better understanding of which one might be best for your project.

Many clients want to know the “right” framework for their dissertation – but as is the case with so many things in research, there is no one correct framework. You need to examine various kinds of theories, and experiment to find the one that feels right, reads well, and allows you to set up the paper with the ideas you’re putting forth and the direction you want to go. In essence, which theory provides the scaffolding with enough support for you to build your house (ie, your dissertation).

A theoretical framework is based on a theory (or theories) that has been tested, validated, and generally accepted by others, as well as by the scholarly community. Your job is to then use it in a way to say something new about your research. Commonly used theories used widely across various disciplines include:

  • Relational theories

  • Situational theories

  • Behavioral theories

  • Systems theory

  • Queer theory

  • Marxist theory

  • Feminist theory

  • Developmental theory

  • Change theory

  • Cognitive theory

  • Transactional theories

And this is just a sampling! The theoretical framework you choose will depend on your subject matter, the lens from which you’re approaching the research, and what you want to say about it.

Once you have several possible frameworks that you’re considering, here are some things to think about:

  • What are your personal beliefs? How do these fit in?

  • Take a look at arguments/theories that are the opposite of your beliefs

  • Become familiar with each theory you’ve chosen, and why you chose it as an option

  • Explore some databases and come up with a quick literature review for each theoretical framework, to ensure there’s support for each of the theories

  • Make sure that the framework fits your problem, the purpose, significance, and design

  • Perhaps search in ProQuest for other dissertations that have used the theories which you’re interested in using

If you need assistance choosing your theoretical framework, contact us today. We’re always happy to speak with you and match you with one of our coaches for a one-hour consultation session to discuss your project and framework options.


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