The Theoretical Framework: Keep It Simple

Posted December 12, 2018

When it comes to the theoretical foundation of your study, my suggestion is to keep it simple. Sometimes people want to use two, three, or even four theories. That means you will not only need to define each theory but also relate each one to your study and discuss each of them in relation to your findings in the Discussion chapter. All of this can be challenging enough for a beginning researcher using only one theory. Using multiple theories may not only create unnecessary work for you, but also may be unnecessary to adequately frame your study.

I suggest picking just one well-suited theory. The theory should guide your study and include the variables or constructs of your study. If you intend to use two or three theories, you need to have a very good reason for doing so, and all of your selected theories should include the variables presented in your research questions.

You should not approach theory selection as an afterthought. Your choice of theory is related to your research problem and how you develop your study. Your topic should be based on a social issue or problem. Within the literature on the topic, you then work to identify a gap in understanding the topic or a point of contention in the research. This is the research problem. Theories help researchers explain behavior and phenomena. So, there will likely be theories and associated variables related to whatever topic you are studying. These are the theories you want to consider for your study. Some theories may be more suitable for your topic and research problem than others.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand each theory and its components to determine which one relates best to your study. Keep it simple. Use a single theory unless you have a very good reason to use more than one.

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