Working on a research paper is a significant challenge to the author, as far as one is obligated to provide credible, reliable and justified results from the study. In order to conduct a study of excellent quality and contribute to the chosen field of academic knowledge, it is necessary for the writer to adhere to the holistic entity of the concept of investigation. To be more precise, it is required to employ each structural element of the research course properly, timely and sufficiently. The present paper focuses on ultimate significance, basic aspects and peculiarities of the theoretical framework, as one of the core elements of research.
According to Herek (2010), “the task of developing a theoretical framework starts with asking a research question, proceeds through the task of identifying key variables and the relationships among them, and results in a plan for empirically observing those variables and relationships” (p. 138). Grant and Osanloo (2015) consider a theoretical framework to be one of the most important and the defining elements in the whole course of research. Along with such, the authors underline that this element is usually the most challenging and the least covered in academic writing in the recent course of time (Grant & Osanloo, 2015). The reasons of such a tendency include deficit of relevant knowledge, confusion and particular frustration related to the choices and identifications, necessary for reliable theoretical framework (Grant & Osanloo, 2015). Nonetheless, the absence of theoretical framework in the study means there is no foundation of the research, since all other elements of academic paper are structured around it. Grant and Osanloo (2015) compare the ultimate importance of theoretical network for the solid proposal with the “blueprint for a house” (p. 14). The choice of theory delineates the further development and the expected outcomes of the study.
As far as each study should have a particular empirical contribution to the area of interest, it is relevant to discuss the significance of theoretical framework in practice. For instance, George, McGahan and Prabhu (2012) lead their research in a consistent manner, according to the theoretical framework that delineates the core concerns, approaches and dilemmas within their field of research. Furthermore, the framework not only outlines the main niches and concepts of the study, but also creates, explains and justifies the relations between them. This provides logical and constructive development of the research process and maximally efficient steps of the study. At the same time, particular variables and aspects of the study may vary during the research, and theoretical framework permits adjusting the whole entity properly. It is especially relevant in cases when studies have numerous constructs and excessively questionable assumptions, as in the research conducted by Cane, O’Connor and Michie (2012).
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One more crucial purpose of solid theoretical framework formation is that it delineates not only major concerns of the current study, but also outlines the most important directions or gaps, which will be used for the future research or the solution of particular dilemmas. Spini, Hanappi, Bernardi, Bickel (2013) employ an itemized theoretical framework in order to locate the concept of vulnerability in the context of currently available research and, at the same time, to identify the main directions for further exploration. In such a way, the given scientific research both contributes to the study of the concept of vulnerability during the whole life course and highlights the fundamental issues that should be studied or for which the research outcomes require more profound insight.
Lazzarotti and Manzini (2009) demonstrate how effective theoretical framework is developing, especially for in the empirical studies. The developed framework leads the researchers via stages of the research and directs them to the core assumptions and theories. Furthermore, theoretical framework provides an opportunity to align several alternatives or even contrasts within the scope of research and compare them during the study, which is precisely what Lazzarotti and Manzini (2009) did in their investigation. It is also important to underline that theoretical framework is helpful in structuring and positioning theory constructively, so as to contribute to effective empirical activity during the study. As a result, the level of framework’s applicability is found. Along with such, the study by Lazzarotti and Manzini (2009) illustrates the capacity of the framework to build several levels of concepts and relations, contributing to the in-depth insight and the extended scale of the whole research.
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The study conducted by Creene, Caracelli, Graham (1989) demonstrates that theoretical framework was regarded as an effective tool for linking the theory with practice, and, therefore, can be regarded as a classic instrument that is targeted to link concepts and theories with corresponding practical interventions in order to evaluate the level of their relevance and potential efficiency, once applied. The overall value of the framework potential in the given context is related to its applicability in different types of research and overall usefulness to multi-level studies. Furthermore, theoretical framework provides a distinct picture of the focus of investigation within the vast canvas of the chosen field of interest.
Thus, the role of theoretical framework is crucial for research proposal and further research development. It encompasses all of the core concepts and theories which form the basis for the study and link theory with practice. The structure of the research is formed by relying on the relations and assumptions outlined in the framework. The framework, however, is targeted to combine the variables, constructs and narrow the research scope, so as to focus on the core dilemmas and gaps in the current knowledge.