Theoretical Framework

A Little Bit About Frameworks

The weather forecasts a significant snowfall for the evening and near blizzard conditions are expected. The snow is just starting to fall. You are trying to get to the grocery store to pick up some supplies as you expect to be "snowed in" for a couple of days. It took you 20 minutes longer to get to the store from work than it normally does. People were either driving too fast and sliding off the road or they were driving so slowly that only one car could get through the traffic light.

Once in the store, you find that there are only a few gallons of milk left in the case, only a 15, one dozen egg cartons are left, and the bread that is on the shelf is smashed.

Finally, you get your supplies and push the cart to the cashiers only to find that there are 10 to 12 people in each line. People are grumbling and complaining, babies are crying, and children are whining. People are tense and irritable.

Drawing on your knowledge of psychology and sociology, you begin to think about the problems that people have been dealing with today, the lack of supplies, long lines, and the concern about the impending winter storm. While you are not really aware of it, you start relating and explaining their behavior to stress theories. Theories are used by every discipline and every person, regardless of the level of the theory. Theories are use to explain and predict. "A theoretical framework is a frame of reference that is a basis for observations, definitions of concepts, research designs, interpretations, and generalizations, much as the frame that rests on a foundation defines the overall design of a house (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber, 1998, p. 141).

According to Nieswiadomy (1998) the word theory is derived from "theoria," a Greek Word. Theoria means a beholding or speculation. Theories are speculations. Theories are NEVER PROVED. Theories are used to describe, predict, explain, and control phenomena.

Why are theoretical frameworks used?

Theoretical frameworks provide the organization for the study. It guides the researcher in the interpretations of the results. the importance of the theory is dependent on the degree of research-based evidence and level of its theory development. There are four levels of theory development 1) factor isolating (describe phenomena) 2) Factor relating (explain phenomena), 3) Situation relating (predict the relationships between/among phenomena), 4) Situation producing (control phenomena and relationships)

What is the difference between a Theoretical Framework and a Conceptual Framework?

While the words are used interchangeably in the literature, a theoretical framework provides a broad explanation of relationships that exists between concepts. A theoretical framework is based on ONEtheory. The concepts of the study relate back to the theory. Theoretical frameworks start out as a conceptual framework and with much research, develop into a research-based theoretical framework.

When no existing theory fits the concepts that the researcher wishes to study, the researcher may construct a conceptual framework that can be used to describe and begin to explain the relationships of the concepts.

For example, when I wanted to study computer attitudes and state anxiety, I constructed a conceptual framework to guide the study. The conceptual framework was a compilation of concepts from three theoretical frameworks.

A conceptual framework is not as well developed as is a theoretical framework.

    Some theoretical frameworks from nursing

  • Uncertainty: Mishel (1988)
  • Interpersonal theory: Peplau (1988)
  • Health promotion: Pender (1987)
  • Goal attainment: King (1981)
  • Interaction model of client behavior: Cox (1982)
  • Self-care deficit theory: Orem (1991
  • Unitary person: Rogers (1970)
  • Adaptation: Roy (1984)
  • Systems model: Neuman (1972)
    Some Theoretical frameworks from other disciplines:

  • Social learning theory: Bandua (1986); Rotter (1954)
  • Adult learning theory: Knowles (1980)
  • Role theory: Mead (1934)
  • State-Traite Anxiety: Spielburg (1972)
  • Stress: Selye (1976)
  • Helplessness: Seligman (1975)
  • Cognitive dissonance: Festinger (1957)
  • Developmental theory: Piaget (1926); Freud (1938); Erickson (1950); Havighurst (1952)
  • Motivation: Maslow (1970)
  • Crisis: Caplan (1964)
  • Relaxation: Benson (1975)
  • Pain: Melzak and Wall (1983)
  • Body Image: Schilder (1952)
  • Job satisfaction: Herzberg (1966)
  • Family theory (Minuchin (1974); Duvall (1977)
  • Family communication: Satir (1967)
  • Coping: Lazarus and Folkman (1984)
  • Moral reasoning: Kohlberg (1978)
  • Change theory: Lewin (1951)
  • Health behaviors: Becker (1985)
  • Health Belief: Becker (1955)
  • Attitudes: Fishbein & Ajzen (1975)
  • Gate control: Melzak & Wall (1983)

Once a theoretical framework is selected, it should be used throughout the study. This means that it guides the entire research process; however, the entire theory is not tested in one study.

These are the steps when a researcher selects and uses a framework:

  • Do a search of the literature for theories and examine various theories to determine what might be appropriate to examine the research problem.
  • Select the theory for the research study. This is the theory that will guide and direct the research process.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of literature on studies that used this theory base
  • Formulate the hypotheses or research questions to be tested using the theory or propositions fromwithin the theory,
  • Write the conceptual definitions of the study variables based on the theory, .
  • Operationalize the study variables by selecting the instruments that will be used to test the concepts. The instrument must be congruent with the theory.
  • Explain the findings of the study using the theory,
  • Draw conclusions from the results based on the theory.
  • Decide if the theory is supported by the results of the study
  • Determine if there are any implications from the results that can be related to the theory
  • Make recommendations for future research and include use of the theory

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