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How to Prepare a Theoretical Framework for a Research Paper

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Theoretical frameworks for research papers provide a handy model for conducting research and analyzing research results. These frameworks act as a sort of lens through which you interpret research data and report on that data. Preparing a theoretical framework for a research paper requires you to consider your research project, as well as similar projects, and then choose a structure that best suits your specific needs.

Evaluate Research Project

Consider your research problem from your central research questions to your early hypotheses and types of source material on which your paper will focus. A good theoretical framework should align with these aspects of your project. For example, if you are writing a research paper on the economic viability of American slavery, you would likely use an economically oriented theoretical framework, such as Marxism, as opposed to a psychologically oriented framework, such as Freudian psychoanalysis.

Review Related Projects

Compare your research project with similar research projects. If you see your paper as an extension of these other projects, you might adopt their theoretical framework. If you see your paper as challenging or contradicting these other projects, you might adopt an alternative theoretical framework. For example, if many research papers adopt sociological theory as a framework for investigating immigration’s effect on human society, you might explore the topic of immigration through an anthropological framework to investigate immigration’s effect on individual humans.

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Compare Available Theories

Contrast different theoretical frameworks that are available for the type of research paper you wish to write. Each framework has different benefits and detriments depending on how you plan to use it to frame your research. For example, a nationalist framework would allow you to write a paper about Vietnamese identity as it relates to the recognized country of Vietnam. On the other hand, a postcolonial theoretical framework would allow you to write a paper about Vietnamese identity as it relates to those various countries that have invaded and perhaps attempted to colonize Vietnam such as France or the United States.

Outline Framework Assumptions

Identity and describe the key assumptions your theoretical framework makes, particularly as they relate to how those assumptions control the way you analyze your research topic. Outlining these assumptions reveals your awareness of the limitations of your chosen framework. For example, if you chose to write a paper with a feminist theoretical framework to examine how school-age children can succeed in a classroom, you could describe how your framework insists that you focus specifically on gender relationships in a classroom instead of other classroom factors such as age, ethnicity or class status.

About the Author

Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

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