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Developing Theoretical Frameworks

Camp, W. G. (2001). Formulating and evaluating theoretical frameworks for career and technical education research. Journal of Vocational Education Research, 26(1), 4-25.

What is Theory?(Creswell)

Grand theories

Major categories of phenomenacommon in natural sciences Between working hypotheses of everyday life and grand theories Explanations in restricted settingsexpressed as propositions or hypotheses

Middle-range theories

Substantive theories

What is Theory (cont.)

Purpose of theories (Ary, Jacobs, & Razavieh, 1990)

Summarizes and put in order the existing knowledge in a particular area.

Scientific theory of lift.

Clarifies and gives meaning to previously isolated empirical findings. Provides a provisional explanation for observed events and relationships.

A theory of learning would explain relationships among speed and efficiency of learning and variables such as motivation, reward, practice, etc.

What is Theory (cont.)


Should be able to propose the why concerning the phenomena under consideration and explaining in simplest form

Principle of parsimony.

Should be consistent with observed facts and with the already established body of knowledge. Should provide means for its verification.

Form of hypotheses stating consequences that one can expect to observe is the theory is true.

Should stimulate new discoveries and indicate further areas in need of investigation

Education has suffered from absence of theoretical orientations.

Vast numbers of facts that have been accumulated through educational studeis, but without accompanying integration into theories to help explain educational phenomena.

What is Theory (cont.)


(Kerlinger, 1979)

a set of interrelated constructs (variables), definitions, and propositions that present a systematic view of phenomena by specifying relations among variables, with the purpose of explaining natural phenomena.

Theory provides a bridge tying together independent and dependent variables.

(Creswell, 1994)

Explaining how and why one would expect the independent variable to predict the dependent variable.

What is Theory (cont.)


Theory is explanation of reality the cognitive process of discovering or manipulating abstract categories and relationships among those categories.
(Marriam, 1998)

Theory DefinedA Compromise

A set of interrelated constructs, definitions, and propositions that present a rational view of phenomena by explaining or predicting relationships among those elements.
(Camp, 2001)

Role of Theory in Research

Quantitative: Theory guides research; research leads to theory

Researcher begins with a theory Researcher posits hypotheses that should be true if theory is correct Using the theory, the researcher identifies variables that could be used to test the theory. Researcher designs a study using the identified variables that controls for other variables and that will test the theory. Researcher collects data, analyzes it using inferential statistics, and draws conclusions that relate the results of the study back to the underlying theory.

Role of Theory in Research

Qualitative: Theory emerges from research

Researcher finds a setting of interest and enters it to make observations (gathers data). Initial analysis of the data leads to a series of questions that guide subsequent data. Further analysis produces tentative categories, trends, or patterns emerging within the data. Further analysis reveals patterns or themes. The theme is, in effect, a substantive theory. Analysis of emergent themes produces an operational theory, which can then be compared to other theories.

What is a Theoretical Framework?

Systematic ordering of ideas about the phenomena being investigated or as a systematic account of the relations among a set of variables. Examination of discipline-based literature related to topic and identifying an overarching theory that explains the central hypothesis or proposition.
(Warmbrod, 1986) (Creswell, 1994)

What is a Theoretical Framework?

Term does not appear prominently in research methods texts. Theoretical perspective, theoretical frame, conceptual framework, or theoretical/conceptual framework.

All terms allude to conceptual point of departure for the study. Set of theoretical assumptions that explain the relationships among a set of phenomena.

Camps definition

Conceptual Frameworks???

Is the implication that a Grand Theory of a middle range theory doesnt apply? Is the implication a lower level of sophistication than is required for a theoretical framework? If conceptual framework begins with supportable premise and follows that premise through a logical path of reported research and clear reasoning to form the basis for the study, it is a substantive theory (theoretical frame).

Formulating a Theoretical Framework

Many meaningful studies simply are not based on grand or middle-range theories. Substantive theoretical propositions based on appropriate discipline-based and research-based literature provide adequate theoretical frameworks for most research in workforce education. Substantive theory may well form the theoretical frameworks of much of our research for some time to come. But, a review of related literature does not provide an adequate theoretical framework. The literature must first establish at least one supportable premise, then generate one or more propositions that the researcher can postulate in the form of theoretical assumptions regarding the phenomena under study. Labeling doesnt make it theoretical.


Theoretical Framework in literature Conceptual Framework in literature