A theoretical framework is a conceptual model of how one theorizes or makes logical sense of the relationship among the several factors that have been identified as important to the research problem concerned. To put it simply a theoretical framework involves identifying the network of relationship among the variables considered important to the study .It provides the conceptual foundation to proceed further with the research. The theory is developed based on the documentation of previous research studies undertaken in the relevant study area or similar problems. Understanding the conceptual framework enables to postulate hypotheses and test the relationships. A testable hypothesis can be developed to examine whether the theory formulated is valid or not.
The hypothesized relationship can be tested by means of suitable statistical techniques. In case of applied research, testable hypothesis need not be evolved from the theoretical framework but still it is important as it provides a background for understanding the problem researched. Thus the entire research process rests on the soundness of the theoretical framework undertaken. Having background knowledge of variables is absolutely necessary to understand the relationship so as to formulate testable hypotheses. A variable, as the name suggest takes varied values. The values may be different at varies time for the same object or person or at the same time for different objects or persons. For eg. Age is a variable, as it can be different for different consumers and also for a single consumer it varies as time evolves.
Types of variables
There are many types of variables like the dependent, independent, moderating, intervening, discrete, continuous, extraneous etc.,
As the name suggests the value of a dependent variable is influenced by other variables. It is the main variable of interest to the researcher. Understanding the variables that influence the dependent variables will lead to finding solutions to the problem. For this purpose the researcher will be interested in quantifying and measuring the dependent variable as well as the other variables that influences the dependent variables. For eg. sales of a organization is a dependent variable. The sales value depends on the demand, price fixed, environmental factors etc. The sales also vary from time to time. Hence it can be called as dependent variable. There can be more than one dependent variable in a study. In this case the researcher may be interested to know factors that influence all the dependent variables and difference in the degree of variance among the different dependent variables.
An independent variable influences the value of dependent variable either in a positive or in a negative way. The variance in the dependent variable is accounted for by the independent variable. To manipulate the dependent variable the independent variable can be used. With each unit of increase in the dependent variable the independent variable may increase or decrease. The variance in the dependent variable is caused by the independent variables. To establish the casual relationship the independent variable is manipulated. For example age of a customer may influence the choice of a product. Here age is the independent variable and the Choice of the product is a dependent variable.
Independent variable Dependent variable
The variable that moderates the relationship between dependent and independent variables is called as a moderating variable. The moderating variable has a strong contingent effect on the relationship between the independent and the dependent variable. The presence of a third variable modifies the original relationship between the dependent and independent variables. In the example discussed above the price of the product is a moderating variable. Though the age influences the price may moderate the choice of the product.
An intervening variable is one that surfaces between the time, the independent variable start operating to influence the dependent variable and the time the impact is felt on it. The intervening variable surfaces as a function of the independent variables operating in any situation and helps to conceptualize and explain the influences of the independent variables on the dependent variables.
Theoretical Framework: The need and features
The theoretical framework is the foundation on which the entire research is carried out. It is logically developed, described and elaborated network of associations among the variables deemed to be relevant to the problem situation and identified through such processes as interviews, observations and literature survey. Experience and intuition can also be taken up in developing the theoretical framework.
To arrive at good solutions to the problem, correct identification of the problem and the variables contributing to the same is a must. After identifying the variables, the next step is to elaborate the network of associations among the variables. This will enable formulation of hypotheses, which can be subsequently tested.
The literature survey provides a solid foundation to develop the theoretical framework. Through literature survey the variables that are important are identified through previous research findings. This forms the basis for a theoretical model. The theoretical framework elaborates the relationship among variables, explains the theory underlying the relations and describes the nature and directions of the relationship. The theoretical foundations provide the basis for developing testable hypotheses.
The following are the basic features of a theoretical framework; * The variables influencing the research problem should be clearly identified, defined and discussed. * The discussion should also highlight the relationship between the variables so identified. * The type of relationship for eg. Positive or negative should be highlighted. * The reason for assuming the type of relationship should be mentioned drawing on the previous research studies identified through the literature review. * A model showing the relationship among the variables can be given so that the concepts can be visualized and understood clearly by the reader.