In every research project there should always be a paragraph or section in which we explain to the reader what is the theoretical foundation on which our study is based. This theoretical and conceptual framework will serve as the basis for arguing the project or the thesis that we want to defend.

In this article we explain how to build the foundation, what its parts and objectives are, and what functions this section fulfils in a research study.

What is the theoretical foundation of an investigation?

According to William Daros, researcher and professor of philosophy in Argentina, in any research that is worthwhile, there must be a framework or theoretical foundation that fulfills the following functions:

1. To make possible the description of the problems in a body of knowledge

Since the old theories do not seem to explain the current problem, the idea is to generate new ones , so that the problems have a new meaning in reference to them.

2. Making sense of facts or phenomena

The theoretical foundation of a project or research must guide the organization of the facts or phenomena studied . What is a fact in one theory may not be the same “fact” in another.

3. To be the integrating axis of the whole research process

Without the theoretical foundation, the problem does not make sense, nor can we proceed to develop a methodological design with which to test the hypotheses raised.

4. To be a fundamental tool for problem analysis

This analysis implies considering the parts separately (abstraction), by considering them as a function of a totality . This information is then enriched by the synthesis (in which the parts meet the composition).

How to elaborate the theoretical framework in an investigation

The elaboration of the theoretical foundation in a thesis or research work is part of one of the fundamental tasks when constructing and founding a work that requires great doses of patience, perseverance and curiosity . In the end, it is about asking questions such as what research has been done so far; who, how and where has done it; or to pose new hypotheses that generate answers that, in turn, generate new questions.

Any research should refer to a system or a theoretical orientation in which to place it . Unless a researcher invents his or her own theory, most research usually tries to add new hypotheses and data to studies that have been done before.

Therefore, in order to build this section, it is essential to review and analyze the existing bibliography , so that we can reaffirm our own theoretical convictions or, on the contrary, discard them or underline the differences found.

In addition to collecting and analyzing the bibliographic references, it is necessary to formulate hypotheses that can be demonstrated throughout the study . The researcher needs to present answers that anticipate the questions of a specific social fact or phenomenon.

It is convenient to formulate the central argument of the research, which will later be contrasted with empirical data. It is therefore a question of having a theoretical intuition that guides the whole study.

Each research project will use its own particular arguments and ideas, although in all of them the basic concepts to be used must be described, due to the theory on which they are based.

And finally, every researcher must make explicit the objectives and the purpose of his work : the why and the for what of his research, so that questions such as: What do I want to achieve with this study? or what concepts and arguments am I going to use to prove this hypothesis?

Your objectives

The theoretical framework or foundation does not cease to be the demonstration of our theoretical position or argument on which we base the research study , as well as the ideas with which we relate and the judgements that we share or do not share with other authors.

The main objectives of this section are the following:

1. Developing research from an innovative perspective

We try to be pioneers in ideas and to mark the differences with other authors .

2. Putting the object of study into a knowledge framework

A set of concrete theoretical definitions must also be used.

3. Present a glossary of terms and ideas

This glossary is made from the terms that will be used during the analysis of the research topic.

4. Granting reliability or trustworthiness to the choice of a methodology

The use of measurement instruments, the process of data collection and the way in which the results are evaluated is justified.

Parts of a theoretical foundation

The framework or theoretical foundation of an investigation is usually divided into several sections: the bibliographical background, the theoretical bases and the definition of terms. Let’s see what each one of them consists of.

Bibliographical background

In this section of the section on the theoretical foundation , the background to the research should be included ; that is, all those previous works and research that are related to the approach and objectives of the current study.

The information collected in this section can be from books or publications in scientific journals , whether they are articles, compilations, meta-analyses, etc.

In general, there are two kinds of background: theoretical, which are all those arising from sources such as books or documentation, which expose ideas or theories on a particular subject; and field background, which are all those investigations that are carried out with subjects or in the experimental field, with the aim of collecting numerical data or descriptive information on some particular fact.

Theoretical basis

The theoretical bases are a set of concepts and theories that constitute the given point of view or approach that the author has used to explain what the research that has been carried out consists of and is based on.

The section on theoretical bases constitutes the central nucleus of any research study, since it is on these theories that the work in question is built. If you have a good theoretical base, the study will be better founded and have greater validity. Furthermore, they can be divided according to their nature into psychological, philosophical, legal, among others, depending on what is required to be argued in the study.

Definition of terms

In this section of the theoretical foundation, the author will try to define the terms of the words and concepts that he will use in his research, through the use of a technical language and with the objective of allowing the reader to better understand the study, as well as giving it coherence and meaning.

In short, the aim of this section is to describe, analyse and establish the meaning of the most abstruse concepts or those that may present a certain ambiguity , and which require, on the part of the author, a more detailed analysis in order to understand the study in its context and with precision.

Bibliographic references:

  • Daros, W. What is a theoretical framework?. Approaches. Year XIV, no. 1, 2002.
  • Miguel Rodrigo Alsina (2001). Communication Theories: Areas, methods and perspectives.