Q: Is theoretical framework indispensable in scholarly research like thesis and dissertation?

Detailed Question -

A faculty member in the department suggested that we need to revised the old format for thesis and dissertation. One member of the committee suggested that we need to remove the part for "theoretical framework" so that papers may not appear too long and considering that theoretical framework is necessary only when the writer is doing a study on the theory itself. I was not convinced. Besides, I could not see any reason why theoretical framework should be removed in the format for scholarly paper. For me, it is the foundation of all scholarly works and of the conceptual framework from such vantage point the research shall be done using the" lens" of the writer. Further, It guides the limit of analysis and data gathering during data collection. Why remove? Since many of the members were inclined to vote for the removal, I lost in the division of the house. Is the decision of the majority correct or am I just giving too much importance on theoretical framework because my field is in the social sciences? Can you once again give your comments on the issue? Thank you very much for your meaningful advices. Doc Gabby

2 Answers to this question

I agree with your view that theoretical framework should not be removed from the format for theses and dissertations. Here are the reasons why I feel so:

All science is founded upon the work of others. There is nothing totally original in science that has any enduring value. Empirical research or evidence-based investigation builds upon generations of prior knowledge creation. Experiments test and validate prior investigations. Scientific investigation refines, tunes, replicates, and critically reviews the foundations of knowledge. Thus, foundational knowledge or "theory" is the base on which scientists build their investigations.

Additionally, we should keep in mind that the writers of theses and dissertations are students. That is to say, these are academics in the making, and their preparation is incomplete without a full consideration of the foundations and constructs upon which their research is founded. Unless they have at least a cursory knowledge of the prior investigations upon which their own study’s foundation is based, they cannot be considered fully part of the scientific enterprise. To justify a contemporary scientific investigation, they need to have a clear understanding of the relationship between what is being done today with the thread-of-knowledge that led to today’s investigation. This understanding is imperative for a student before he/she can be a full-fledged academic in that discipline. 

Hence, I strongly believe that encouraging the students to prepare research reports without a reference to the foundational investigations that comprise the theoretical framework can be detrimental to their gaining a holistic view of where their research fits in the scheme of existing knowledge in the field. 


The foundation of any research especially in the social sciences is to know where we are with current understanding of the subject matter and this is always based on the earlier works. So it is not good advise to do without theoretical frames in thesis writing. However, my suggestion is that when writing a journal article we could always make the theoretical frame shorter and more precise because of space and the audience that may already be very familiar with the theoretical basis of the subject.