INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH

The first section of the proposal is referred to as The Introduction. It serves to discuss the background for the proposed research, state and define the problem that the proposal/thesis is attempting to address or solve, state the aims and objectives of the research work and give an indication of how the work will progress. This section is referred to as the introduction since it can be regarded as the opening of the study. It attempts to establish that a problem exists and there is need for a study to be carried out. It also justifies the study. The author in this chapter attempts to analyze the study in these divisions: background to the study, statement of the problem, aims and objectives of the study, research hypothesis, research questions, significance of the study, limitations of the study and the conceptual and theoretic frameworks.

 

Background to the Study

In research the term “background” refers to the setting or position of the study. It is a brief overview of the problem the researcher aspires to tackle. Background information plays a major role in research. This includes the following:

  • It helps to convince the readers that the problem or opportunity exists and that it should be addressed.
  • It helps clarify what has brought about the need for the study.
  • It points out the challenges faced due to the identified issue.
  • It indicates the opportunities for improvement.
  • It demonstrates the researcher’s view of the research problem.
  • It shows the reader that the researcher knows the study area as he/she is familiar with what has preceded.

 

Qualities of an Effective Background to the Study

An effective background to the study has the following qualities:

  • It is brief and specific. Though it borrows a lot from the literature review, it is a summary of the information in the literature review.
  • It engages the interest of the reader. An effective background should get the reader concerned about the problem, excited about the opportunity of having the problem addressed and interested in the eventual solution proposed by the research.
  • It gives the reader a glimpse of the research problem.
  • It gives the reader an idea of how the proposal is structured.
  • The language used is simple and straightforward.
  • It is informative and persuasive since it attempts to enlighten the reader about the research problem and the urgency of addressing the problem.

 

Steps in Writing an Effective Background to the Study .

The following steps are essential in writing an effective background 

a) Reflection – Before writing the background to the study, the researcher should analyze the selected topic and title and identify the variables. The identification of the variables will assist in locating the relevant literature related to the research problem. This literature will assist in background formulation.

 b) Brainstorming -The researcher should think about the relevant literature related to the topic that will specifically bring out the need for the study. The challenges related to the selected topic should also be reflected in the selected literature.

c) Material compilation– The researcher should use the library to peruse through and read various books and articles related to the topic. The researcher should note down essential information related to the topic. d) Formulation — The researcher should use part of these materials, which will later on be used in the literature review to write the background to the study. The researcher should cite previous studies that are similar to what he/she is proposing.

 

Challenges Faced in Writing an Effective Background

There are various challenges that researchers experience in writing an effective background. This includes the following:

  • Lack of differentiation between the background to the study and the literature review. While the literature review expounds on various studies related to the area of study, the background should be a short summary briefly expounding on factors that have brought about the need for the study and opportunities for improvement.
  • Some researchers use the background content to justify the need for the study. Yet this section should give a brief overview of the research problem.
  • Lack of clarity due to poor language use. This involves the use of jargon such as slang, trendy words, abbreviations, colloquial expressions, redundant phrases and confusing language.
  • Quoting studies but not explaining how they fit in the background section.

 

In analyzing these backgrounds, the following points emerge:

  • They are brief, specific and give an overview of the problem.
  • The language used is simple and straightforward.
  • This section engages the interest of the reader. Previous studies that justify what the authors are proposing are cited.
  • The authors portray their familiarity with current happening in relation to the problem being addressed.

 

Statement of the Problem

A research problem refers to an issue or concern that puzzles the researcher. This may be due to its effect or consistence despite measures taken. For example, -a researcher may be puzzled as to why beer consumption is still high despite the increase in prices. A researcher may also wonder why the rate of school dropouts is still high in rural areas despite free primary education. These are concerns that may result in the formulation of a research question.

 

Qualities of an Effective Research Problem

The following qualities are reflected in an effective research problem

  • The research problem is clearly stated. It is concise. The reader is made aware that there is a definite issue that needs to be solved. This is mainly because the problem stands out-clearly and is easily recognized.
  • The research problem has an impact on the whole topic being investigated.
  • The research problem clearly indicates the urgency of the research- and shows that the research is definitely needed.
  • The problem is “researchable” -it is a problem that can be investigated through the collection and analysis of data.
  • The problem has supported statements.
  • The language used is simple and objective. No poetic, comical or emotional language is used.

 

Steps II Writing an Effective Statement of the Problem

There are various steps that should be taken in order to write an effective research problem.

a) Reflection — The statement of a problem usually starts with an idea the researcher might have as to what kind of a problem he/she wants to solve or what questions the researcher wants to answer in a selected topic. Everyday practices and experiences usually bring up questions the researcher wants to answer. These are fertile grounds for identifying the research problem.

The researcher should write down some research ideas/puzzles he/she has been debating based on the selected topic. Reflection involves assessing the selected research topic and title and thinking of the best way to reflect the riddle in the

topic/title. The researcher should also attempt to reflect on key issues in the topic and the independent and dependent variables of the study.

b) Identification -After identifying the key variables, the researcher should attempt to identify the key uncertainties. The researcher should attempt to answer the following: Is there something wrong or disturbing in society, theoretically unclear or in dispute related to the topic/title selected? Why is this a problem?

c) Formulation -After identifying the problem, the researcher should formulate it by clearly explaining why this is a problem and how it affects people or institutions. The researcher should indicate what it is he/she knows about the problem, through personal observation and research.

Justification -After stating what the researcher thinks is the problem he/she should explain briefly the repercussions likely to follow in the long run if the problem is not addressed. The researcher should use the statement of the problem to show that the research is definitely needed.

 

Challenges Faced in Articulating the Research Problem

a) Defining the research problem -One problem faced by researchers in stating the research problem is lack of clarity. The issue being addressed is hardly noticeable in the research problem. Let us take the example of Problems faced by street children in Nairobi. In this statement

From the above samples, it is clear that all the aims formulated are linked to the title. The aims do not refer to specific issues, and state the accomplishment of a group rather than of individuals.

 

Objectives

Objectives are intentions or purposes stated in specific measurable terms. They provide opportunities for evaluating the end results. In research, an objective is a specific statement relating to the defined aim of the study. Specific objectives constitute the means by which the aim/ goal of the study could be achieved. They specify what the researcher will do in the study. Objectives are operational. They state specific tasks that will be carried out by the researcher to accomplish the aims of the study. These tasks are measurable.

 

IMPORTANCE OF OBJECTIVES

Objectives play a vital role in research. This includes the following:

  • Objectives guide decisions in the selection of respondents, research instruments and the study area. This assists the researcher to avoid the collection of data, which are not strictly necessary for understanding and solving the problem identified.
  • Objectives influence all components of the research design including data analysis and report writing.
  • A clear statement of objectives helps to limit the scope of the literature review. This is necessary for valid outcomes. They assist the researcher to be precise about what to accomplish. They help organize the study in clearly defined parts or phases.
  • Objectives serve to clarify the variables of the study. This helps in the evaluation of the study.
  • Objectives break up the aim into achievable and measurable components. They serve as a guide for evaluation.
  • Objectives provide a common consistent focus for the many activities in research. Some unity in emphasis and some common focus are needed to achieve the goal of the study. This facilitates sequencing.

 

QUALITIES OF EFFECTIVE OBJECTIVES

Effective objectives display the following qualities:

a) They are specific – This means that the objectives selected clearly state what the researcher will do in order to fulfill the purpose of the study.

b) They are measurable – thus can be evaluated.

c) They are focused– The objectives should narrow the study to essentials. They should also cover the different aspects of the problem and its contributing factors in a coherent way and in a logical sequence. They should systematically address the various aspects of the problem, particularly the key factors that are assumed to influence or cause the problem.

d) They are operational – They should be clearly phrased in operational terms, specifying exactly what the researcher will do.

e) They are realistic -therefore achievable.

 

GUIDELINES IN WRITING OBJECTIVES

In order to write specific objectives that will be effective to the researcher, the following guidelines should be followed: 

Reflection -This involves analyzing the aim of the study, the topic, and title before formulating the specific objectives. Specific objectives should relate to all these aspects. 

Formulation -The researcher should write down the specific objectives ensuring that they are measurable and if accomplished will answer the research question. 

Evaluation – After the formulation of objectives, the researcher should attempt to answer the following questions: Do the objectives address all parts of the research problem? Do the objectives measure what is being researched? Are the objectives feasible? If too ambitious, could the scope of the study be reduced? Answers to these questions will assist the researcher formulate effective objectives.

 

CHALLENGES FACED IN SPECIFIC OBJECTIVE FORMULATION

There are various challenges faced in objective formulation. This include the following:

  1. Lack of clarity – In some studies, the objectives are not clearly articulated. The objectives do not focus clearly what the study hopes to accomplish.
  2. Overambitious objectives – At times the objectives stated by the researcher are too many and cannot be achieved within the time frame stated and the finance implied. The scope may also be too wide.
  3. The objectives do not follow a logical order.
  4. Unrelated objectives – Formulating objectives that do not deal with all aspects of the research problem.
  5. Not specific – Some stated objectives are not specific and therefore difficult to evaluate. Objectives stated by non-action verbs such as, to appreciate, to understand or to study, are difficult to assess.

One notable fact about these objectives is that they are specific. There is something the researchers want to determine, to establish, to identify and to investigate. The objectives therefore clearly state what the researchers will do in order to fulfill the purpose of the study. These objectives can be evaluated. The objectives also narrow the study to essentials. They are phrased in operational terms, specifying exactly what each researcher will do. The objectives stated are realistic and achievable. An aim is a general statement, which reflects the intention or purpose of your chosen area of research, whilst an objective is a specific statement relating to the defined goal/aim of your research. It is not uncommon to have more than one objective to satisfy your research aim.

 

In simple terms the aim and objectives are interrelated. The aim is what you want to achieve, and the objective describes how you are going to achieve that aim.

 

Research Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a guess or an assumption. It is a tentative explanation for certain behaviour patterns, phenomena, or events that have occurred or will occur (Gay, 1996). For example, price increase influences commodity consumption. This is only a guess. It may or may not be true, or it may be applicable to some commodities and not others. In this guess, a relationship is perceived between price increase and commodity consumption. It therefore has to be verified. In research, a hypothesis is a statement that describes an unknown but tentatively reasonable outcome for the existing phenomenon. It is a tentative answer to what the researcher considers as ought to be the possible outcome of an existing problem or phenomenon. It is a likely solution to a problem being studied, which is advanced before the actual research is undertaken. Orodho and Kombo (2004) define hypothesis as educated guesses about possible differences, relationships or causes of research problems. They state what the researcher thinks the outcome of the study will be.

 

Types of Hypothesis

There are three types of hypothesis: the conceptual, research and statistical hypothesis.

 

CONCEPTUAL HYPOTHESIS

This is a statement about the relationship between theoretical concepts. These are mainly ideas that can never be directly tested because they cannot be measured. They must be operationalized or made measurable before they are tested. For example, discipline facilitates academic achievement or negative attitudes retard development.

 

RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS

This is a statement about the expected relationship between observable or measurable events. An experimental research hypothesis states expected relationships between independent and dependent variables. For example, rewards after an accomplishment of a task will increase the frequency of the performance of the task. This is an example of an experimental research hypothesis.

 

For example, a teacher notes that students who complete the mathematics examinations half an hour before the expected time usually perform poorly as compared to those who complete in the expected time. The teacher may decide to investigate the relationship between the number of minutes needed to complete an examination and the score on the examination. The teacher may use the data to determine whether there is a significant negative relationship between these two variables. The research hypothesis may be formulated as follows: The length of time needed to complete tile mathematics examination will be negatively correlated with the score on the examination for students.

 

STATISTICAL HYPOTHESIS

This hypothesis states an expected relationship between the numbers representing statistical properties of data such as the mean, variance and correlation. This hypothesis is a guess about the value of a population parameter or about the relationship between values of two or more parameters the hypothesis is testing. The statistical hypotheses consist of the null hypothesis (H0) and the alternative hypothesis (H1). An example of a statistical hypothesis can be stated as following:

The mean different scores in Sociology by students in the Institute of Open Learning and those in the Department of Sociology at Kenyatta University is zero.

 

Ways of Stating the Hypothesis

There are two forms of stating the hypothesis: the null and alternative forms.

 

THE NULL HYPOTHESIS

The null hypothesis states that there is no difference between the variables studied. The aim of testing is to show that the hypothesis is false and thereby accept the alternative hypothesis. The null hypothesis refers to the guess the researcher tests and hopes to prove wrong, reject or nullify. The null hypothesis states that no relationship exists between the variables studied. Confirmation of the research hypothesis is based on rejecting the null. For example, there is no significant difference in the academic performance of students who attend private schools and those who attend public schools in national examinations.

 

If the researcher wishes to show that a difference exists in national examination performance among students. in public and private schools, then the researcher must prove that there are no differences. The null hypothesis specifies the expected value of a single population parameter or the expected relationship between two or more parameters.

 

The first step in testing a hypothesis is to make the assumption that there is no significant difference between variables or conditions being studied. This assumption is called Null and it refers to nothing or no relationship. Null is symbolized by H0.

 

The aim of testing is to show that the hypothesis is false and thereby accept the alternative one. The null hypothesis states that no relationship exists between the variables being studied. Confirmation of the research hypothesis is based on rejecting the null.

 

Examples:

H01: There is no significant difference in the academic performance of students who attend private schools and those who attend public schools in national examinations.

 

If the researcher wishes to show that a difference in performance exists in national examinations among students in public and private schools, then he/she must prove that there are no differences.

 

Other examples are:

H02: There is no significant difference between an individual’s success in life and his/her academic certificates.

H03: There is no significant difference between business locale and profit margin.

H04: There is no significant difference in performance between female and male entrepreneurs.

H05: There is no significant difference between the behaviour of female and male pastors.

H06: There is no significant difference between managerial skills of male and female managers.

Null hypotheses specify the expected value of single population parameter or the expected relationship between two or more parameters. Therefore, it is important to note that all the hypotheses should be tested. There is no way a verdict can be passed without an investigation.

 

THE ALTERNATIVE HYPOTHESIS

This hypothesis states a value or relationship and it is different from the null. It asserts that the value of relationship in the null is not ‘cruel in research, the null hypothesis is tested, and if rejected, the alternative hypothesis is accepted.

Alternative hypothesis is the opposite of null and it is symbolized by H1.

 

Examples:

H1: There is a significant difference between the perception and attitude of entrepreneurs.

H2: There is a significant difference between success in business and determination.

H3 Teachers determine the success or failure of their students in life.

 

All stated hypotheses require testing. Therefore, it is imperative for a researcher to know that all the hypotheses should be backed up by evidence.

 

DIRECTIONAL HYPOTHESIS

If the researcher’s interest is in finding a difference only in a particular direction, then a directional hypothesis is used. A directional hypothesis states the relationship between the variables being studied or difference between experimental treatments that a researcher expects to emerge. For example if a researcher is interested in finding out how teacher qualifications influence students’ performance in mathematics in secondary schools, the directional hypothesis can be stated as following: There is a positive and significant relationship between the qualification of teachers and student performance in mathematics in secondary schools.

 

Importance of Hypotheses in Research

The hypothesis plays a vital role in research. This includes the following:

  1. It states the researcher’s expectations concerning the relationship between the variables in the research problem.
  2. The hypothesis refines the research problem.
  3. By defining the variables in the study, the hypothesis enables the researcher to collect data that either supports the hypothesis or rejects it.

 

Qualities of an Effective Hypothesis

An effective hypothesis has the following qualities:

  • It states as clearly and concisely as possible the expected relationship (or difference) between two or more variables.
  • It defines the selected variables in operational and measurable terms.
  • It is testable and verifiable. It is possible to support or not support the hypothesis by collecting and analyzing data.
  • The wordings are clear and precise.
  • It gives logical arguments to justify the hypothesis.
  • It is consistent with the existing body of knowledge.

 

Guidelines in Formulating the Hypothesis

In formulating an effective hypothesis the following  guidelines should be adhered to:

  1. Reflect — on issues of concern
  2. Analyze the research problem, title, objectives and literature review. These sections will identify key variables that the. r0esearcher’; can use as a base to define the relationships.
  3. Generate operational definitions for all variables.
  4. State the research hypothesis – The research hypothesis should clearly state the relationship that the researcher thinks exists between the independent and dependent variables.
  5. Formulate — The researcher should then write down the relationship between the variables ensuring that they are measurable and if accomplished will answer the research question. The researcher should ensure they reflect expected relationships or differences.
  6. Evaluation — After formulating the hypothesis, the researchers should evaluate it to find out if it addresses all sections of the research problem.

 

Challenges Faced in Formulating the Hypothesis

There are various challenges faced in hypothesis formulation. These challenges include:

  • Lack of clarity: In some studies, the hypothesis does not clearly state the relationship between two or more variables. They do not focus on the relationship the study hopes to portray.
  • At times the variables stated in the hypothesis are too many and cannot be achieved within the time frame stated.
  • Some of the formulated hypotheses are not testable or verifiable.
  • Some hypotheses do not address all aspects of the research problem.

Hypothesis can be used in both qualitative and quantitative research. They are applicable when the researcher intends to show that a relationship exists between the independent and dependent variables.

 

Research Questions

These are issues that the researcher seeks to answer. They are related to the research objectives. These questions guide the research process by addressing the variables of the study.

 

Significance of the Study

This section outlines the significance or importance of the issue at hand. If for example the researcher is investigating poor prices, then significance would be related to improvement of prices. It could also involve creation of awareness of market forces.

 

Limitations of the Study

This section indicates challenges anticipated or faced by the. researcher. This includes time and financial limitations that influenced the scope of the study, data inaccessibility, and unanticipated occurrences. However the researcher should make an attempt to state how the challenges were overcome.

 

Conceptual Framework

A CONCEPT is an abstract or general idea inferred or derived from specific instances. A concept is a word or phrase that symbolizes several interrelated ideas. Unlike a theory, a concept does not need to be discussed to be understood (Smyth, 2004).

 

CONCEPTUALIZATION is inventing or contriving an idea or explanation and formulating it mentally. It is the act of creating or formulating something by thinking up particular ideas or actions intended to deal with a problem or situation. A conceptualization is an abstract, simplified view of the world that we wish to represent for some purpose. Every knowledge base, knowledge-based system, or knowledge-level agent is committed to some conceptualization, explicitly or implicitly (Genesereth and Nilsson, 1987).

 

FRAMING is the formulation of plans and important details. Itis a way of conceiving something.

 

A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK can be defined as a set of broad ideas and principles taken from relevant fields of enquiry ad used to structure a subsequent presentation (Reichel and Ramey, 1987).

 

A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK is a research tool intended to assist a researcher to develop awareness and understanding of the situation under scrutiny and to communicate this. When clearly articulated, a conceptual framework has potential usefulness as a tool to assist a  researcher to make meaning of subsequent findings. It forms part of the agenda for negotiation to be scrutinized and tested, reviewed and informed as a result of investigation (Guba and Lincoln, 1989).

 

Usefulness of Conceptual Frameworks

According to Goetz and LeCompte (1984), and Bliss, Monk and Ogborn (1983) a conceptual framework increasingly strengthens and keeps the research on track by:

  • Providing clear links from the literature to the research goals and questions.
  • Contributing to the formulation of the research design.
  • Providing reference points for discussion of literature, methodology and analysis of data.
  • Contributing to the trustworthiness of the study.
  • Giving a broad scope to thinking about the research.
  • Conceptualizing the problem and providing a means to link ideas and data so that deeper connections can be revealed.

 

A conceptual framework should assist a researcher to organize his/her thinking and complete an investigation successfully. It must explain the relationship among interlinked concepts. It explains the possible connection between the variables and answers the why questions. To find out how effective one’s conceptual framework is, one should analyze whether the set objectives have been addressed (Smyth, 2004).

 

When we understand a concept we understand the links and assoc E’tons that go with that concept. Researchers who understand concepts become more knowledgeable in their area of research. Understanding is greater and of higher quality if we understand the dynamics. In research if one can understand a concept one becomes very close to “owning” it.

 

Strategies of Designing Effective Conceptual Frameworks

Learners at all levels of education consistently find the process of designing a conceptual framework a demanding, abstract and frustrating experience. To come up with an effective conceptual framework, one has to analyze a set of broad ideas and principles taken from relevant fields of inquiry, and study various works illuminating experiences where several threads of thought combine. Extensive bodies of knowledge could be used as cornerstones for organizing one’s thinking (Smyth, 2002).

 

The extent and currency of these bodies of literature provided a sound foundation for a conceptual framework. This is because one can draw on this extensive and collaborated theorizing, to devise a common language, guiding principles and reference points from which to structure discussions and analysis (Smyth, 2002). It is also useful for a researcher to understand what a conceptual framework is and entails before attempting to conceptualize.

 

The following strategies are useful in designing an effective conceptual framework.

  1. Reflection – assessing situations from social, economic and philosophical perspectives. One has to be clear about what the research is about (title, objectives). Factors such as the independent and dependent variables, and research questions should also be put into perspective.
  2. Defining the key issue (problem) to be addressed and defining its practical boundaries.
  3. Identifying key uncertainties (gaps in understanding/knowledge) about the situation or the social/economic systems, and so on (The questions that need to be answered by the study).
  4. Identifying and assessing different possibilities for action.

 

A well constructed conceptual framework can guide the entire research writing process, keep the researcher on track, save time and enable researchers to defend their arguments soundly and readily.

 

Qualities of an Effective Conceptual Framework

An effective conceptual framework should have the following qualities:

  • Should be clear and concise.
  • Language used should be simple and straight forward.
  • The conceptual framework should be self explanatory.
  • Should have supportive evidence of ideas used.
  • It should be logical and address the title, research objectives, and statement of the problem.
  • It should be consistent with the literature review.
  • It should also show a link between the literature review and the study problem.
  • It should develop a set of guiding principles against which judgments and prediction might be made.
  • It should act as a reference point from which to locate the research questions within contemporary theorizing.
  • It should provide a structure within which to organize the content of research and to frame conclusions within the context.

 

Challenges Faced in Designing an Effective Conceptual Framework

There are various challenges faced in designing an effective conceptual framework and this should be addressed by researchers. One of the major challenges is in structuring the framework so that one can communicate through it effectively. Choosing the language for the descriptions needs careful consideration. Descriptors form the common- language reference points for discussion, judgments and reporting.

 

In addition, elements of each theme overlap considerably and it is therefore important to realize that themes are parts of an intertwined context rather than isolated strategies making independent contributions to the situation under consideration. Disunity in themes is a major weakness in conceptual frameworks. Some researchers write ideas that are isolated, yet in a conceptual framework elements of each theme should overlap.

 

The literature review should support the investigation through the conceptual framework. It should provide reference points from which judgments can be made following the data analysis in subsequent chapters. One of the challenges faced is planning and finalizing the conceptual framework without the planner being conversant with the research objectives. Another major challenge is copying conceptual frameworks of other researchers without a keen study to find out if the framework fits in the current study.

 

Limitations of Conceptual Frameworks

A researcher should be aware of the following limitations when designin a conceptual framework. A conceptual framework is a construction of knowledge bound by the life-world experiences of the person developing it and should not be attributed a power that it does not have (Miles and Huberman, 1994). Moreover, the nature of a conceptual framework means that it consciously or unconsciously informs thought and practice by increasing personal sensitivity to particular occurrences, and so this must be taken into account (Mason and Waywood, 1996). No researcher can expect that all data will be analyzed using the framework without the risk of limiting the results from the investigation.

By considering these cautions, one should remain open to new or unexpected occurrences in the data and the investigation.

 

Steps  in Preparing an Effective Conceptual Framework

There are various steps in preparing an effective conceptual framework. These are as follows:

  1. Selection of concepts — A person selects the concepts to be used in relation to the problem. At this level of abstraction, the focus is on alternative ideas that bear directly on the problem or situation. These ideas relate directly to the problem.
  2. Creation of options — the construction of possible actions prior to selection. It addresses the act of creating the sequences for creating ideas. The perception of the circumstances or imagining the circumstances immediately gives rise to mental sets in relation to those circumstances. These mental sets include our knowledge of what to do, and potential outcomes — these are prior knowledge.
  3. Seek the tools to conceptualize — the very tools for the highest level of abstract thought. At this level ideas are linked and their relationship identified.
  4. Direct the conceptualization process — offering certain types of insight and write the conceptual framework.

 

Potential for Transferability

The usefulness of the conceptual framework as a research tool is illustrated by the researcher’s ability to identify and account for occurrences of actions and behaviour in one’s data through the descriptors in the framework (Smyth, 2004). The conceptual framework should demonstrate its potential as a meta-analysis tool by fulfilling the conditions set for it. It should be a useful research tool in the con- text for which it was developed. The conceptual framework indicates the effect of the independent variable (cause) on the dependent variable (outcome).

 

After identifying the variables a researcher should interpret and link the conceptual framework with the current study.

Theoretical Framework

A theoretical framework is a collection of interrelated ideas based on theories. It is a reasoned set of prepositions, which are derived from and supported by data or evidence. A theoretical framework accounts for or explains phenomena. It attempts to clarify why things are the way they are based on theories. A theoretical framework is a general set of assumptions about the nature of phenomena. To understand theoretical frameworks, an analysis of theories has to be made.

 

Theories in Research

A theory is a reasoned statement or groups of statements, which are supported by evidence, meant to explain phenomena. They are a systematic explanation of the relationship among phenomena. Theories provide a generalized, explanation to an occurrence. There are several kinds of theories in all disciplines. It is impossible for a researcher to know all these theories. Therefore a researcher should be conversant with those applicable to one’s area of research. When a theory fails to be supported by data, it can be rejected, or is revised. Theories are testable in a practical situation. Theories provide indicators and examples of what is incorporated in the framework. Theories provide tentative theoretical answers to questions, issues and problems before the researcher practically confirms through research that the answer is correct. Theories have proponents. Researchers apply theories to guide their work and help interpret findings. They provide a foundation for inquiries. The following are some of the theories that. can be used to formulate a theoretical framework:

 

a) STRUCTURAL FUNCTIONALISM THEORY (EMILE DURKHEIM, 1858-1917)

This theory proposes that a human society is like an organism and is made up of structures called social institutions. These institutions are specially structured so that they perform different functions on behalf of society. This theory attempts to provide an explanation on how human society is organized and what each of the various social institutions does in order for society to continue existing. According to this theory, as a result of being interrelated and interdependent, one organ can affect the others and ultimately the whole. The whole can also affect one or all the social institutions. A researcher can use this theory to point out why and how some societies operate relatively well compared to others socially.

 

b) Symbolic Interaction Theory (Max Weber, 1864-1920)

This theory deals with explaining how individuals relate with each other. This is a theoretic orientation, which contains assumptions proposing that the social world is made up of symbols, which human beings use as a means of interaction. According to this theory human beings do not act individually but interact with each other, thus reacting to each other. A researcher can use this theory in an attempt to explain and understand how people relate to each other and what is used in facilitating a relationship between individua1 and groups of people in society. A researcher may attempt 4o show how the behaviour expressed by members of groups to which one belongs and by members of one’s personal networks have an influence. The researcher may show how people rely on the opinions of others, especially when a situation is highly uncertain or ambiguous and’ no objective evidence is readily available. “

 

c) CONFLICT THEORY (KARL MARX 181 8-1883) .

This theory emphasizes the existence of opposing forces in the fife of individuals, groups, social structures and society in general. This theory views human society as a collection of competing interest groups and individuals, each with their own motives and expectations. The principle assumption underlying this theory is that all members in society do not have the same values, interests or expectations. These vary according to one’s position, privileges, ability, class and wealth. Agreement tends to appear among those who share similar privileges. This is likely to encourage unequal distribution of the scarce but valuable resources and opportunities. This results in divisions in society resulting in hostility and opposition. A researcher can use this theory in an attempt to explain why conflicts occur in society.

 

d) BASIC NEEDS THEORY (ABRAHAM MASLOW, 1943)

‘According to this theory, there sare certain minimum requirements that are essential to a decent standard of living. These are known as physiological needs. They include food, shelter, health and clothing.. They are primary needs and have to be catered for before other needs such as security and shelter, sense of belonging and affection, love, esteem and finally self-actualization are pursued. A researcher can apply this theory when attempting to prove that lack of basic survival needs may be a contributory factor to the situation of the phenomenon under study.

 

Importance of Theoretical Frameworks

A theoretical framework plays a major role in research. These include the following:

  1. It introduces the researcher to a new view of the research prob1cm. This enables the researcher to understand the total realm of the problem.
  2. It enables the researcher to conceptualize the topic in its entirety as an outgrowth of the larger society. This helps the researcher to acknowledge the problem from a wider perspective and not from a narrow personalized self-interest approach. This enhances the researcher’s objectivity.

 

Qualities of an Effective Theoretical Framework

An effective theoretical framework should:

  1. Account for and explain a phenomenon.
  2. Be specific and well articulated.
  3. Reflect the research problem being addressed.
  4. Be measured in a practical situation.
  5. Provide tentative answers to questions, issues and problems addressed in the research problem.
  6. Should systematically address the various aspects of the problem, particularly the key factors that are assumed to influence or cause the problem.

  

Guidelines in Formulating a Theoretical Framework

In formulating an effective theoretical framework, the researcher should adhere to the following:

  1. Reflect On the existing theories for the purpose of identifying a fitting context.
  2. Analyze the research title to identify the independent and dependent variables. The researcher should then reflect on the relationship between these variables.
  3. Find cut which theories best explain the relationship between the variables. This can be achieved by using the library and reading books with articles related to the topic selected. The researcher should read through various theories related to one’s research topic. The sources include professional publications, journals in education, theses, abstracts from doctoral dissertations and masters’ theses and psychological abstracts. These readings will present various studies related to one’s study area. This will assist in the formulation of the theoretical framework.
  4. Formulation -The researcher should then write down the theories applicable, link the ideas and identify the relationship. After this the researcher should formulate the theoretical framework. This will involve discussing the selected theories in an attempt to answer the research question.
  5. Evaluation – After formulating the theoretical framework, the researcher should evaluate it to find out if it addresses all sections of the research problem.

 

Challenges Faced in Formulation of Theoretical Frameworks

Lack of differentiation between a theory and a theoretical framework. While a theory simply states what proponents have discovered in relation to a certain issue, a theoretical framework uses this theory to account for and clarify why things are the way they are. The researcher should therefore avoid simply stating the theories applicable to the study. Moreover, some researchers quote theories that do not explain the phenomenon under study.

 

Relationship between Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks

Many researchers get confuse,1 whether to use conceptual or theoretical frameworks in their studies. Although both these frameworks are tools to assist a researcher make meaningful findings, they vary. A conceptual framework bases on ideas that may be formulated from a researcher’s own perception. This may be from observation or experience. On the other hand, the theoretical framework is based on recognized theories.

A conceptual framework cannot be refuted or tested through research. A theoretical framework is testable and can be rejected or revised. Ideas raised in a theoretical framework have proponents while those in a conceptual framework are mainly the researcher’s with a few references to support them. A theoretical framework is a discussion of related theories attempting to predict a phenomenon. A conceptual framework is an idea stated.

 

 

 

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