• To explore the benefits of using a theoretical framework with the aid of an example of a ‘real-life’ application in a research project
• To appreciate how theoretical frameworks make it more likely that research will produce meaningful findings that address the research problem
• To assist novice researchers embarking on higher degree research to understand the use of these frameworks
Background Using a theoretical framework is often viewed as laborious or unnecessary for higher degree research projects. However, considering research problems through the lens of a theoretical framework can provide a structure for students to focus their research questions and produce findings that are more likely to address the research problem.
Aim To explain the utility of a theoretical framework and demonstrate the inclusion of a theoretical framework – deterrence theory – in a research project exploring plagiarism in nursing education.
Discussion The experiences of a higher degree research student provided insight into the inclusion of a theoretical framework in a research plan. The benefits of this process are highlighted so other students can appreciate the importance of this process to their research plan and findings.
Conclusion A framework can add value to the overall research plan, from developing the research question through to the analysis and presentation of research findings. Fundamentally, frameworks provide a map for a study, providing a rationale for the development of the research questions or research hypothesis. A theoretical framework brings cohesion to the research project by linking the research questions and providing ‘intellectual bins’ for data analysis and presentation of research findings.
Implications for practice This article may assist higher degree research students in recognising the benefits of using a theoretical framework and provides an example of a ‘real-life’ application in a research project. The authors argue that theoretical frameworks can strengthen the likelihood that the research has produced meaningful findings that have addressed the research problem.
Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2020.e1723Peer review
This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated softwareCorrespondence
Lynch J, Ramjan L, Glew P et al (2020) How to embed a conceptual or theoretical framework into a dissertation study design. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2020.e1723
Published online: 06 August 2020
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