Theoretical Framework

What is a Theoretical Framework?

The theoretical framework is the collection of background information, previous research, and theoretical considerations on which a research project, analysis, hypothesis, or experiment is based.

The theoretical framework, also called the reference framework, is the theoretical, contextual or legal support of the concepts that were used to present the problem in the investigation.

With this collection of information, an attempt is also made to demonstrate what is the novel contribution that the research project is going to make in its respective area of ​​knowledge.

The theoretical framework is also characterized by defining the discipline to which the chosen object of study belongs, the relevant concepts and the phenomenon in which one wants to deepen or that one intends to study.

Its importance lies in the fact that it allows justifying, demonstrating, supporting and interpreting the hypotheses and results of an investigation in an orderly and coherent manner. In addition, the theoretical framework helps us to reliably formulate the conclusions of a project or, failing that, rethink the questions in greater depth.

Structure of the theoretical framework

The parts of a theoretical framework can vary depending on the type of research, but in general terms it should be structured into the following basic sections.


It is the part in which the problem and all the previous studies that have been done about it are mentioned. In this way, the previous approaches can be better understood and a guide can be established regarding the information and procedures available to carry out the investigation.

Background information includes additional information that allows a better understanding of the current problem, such as: geographic, cultural, economic, demographic, historical, political, and social context, among others, that are pertinent for the purposes of the investigation.

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Theoretical bases

As its name indicates, it refers to all the theory that supports the topic or problem raised. If it were a matter for which at least one previous theory does not yet exist, then this is the part in which one’s own theory will be presented.

In the theoretical bases, key concepts about the problem to be investigated are also described, so that it is possible to better elucidate the subject matter.

In some cases, it is necessary to clarify all the legal parameters on which an investigation is going to be carried out. That must be described in the legal bases which, in turn, must be within the theoretical framework.

In the same way, in the legal bases, all the background information of this nature that exists on the subject to be investigated must be explained, if applicable.


In the theoretical framework, all the variables of the problem must be expressed in terms of measurable factors. In this way, confusion or misinterpretations with concepts that could be ambiguous are avoided.

How to make a theoretical framework?

There is no single formula to make a theoretical framework. However, there are some guidelines that could be taken into account at the time of writing:

  1. Review the bibliography: the bibliography must be reviewed previously and exhaustively in order to select only what is of interest to the investigation.
  2. Identify the legal bases: The legal bases (if applicable) must be ordered chronologically, mentioning the oldest first.
  3. Sort the concepts: Concepts must be hierarchically and logically organized. This is an aspect that will give more formality to the investigation and, in addition, will make it much easier to understand.
  4. Avoid filler information: Focus exclusively on data that contributes to generating knowledge.
  5. write clearly: The writing must be clear, concise, specific. The concepts and methods described should not leave room for misinterpretation.
  6. differentiate the parts: a theoretical framework is not divided into chapters. Instead, each of the component parts (background, theoretical and legal bases, variables) must be separated with the respective title.
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See also:

  • Parts of a thesis.
  • Investigation project.
  • What are Background?
  • Background of a project

Example of theoretical framework

  • Theme: Effect of medicinal plants on brain inflammation caused by malaria.
  • Background: Malaria or paludism is the most important parasitic disease in the world, produced by the protozoan Plasmodium. Some plants with antiparasitic activity have been obtained.
  • Theoretical bases: everything the researcher needs to know to frame the problem of new malaria treatments:
    • What is malaria and how does it affect humans?
    • How the parasite is transmitted.
    • Inflammation and the immune response in malaria.
    • Antimalarial treatments and problems with drug resistance.
    • Plants that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as turmeric (Curcuma longa) and lemongrass or lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus).
    • Protocol for the study of new antimalarials.
  • Key concepts: malaria, plasmodium, inflammation, immune response, plant active principles, experimental models

The molecules from which the active principles of plants were derived co-evolved to interact with each other, conferring an ecological benefit to the producing organism, either in competition for resources or in the fight against predators and pathogens. This coevolution produces a synergy or potentiation that increases efficiency while reducing the development of resistance and toxic effects. Based on this paradigm, the combination of drugs was adopted as a strategy to control and prevent resistance (23). Another plant that has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Asian medicine is the Curcuma longawhich has immunoregulatory and parasiticide activity against various parasites including the Plasmodium (24).

Reference Fernández Rivera, O. (2020). effect of Curcuma longa Y Cymbopogon citratus on the inflammatory process in an experimental model of cerebral malaria [TESIS QUE PARA OPTAR POR EL GRADO DE: MAESTRO EN CIENCIAS BIOLÓGICAS]. Autonomous University of Mexico.

See also:

  • Examples of theoretical framework.
  • 15 examples of hypotheses.
  • Problem Statement
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Daros, WR (2002) What is a theoretical framework? Focus XIV: 73-112. Available at:

Tamayo and Tamayo, M. (2003) The process of scientific investigation, 4th ed. Editorial Limusa. Mexico.