A theoretical framework can be viewed as the frame of a house, it is the foundation for a research study. A theoretical framework provides a rationale for predictions about the relationships among variables of a research study. It provides a context for examining a problem.
A theoretical framework provides a road map or a frame of reference that is a basis for observations, definitions of concepts, research designs, interpretations and generalizations. It is the theoretical rationale for the development of hypotheses in the study.
A theoretical framework summarizes the existing knowledge in the field of inquiry and identifies linkages among defined concepts, thereby establishing the basis for predicting specific outcomes or generating hypotheses.
A theoretical framework for a research study may be an existing theory such as existing nursing theory or it can be constructed by the researcher from what is known about the relationships among the variables from past research studies.
All research studies must have a theoretical framework.