ROUTE #1: Getting Started
ROUTE #1: Chapter-by-Chapter


Set the theoretical model for your dissertation

By this point in STAGE FIVE, you should understand the broader literature within which your main journal article and chosen route fit (i.e., STEP ONE), have critically evaluated the main journal article and its components parts (i.e., STEP TWO), and have justified the route you have chosen, and the approach within that route (i.e., STEP THREE). It is now time to use this knowledge to set the theoretical model for your dissertation (i.e., STEP FOUR). However, if you are not answering a relationship-based hypothesis/research question in your dissertation, you can jump to STEP FIVE, since the theoretical models that we show you in this step are not suitable for descriptive research questions or comparative hypotheses/research questions [see STAGE THREE: Setting research questions and/or hypotheses if you can't remember if the difference between these types of research questions/hypotheses].

Supervisors and/or dissertation guidelines often suggest (or state) that you need to include a conceptual framework or theoretical model in your dissertation. These are similar in the sense that both conceptual frameworks and theoretical models help readers to quickly understand the main theory (or theories) that are you are interested in, the principal concepts/constructs you examining/measuring, how you think that these different theories and concepts/constructs might interact, amongst other goals that we discuss later in this article. The terms conceptual framework and theoretical model are often used interchangeably, but we prefer to view conceptual frameworks as a tool more often used in qualitative research, with theoretical models being something that we try to build in quantitative research.

Theoretical models are useful in order to: (a) set the boundaries/scope of the research project in terms of the theories and constructs that will be studied and measured; (b) illustrate the research hypotheses to be tested, and the predictions that are being made (if any) about the relationship between the constructs under study; and (c) provide a roadmap at the end of your Literature Review chapter (usually Chapter Two: Literature Review), which brings together your research hypotheses, theories, and constructs that have been critically discussed in a way that can be clearly tested. Ultimately, theoretical models are useful frameworks for you and the people reading your dissertation, helping to describe what you are studying in a clear, succinct, and visual way. They provide an overall picture of what you research is trying to achieve.

Unfortunately, theoretical models are often poorly constructed because they fail to illustrate the links between theory, the constructs you should have identified, and the hypotheses (and their predictions, if any) that you will have constructed. However, by the end of STEP FOUR, you should be able to adopt or modify the theoretical model put forward in the main journal article, or create a new theoretical model from scratch.

If you are following Route A: Duplication or Route B: Generalisation, you should be able to adopt, or at most modify the theoretical model put forward in the main journal article. However, if (a) a theoretical model is not included in the main journal article, (b) the theoretical model proposed is unclear, or (c) you are following Route C: Extension, you may need to create your own theoretical model. If you plan to simply adopt the theoretical model put forward in the main journal article, you can skip STEP FOUR and move onto STAGE SIX: Setting your research strategy. However, to learn more about modifying such a theoretical model, and moreover, creating a theoretical model, follow the four steps below:

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