A theoretical framework is a formation that assists in supporting or holding a theory of a research study. It introduces and explains the theory that describes why the research problem under the study exists. The theoretical framework plays a significant role in the nursing research. Theories form the foundation of the development of a useful theoretical framework. Currently, nurses engage in research to solve the existing and emerging challenges in the nursing profession. Research has helped in the current revolution observed in nursing. Thus, the paper will expound more on the theoretical framework in nursing.
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Before developing a theoretical framework, it is important to understand what a theory is. In nursing, a theory is a generalization of abstract that systemically describes the relationship among valuables in a research study (Miner‐Williams, 2006). It is important to note that theories are not discovered but created. The primary purpose of a theory is to make the findings of research interpretable and meaningful (Meleis, 2011). A descriptive theory refers to an extensive characterization of a single phenomenon. Various factors influence the development of a theory (Lunney, 2008). These factors include phenomenological methods such as research and the scientific method.
In nursing, a theory has various components. A theory must contain concepts such as holism, social support, caring, coping, pain, stress, health and many others (Andershed & Ternestedt, 2001). A theory also contains the statements or propositions that indicate the relationship between the concepts. The statements form a logically interrelated deductive system. Thus, a theory is the origin of new hypotheses that can be tested empirically. Theories help researchers to organize findings into a systematic whole. They are a way of organizing knowledge (Meleis, 2011). They help individuals to understand the occurrence of natural phenomena and form the basis for controlling and predicting outcomes. They provide the foundation for new knowledge and new research.
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Theoretical Framework in Nursing
A theoretical framework is a structure that explains phenomena with the aim of predicting and controlling such events. However, a theoretical framework should not be confused with a conceptual framework (Miner‐Williams, 2006). In most situations, these terms are used interchangeably, but they are different in their meaning. Conceptual frameworks are not adequately developed as theories, and they lack the deductive system of statements that characterize a theory (Lunney, 2008). They contain concepts as their foundation, and they serve as a basis for research. The ultimate goal of the research is the development of a theory. There exists much discussion in nursing about whether a single macro theory will ever be developed to explain all of the nursing (Andershed & Ternestedt, 2001). Currently, nursing researchers use multiple conceptual frameworks to develop various theories. All these frameworks have four major concepts that encompass the main conceptual thought of nursing. These concepts include man, environment, nursing, and health (Meleis, 2011). Nursing researchers use these concepts to develop theoretical frameworks that help to solve the various issues facing the nursing profession.
There are frameworks based on systems. One of these systems is Johnson’s behavioral system that is concerned with behavioral function. In this system, nurses help patients to balance both their systems and subsystems (Effken, 2003). Another system is the Neuman’s health care system model, in which nurses help patients to deal and adapt to the stressors (Effken, 2003). There are also frameworks based on adaptation. One of these frameworks is Roy's adaptation model, explaining four subsystems that lead to adaptation (Meleis, 2011). Orem’s self-care theory explains the deficits and self-care needs of the patients. The main goal of nurses is to assist the patients in meeting their self-care needs and acquiring the health necessary for self-care (Meleis, 2011). Martha Rogers Model focuses on the holistic interaction of the human being with the environment and on the development of human being (Effken, 2003). Nurse researchers also use other theories such as the Mecker’s health belief model, Bandura’s social cognitive theory, and Apter’s reversal theory among many others (Miner‐Williams, 2006). These frameworks provide the basis for the development of new knowledge in the nursing profession.
A theoretical framework is not found readily in the literature. A researcher must review the relevant research studies and course readings for the analytical models and theories that are pertinent to the research problem that an individual investigates (Lunney, 2008). A theory selection depends on its explanatory power, the ease of application, and appropriateness. Theoretical framework strengthens the study in several ways. A precise statement of theoretical assumptions allows the reader to evaluate them critically (Andershed & Ternestedt, 2001). The theoretical framework helps to connect the researcher to the existing body of knowledge. Through the guidance of a relevant research theory, a theoretical framework provides a basis for the hypotheses development and research methods (Meleis, 2011). Theoretical assumptions of a research study force the investigator to address the questions of how and why. They allow the researcher to transit intellectually from a simple description of a phenomenon observed to the generalization of various aspects of that event. The development of a good theory assists in identifying the limits of those generalizations (Meleis, 2011). By the nature of its application, a good theory in nursing is of significant value because it fulfills one major purpose: to describe the meaning, challenges, and nature related to a phenomenon. This understanding helps researchers to utilize that knowledge to act in more efficient and informed ways.
The theoretical framework in nursing provides the foundation for tackling the unknown in a particular area and finding its solutions. Theories are important in the development of a theoretical framework. Theories are never discovered; rather, they are purposely created and formulated to help address various nursing issues. There are many nursing conceptual models. These models provide concepts useful in the development of good theoretical frameworks. Most nurses have seen the need for engaging in research in a bid to find the solutions to the existing and emerging nursing problems. Understanding the development of a good nursing theoretical framework is the basis for inventing new ways of performing nursing procedures and improving the current nursing body of knowledge.