This question came unexpectedly from my Supervisor as I was about leaving after our meeting. However I was not prepared for the question and managed to mumble a couple of sentences before I left the office. I am trying to establish the theoretical framework for my research and I am still in the process. In this blog post I try write about the relevance of theory to my research.
Firstly, my research has key terms and theory helps to explain why and how I have come about those terms and the connection between my research variables. Merely stating variables or listing the names of existing theories does not identify theory, a relevant theory should explain the reason why a particular set of variables are expected to be strong predictors.
Secondly, theory guides hypothesis. i.e. hypothesis states what is expect to occur while theory explains why it is expected to occur.Hypotheses serve as bridges between theory and data. Therefore my theory should be clearly stated; it should guide in making explicit and compelling arguments about why the logic it represents lead to new and unanswered theoretical questions.
I am presently using my proposal; my research topic, questions and objectives as my guide. Having identified my key variables- the dependent and independent variables. I am doing a more in-depth review of relevant literature right now and alongside I am also reviewing theories to choose the best that can explain my arguments. I have identified theory(ies) whose propositions seem relevant to my work. I am looking forward to meeting my Supervisor to discuss this in our next meeting.
References: Thesis whisperer blog post about theory anxiety.
Sutton, R. I., & Staw, B. M. (1995). What theory is not. Administrative Science Quarterly, 371–384