I have developed the PhD Theoretical Framework Template to allow you to understand what’s required when writing the theoretical framework chapter for your PhD.
I made it because I know from my own PhD that the theory framework was one of the most difficult parts of the entire thesis.
In this guide, I will explain
1. What the template is
2. Who it’s for
3. How to use it.
The focus is on the practical things to consider when you’re working with the template. Once you have read it, have a look at our guide to structuring the theory framework, which focuses in much more detail about each of the various components of the theory framework.

What is the Theory Framework Template?

Theory frameworks are like toolboxes. They detail the concepts, theories and hypotheses that you will use when tackling your research problem. 

Unsurprisingly, then, the focus of the theory framework template is on detailing what these tools look like, why you have chosen them and how you will apply them.

The template then is a way to break down the theory section of your thesis into manageable chunks. Ten, in fact. It covers everything from picking a dominant theory to discussing epistemology and ontology.

Once you have filled it in, you will be able to easily see the various elements and how they relate to one another. It demystifies the theory construction process. Plus, you can easily update the template as your ideas develop and become more refined over time.


Who is the Theory Framework Template For?

There are three intended audiences in mind for this template:

1. If you haven’t yet started your theory framework, the template will help you structure your thinking and show you what things you need to consider when you approach the literature.
2. If you’ve already constructed your theory framework, the template will help you structure your theory chapter or section, so you can present the right things in the right order.
3. Or, if you’ve already written your theory section or chapter, you can use the template to make sure you’ve included everything.

So, which ever stage you’re at, keep reading.


How do I Use the Theory Framework Template?

You will see that the template contains ten sections. All you have to do to use the template is to answer the questions in each section as concisely and briefly as possible. It’s similar to our free PhD Writing Template, which focuses on the structure of the entire thesis. If you haven’t had a chance, check it out. It’s a great way to visualise your entire PhD on one page.

The first step is to print the framework out.

Use one Post-it note for each of the ten sections.Why a Post it note? First, you can easily change your answer for each section without having to update the entire template. Second, they’re really small, which forces you to come up with clear, concise answers.

Start at section one, which focuses on Research Aims & Objectives. You need to have solid answers to these questions before you start constructing or writing up your theory framework. They are the scaffolding upon which the whole framework needs to hang. If you don’t, you’ll struggle to come up with anything coherent or compelling.

Once you’re happy with how your answers look, it’s time to move through the remaining nine sections one at a time. Answer the questions for each on a single Post-it note, stick the note to the template and watch your thoughts develop into a coherent, logical theory framework.

When you’re done, pin the template up somewhere you’ll see it all the time, such as above your writing desk. Having it nearby will mean you can use it as a reference guide.

Don’t be afraid to change your answers as time goes on. It’s inevitable that you’ll go through a lot of Post-it notes. That’s the point! The template become more refined as time goes on and your own thinking becomes more developed.



Theory frameworks are hard. They’re hard to come up with and they’re hard to write. By using this template you can simplify your thought process by breaking it down into manageable chunks, simplifying your work load.

Now that you know how to fill the template out, it’s time to think about the core content. Not sure where to start? A good start is reading our detailed guide to structuring your theory framework.

Hello, Doctor…

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