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Master Class: Finetuning your theoretical framework


27-28 April 2023

Lang EN Workshop language is English

Dr. Elisa Volpi, coordinatrice CUSO


Professor Emma Mawdsley, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge


This master class is designed to assist the PhD researcher to understand the nature and purpose of a 'theoretical framework', and to give general and bespoke advice on developing and refining a strong theoretical framework for their own research. The master class will explore the differentiated meanings and different approaches to theory, theoretical frameworks, and conceptual frameworks. The emphasis will be on deepening understanding, recognizing the variability of good practices and approaches, and providing specific guidance to participants in developing their own theoretical frameworks for their PhD thesis.


Prerequisite for the class: 


1) Participants should submit a 2–3-page document one week before the master class, with the following content:

a. Research outline of 500 words (approx.) 

b. Draft research question(s)

c. Initial or developed ideas on the theoretical framework

d. Brief thoughts on research design. 


This document can be informally written, and it is understood that it may be provisional.


2) Required reading material for the discussion on April 27. Please be aware that these represent a variety of approaches and experiences – they are for critical assessment and discussion and are not strict models or guidelines. 


Burri, S. (2017) Making Sense of Theory: A Doctoral Student's Narrative of Conceptualising a Theoretical Framework. University of Wollongong: Research Online.


Varpio, L., Paradis, E., Uijdehaage, S. and Young, M. (2020) The Distinctions Between Theory, Theoretical Framework, and Conceptual Framework. Academic Medicine, 95 (7), 989-994


Hosseini, H. (2022) Contestations over Hirjat and postcoloniality: Forming a theoretical framework for the doctoral journey. Waikato Journal of Education 27 (2), 19-25


Additional optional reading


Elliot, N. and Higgins, A. (2012) Surviving Grounded Theory Research Method in an Academic World: Proposal Writing and Theoretical Frameworks. The Grounded Theory Review 11 (2), 1-12


Grant, C. and Osanloo, A. (2014) Understanding, selecting and integrating a theoretical framework in dissertation research: creating the blueprint for your 'house'. Administrative Issues Journal, 2 (4), 12-26


Kiley, M. (2015) 'I didn't have a clue what they were talking about': PhD candidates and theory. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 52 (1), 52-63


Kivunja, C. (2018) Distinguishing between Theory, Theoretical Framework, and Conceptual Framework: A Systematic Review of Lessons from the Field. International Journal of Higher Education, 7 (6), 44-53


Wilkins, S., Neri, S. and Lean, J. (2019) The role of theory in the business/management PhD: How students may use theory to make an original contribution. The International Journal of Management Education 17 (3)


Learning Outcomes: This master class will help doctoral students to understand the scope of both theoretical and conceptual frameworks and help place and align their theoretical framework within their research project.


Intended Audience: Participants from social sciences and at any stage of their doctorate are welcome. Although this workshop will be in English, participants with little experience in presenting their research in English are also encouraged to participate.


Thursday 27th April 2023


1400-1410 Welcome and introductions

1410-1430 Ice-breaker: biggest (theoretical) fears and challenges!

1430-1530 Discussion based on the required readings

1530-1545 Break

1545-1615 Lecture (Mawdsley): key concepts and varied approaches to developing a theoretical framework

1615-1630 Wrap up and plans for the 28th


Friday 28th April 2023


0900-0915 Outline of the day

0915-1115 Individual postgraduate presentations (15 mins presentation; 15 mins discussion)*

1115-1145 Break

1145-1315 Individual postgraduate presentations (15 mins presentation; 15 mins discussion)*

1315-1415 Lunch

1415-1445 Exercise: refining theoretical frameworks

1445-1515 Verbal presentations on changes, developments, ideas

1515-1600 Final discussion


*presentation length depending on numbers; instructions will be provided on slide numbers and titles




Date: April 27, 2023 (14:15h - 17:00h)

Location: M 4220 Uni Mail, University of Geneva


Date: April 28, 2023, (09 :15 - 17:00) 

Location: SCII-457, University of Geneva




Délai d'inscription 20.04.2023
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