Logical Structure or Theoretical Framework

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Logical Structure or Theoretical Framework

Problems do not exist in nature but in the minds of people. This can be seen from an examination of the definition of problem: problems stem from the juxtaposition of factors which results in a perplexing or enigmatic state of mind (a cognitive problem), an undesirable consequence (a psychological or value problem), or a conflict which obscures the appropriate course of action (a practical problem). Cognitions, values and practices are attributes of persons, not the objective world (whatever that is). Problems cannot be articulated except within a conceptual system. No inquirer can investigate a problem from all perspectives simultaneously. And that is what a logical structure or theoretical framework is all about. It establishes a vantage point, a perspective, a set of lenses through which the researcher views the problem. In this sense, the selection of a logical framework is both a clarifying and exclusionary step in the research process. While it sharpens focus and consequently increases clarity brought to the problem area, it excludes from the view of the inquirer other perspectives that might be brought to bear on the problem, but does so in explicit recognition of those perspective and the rationale for their rejection. In fact, it is the choice of frameworks chosen by the researcher that has contributed to new understandings or problem solutions by some researchers, or to inadequate inquiry or false conclusions by others. For example, decades of research on organizational management and behavior viewed organizations from the classic, rational model of hierarchical bureaucracy with tightly coupled substructures and linked and linear organizational processes (as posited by the German sociologist Max Weber in the early part of this century)(2). But that perspective never led to adequate understandings of how organizations, such as corporations and universities, actually work. Recent researchers, working from the vantage point of alternative perspectives, using metaphors derived from long-term observation of life in universities and other organizations, have broken away from the image of organizations as bureaucracies to study them as "organized anarchies"(3) and "loosely coupled systems."(4) They have created a powerful new line of inquiry that has greatly enhanced our understanding of the structures and processes of work life in public institutions. The point is, there are usually multiple frameworks from which to view the same problem, the more viable often being obscured by the dominance of a worn-out paradigm that blinds the observer to alternative views of the world. The framework used by the researcher is not always explicit (as in the example of "organized anarchy" when first used as a perspective for studying organizations); but the burden of the argument here is that to the extent possible the framework should be explicated for several reasons: 1. Since the problem is a function of its framework, the problem can be better articulated and understood if its basic system is well understood and articulated. Additional facets of the problem may be generated as a result, and the known facets will take on greater clarity and form. 2. When the framework is well articulated, it is possible to conceive and consider alternative frameworks. The explication of behaviorist theory in early psychology made it possible to see what its strengths and weaknesses were and to develop alternative theories that ultimately had high payoff (e.g., the advent of cognitive psychology and one of its offspring, Rational Emotive Therapy). Given several possible frameworks, the researcher chooses from among them on the basis of criteria such as heuristic value, inclusiveness, efficiency, and the like. The power of a proposed solution to the problem may thus be considerably enhanced. 3. The explication of a theoretical framework or logical structure provides focus to all the...
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