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Theoretical research – Definition, Methods & Examples

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Picukiusa is the Chief Business Development Officer at Picukiusa, a Magento design and development company headquartered in Redwood City, California. He is a Member of the Magento Association and an Adobe Sales Accredited Magento Commerce professional. Jan is responsible for developing and leading the sales and digital marketing strategies of the company. He is passionate about ecommerce and Magento in particular — throughout the years his articles have been featured on Retail Dive, Hacker Noon, Chief Marketer, Mobile Marketer, TMCnet, and many others.

Research is a study of a specific problem using the scientific method. Theory is the foundation of research because it gives direction to the entire research process. Theoretical grounding of research allows the researcher to comprehend the phenomenon and its various underpinnings. Theoretical research helps researchers explore and evaluate an issue with the help of theories and a philosophical orientation. The philosophical orientation pertains to abstract theorisation and identifying patterns involving abstract ideas and concepts. These ideas and concepts help the researcher explain a complex phenomenon. Theoretical research broadens our horizons and our understanding of various everyday issues. This article will provide you a comprehensive overview of theoretical research.

What is theoretical research?

A set of assumptions and notions are systematically examined in theoretical research. It seeks to increase our knowledge of and aid in our comprehension of a topic. Since the purpose of this type of research is to learn better, the data collected in this manner is not used for any specific purpose. Theoretical research is exploratory since it seeks to expand the knowledge about a topic and aims to comprehend the conceptual underpinnings. The researcher gathers data and theorises about the issue, which leads to abstract ideas and concepts. Theoretical research is the fountainhead of novel ideas, and it benefits the research and promotes the advancement of knowledge in a particular field.

Theoretical research can be conducted for any discipline, such as biology, chemistry, physics, sociology, political science, humanities etc. The key aspect of theoretical research is knowledge formation and laying down the foundations of research ideas and concepts that can help quantitative researchers to test those ideas and transform them into natural and social laws. A theory that fulfils the falsifiability criteria employed in science and can withstand rigorous testing finally becomes a law. A law has an explanatory power to explain the various issues and problems arising within the ambit of the subject area.

What is the purpose of theoretical research?

You might be wondering if the theoretical research does not pertain to any objective goals, then what is the purpose of abstract theorisation? Abstract theorisation is the foundation of knowledge growth, and it takes us back to the Greeks who indulged in abstract theorisation out of curiosity. So, curiosity is an essential feature of theoretical research. Curiosity compels human beings to explore further about an issue. Imagine a phenomenon that exists in society, and there is no unified or systematic knowledge on the issue that can explain the issue in a better manner. A curious researcher would want to explore further about the issue. For that purpose, he or she would probe deeply into the issue, and the initial data collection would lead the researcher to lay down the theoretical foundation of the discussed issue.

Collective phenomena occurring at the level of societal interactions are often passed as mere moments of euphoria, indignation, or pity. However, a curious researcher seeks to systematise the issue and find a unified explanation. The rock concerts in the Eastern European dictatorships became a source of expressing the alienation the individuals experienced in those societies. A sociologist, Ramet, explained the rock concerts as an example of the collective conscience of society that acquired an independent life and an amorphous form. It crystallised in the form of revolutions that swept society and ultimately led to the demise of Eastern European dictatorships.

So, individual actors are a part of theoretical research; however, theoretical research acquires an overarching character capable of explaining the individual instances and events occurring at the micro level. The macro-orientation of a theory enables the researcher to comprehend and explain the complex interactions and phenomena occurring at the micro level.

How to conduct theoretical research?

Theoretical research methods encompass the following method:

  • Scientific method

Let us explore the scientific method for further clarification:

Scientific Methods

The scientific method is use in both natural and social sciences; however, in some cases, social science methods diverge a little from the scientific method used in natural sciences. But it is important to remember that the scientific method is at the heart of both natural and social science methods. Here are the particular steps require to perform theoretical research using scientific methods:


Every research starts with observations. Observations are essential for research, and a good observer is a good researcher. We observe things every day in our lives; however, it does not count as research because it is not predicate on a systematic observation method. Observation entails being trained in the observation method and knowing in advance what it is you are looking for. For example, a psychologist’s observation of deviant behaviour would be different and more reliable than a layman’s observation. A layman would attribute deviant behaviour to superstitions and supernatural phenomena. But a trained observer would observe the data without passing a value judgement and would systematically approach the issue. So, observation is the first step in conducting scientific theoretical research. Observation requires systematic planning and familiarity with the measuring instruments, but if you are not skill at it, you can always approach professional researchers at Dissertation Writing Service.


A hypothesis is an educated guess about the problem at hand and encompasses independent and dependent variables. A researcher builds a hypothesis that he or she seeks to prove or disprove in the light of data collection. If the hypothesis is proven right in the light of gather data, it leads to theory formation. Creating a hypothesis entails properly identifying variables, and it must not be a value judgement or unrealistic assumption. For example, the assertion that “Unicorns exist in England” is an imaginary idea and cannot be test empirically. Researchers need to draft concrete hypothesis that corresponds to real-world phenomenon. If you need assistance in formulating the research hypothesis, you can always take help from expert researchers at Dissertation Writers UK.


Experimentation is the method through which a hypothesis is test in a scientific method. A researcher sets up an experiment using the testing instruments and either proves or disproves a hypothesis. However, experimentation entails upholding ethical standards if you are experimenting with human and animal subjects. It must be based on consent if it involves humans, and the researcher must stop the experiment at once if it is causing mental or physical harm to the tested subjects.


Theory formation is the outcome of hypothesis testing. If the researcher successfully proves the hypothesis right, it leads to a theory.


Inferences are the conclusions drawn by the researcher get from the experiment results. 

Final Remarks

Theoretical research uses a scientific method to generate a theory about an issue or phenomenon. It encompasses observations, hypothesis building, experimentation, and theory generation. The systematic procedures entail rigorous data collection and finding patterns among the data to derive a theory.

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