Theoretical Frameworks

As part of the Introduction to Research: Critical Reading and Writing course, we considered the importance of adopting a theoretical framework through which to conduct research. Then we created an annotated bibliography of articles that adopted these frameworks. We also created a presentation on selected theoretical frameworks. The theories our team worked on were activity theory, cognitive load theory, motivation theory, and personality theory. 

You can view the presentation here.

You can also view our annotated bibliography here.


Activity Theory

Coghlan, D., and Brydon-Miller, M. (2014). Activity theory. The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (Vols. 1-2), (pp. 22-24). SAGE Publications Ltd.

Kaptelinin, V., and Nardi, B. A. (2006). Acting with technology : Activity theory and interaction design (Ser. Acting with technology). MIT Press.$26870:_ss_book:18551#summary/BOOKS/RW$26870:_ss_book:18551

Cognitive Load Theory

Sweller, J., van Merrienboer, J. J. G., & Paas, F. G. W. C. (1998). Cognitive Architecture and Instructional Design. Educational Psychology Review, 10(3), 251-296. https://10.1023/A:1022193728205

Motivation Theory

Cook, D. A., & Artino, A. R. (2016). Motivation to learn: an overview of contemporary theories. Medical Education, 50(10), 997–1014.

Personality Theory

Kaushal, K.B., Leon, Y.W., & Chun-Yen, C. (2019). The impact of personality on students’ perceptions towards online learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 34(4).

What Makes a Great Research Question?

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.”

(Albert Einstein, as cited in Luo, Brancolini, and Kennedy, 2017)

In preparing for a research study, it’s important to carefully consider your research question. The research question is what determines your focus and is reflected throughout the entire research process. 

Seeing as the research question is so vital, it should be a researcher’s goal to make not just a good research question but a great one. The key factors that I consider to be important in a research question can be narrowed down to the four ‘P’s’: previous research, purpose, process, and precision. 

    • Previous research: A strong research question must be based on a thoughtful and thorough consideration of previous research findings in the related field. The careful evaluation of prior research also ensures that the research question leads to unique findings that contribute to the academic community.
    • Purpose: A research question should present a clear objective. If the purpose isn’t clear, the results may be too vague or unrelated to develop thoughtful conclusions. Presenting a clear purpose can be done by choosing precise vocabulary. I found Utica College’s “Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Action Verbs” (n.d.) helpful in offering vocabulary that addresses specific outcomes.
    • Process: The research question should also identify an appropriate scope for the length and methodology of the project. 
    • Precision: As with most writing, clear and concise vocabulary is important. A precise question allows for readers to process the information and engage with the research more effectively.

An understanding of previous research, having a clear purpose and process in mind, and using precise language are four qualities that lead to a great research question. 


Luo L., Brancolini K. R., and Kennedy M. R. (2017). Enhancing library and information research skills. Libraries Unlimited.

Utica College. Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Action Verbs. Utica College.


(Revised June 8, 2020 to add resource for Einstein quote)