What Is a Theoretical Model? Where and Why Is It Used?

A theoretical model: you will meet this term not once if you are working on your dissertation paper. Moreover, you will have to develop your own theoretical model. It is, actually, a mandatory requirement for a dissertation paper.

Do you know that even the best dissertations fail if they don’t have a properly defined and explained theoretical model? Do you know why it happens like this? Because many sources cannot provide exact requirements and clear guidelines on how to formulate a theoretical model.

Theoretical Model Definition: This Makes Sense

That is why we start with the most basic thing: the definition of a theoretical model. Or, rather let`s state it in a more specific way: what is a theoretical model in research. So, a theoretical model can be defined as a theory that is developed to explain a situation or a phenomenon and further, to be able to forecast it.

Theoretical modeling is based on a number or a set of theories. These theories are used to explain some situations, phenomena, behavior types. That, in turn, allows to understand the problem or, rather, the issue, to make conclusions about the most significant features and, finally based on all the previous data, to forecast the situation or the phenomenon or its effects. Some people believe that theoretical modeling doesn’t have anything in common with data collection and data processing. However, you will see further, that this is far from the truth.

Theoretical Model Types: Regression, Cognitive and Conceptual Models

Theoretical models are based on some theories. Hence, there should be several ways of developing them. Depending on the ways how they are developed, we distinguish three theoretical model types:

  • A regression model
  • A cognitive model
  • A conceptual model

Theoretical Regression Model: What Is It?

The theoretical regression model is based on a regression analysis, or, if we formulate it in a simpler way, the modeling direction is from a bigger changeable to a smaller one. The bigger changeable can change independently, and changes in it influence the smaller changeable. Like this, small changeable depends on the bigger changeable. If we analyze the influences and the connections, we can forecast, how a change in the bigger changeable is going to influence the smaller changeable.

Theoretical Cognitive Model: Title Speaks for Itself

Cognition is the process of knowledge acquiring. So, as you could already guess, the theoretical cognitive model is based on the knowledge you are acquiring about a process or a phenomenon. You observe the phenomenon, study it, and based on the experience that you have, and you can make forecasts and suggestions. This process is called cognitive modeling.

Theoretical Conceptual Model: It Is All about the Concept

It is one of the most interesting and, we would say, the most efficient model kinds to let people understand a system or a phenomenon. Can we say, that this is some kind of a set of particular concepts? Well, if you like it, then yes.

The primary target of any theoretical conceptual model is to show the main principles, the fundamentals, the basics of a phenomenon. For example, when we speak about the red sun and the yellow sun, within a conceptual model, we would explain, that we perceive sunlight at different angles. That’s why, a human eye perceives it in different colors, even though the light color of the sun is the same, it doesn’t change. For conceptual modeling, many techniques are used.

Theoretical writing is sometimes complicated, but don’t get frightened. You have developed your theoretical model, so, describing it should not be a problem. The main idea of this part of your paper is to give your reader an idea of what your dissertation should be, without reading it. It helps to get acquainted with some general terms, concepts, and ideas that are discussed in your paper. A theoretical model is an excellent way to:

  • Determine the primary targets of your project.
  • Define the hypotheses that you have developed, and that should be tested within the paper.
  • Provide a more detailed roadmap of your paper.
  • All in all, this is a wonderful way to describe your writing in a short, but complete and sufficient for understanding form.


A theoretical model is often a mandatory part of your dissertation paper and for a reason. This part helps you to identify tasks for yourself more clearly and to develop a clear idea of what you should do. For your reader, it is advantageous in a sense, that your reader can get an idea about your paper even without reading it. And anyway, if you are a future scientist, you should know how to develop any kind of a theoretical model, because it is going to be a part of your career.