Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks in Research

A conceptual framework

A conceptual framework is a set of interrelated concepts underlying research design, a systematic description of the area under study. It can be a simple list of concepts and their possible connections, or a more elaborate schematic diagram of key influences, proposed relationships, and solutions to a research problem. The conceptual model clearly describes the structure of the simulated domain and the connections between its elements.

The concept of research appears in the form of a system of theoretical views on the phenomenon under study. The theory itself is only a means of describing and explaining the subject that is being investigated. The theory should be used in relation to the peculiarities of the issue under study as a tool for the theoretical construction of this phenomenon. To do this, it is necessary to build its specific model, which is called the conceptual framework of research. The conceptual framework presents in graphic or narrative form the main points that need to be studied — factors, constructs, variables and their supposed connections with each other (Ravitch & Carl, 2020). It structures the research process, allows linking theory and empirical data, directs data collection and their subsequent interpretation.

Building a conceptual structure helps to decide which variables are most important, which relationships are most significant and, therefore, what information needs to be collected. The conceptual framework, denoting the theoretical context in which the situation under study can be placed, makes it possible to clearly formulate research questions and develop research hypotheses. A conceptual framework is a tool for establishing a connection between theory and empirical observations. It is used as a guide, a guide that develops in the course of obtaining new empirical data.The conceptual framework is the core of the research program. In some cases, writing a program can begin with an attempt to build a conceptual model and then, in the process of working on the model, formulate goals and objectives, determine the object and subject of research.

The theoretical framework

Without the theoretical framework, it is impossible to see the methodological basis of the work. At the same time, the theoretical framework allows the researcher to make a clear structure of methods, tools and approaches that will be used in the study. According to Grant and Osanloo (2014), the theoretical framework can be compared with the blueprint of a house, which allows you to get a general idea of the structure of the house. The conceptual framework, in turn, is a set of tools that are used to implement the blueprint.

The theoretical framework is based on a specific theory that reflects the researcher’s vision of the subject. The theoretical basis can be structured, to varying degrees, can contain one or several theories, but it becomes the foundation for building the entire further research process. The conceptual framework refers to the next stage of the work and reflects the author’s understanding of the mechanisms by which he will explore his subject on the basis of a particular theory. Building a conceptual framework boils down to the search of beliefs, concepts and assumptions that helps to follow the course of the research. Theoretical and conceptual frameworks are interconnected. The theoretical framework gives the author a set of ideas and concepts that are organized into a logical system due to the conceptual framework.


Grant, C., & Osanloo, A. (2014). Understanding, selecting, and integrating a theoretical framework in dissertation research: Creating the blueprint for your “house.” Administrative Issues Journal Education Practice and Research, 4(2). Web.

Ravitch, S. M., & Carl, N. M. (2020). Qualitative research: Bridging the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.

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