Writing a dissertation is often the most complicated and daunting task students are required to do. That is why it is essential for students to understand how to pick a theoretical/conceptual framework for their dissertation. To write an effective dissertation, students need to know how to select a framework that bears the topic at hand. Without understanding the type of theoretical framework or conceptual framework, students are likely to fail in writing a good dissertation.
There are countless options to choose from when picking the theoretical framework for your graduate school dissertation. It’s vital to note that a theoretical framework serves as the basis for your thesis, so it’s important to articulate your reasoning for each choice. We will help you understand how this works.
What is a Theoretical Framework?
It’s crucial to comprehend what a theory is before describing what a theoretical framework is.
Theories put forth well-supported explanations for events or facts that may be observed, such as Newton’s theory of gravitation. According to John Kuada, professor and author of “Research Methodology: A Project Guide for University Students,” they enable researchers to forecast outcomes and relate the problems they’re looking into to known facts.
Theoretical frameworks are used by researchers to explain the theories they apply to their work and to contextualize it by highlighting the underlying presuppositions. Although it can be presented as a separate chapter or part, a theoretical framework is frequently incorporated into the literature review section at the start of a publication or experiment.
Theoretical Framework Examples
You can successfully organize your knowledge and produce a well-rounded research document by using an example of a theoretical framework. Here is a hypothetical framework that uses the example of Mars’ moon:
Objective: The goal of this research is to refute Asaph Hall’s 1877 assertion that Mars has just two moons orbiting it.
Problem: Many astronomers focus on Mars’ two moons while ignoring a third astral body.
Research questions: Why is the third astral body in Mars’ orbit considered to be a moon?
Subquestions: Why have astronomers up to this time disregarded the third astral body? What actions of the heavenly body point to its orbit?
Literature review: According to Hall, Mars’ moons may have originated from a planetary ring millions of years ago because they are small and resemble asteroids more than Earth’s moons do. He added that the moons might one day fragment and surround the earth in a ring. Additionally, the Mariner 9 missions in 1971 and 1972 gave a detailed view of each moon and offered proof of their asteroid-like forms and Martian orbits.
What is a Conceptual Framework?
Conceptual frameworks serve as lenses through which your research is viewed. A concept is a theoretical framework that shapes your field’s research. You can anchor your research in established models and theories used by scholars in your field by establishing a clear conceptual framework. Furthermore, it provides insight into how your research will build upon earlier contributions.
Conceptual Framework Examples
Lenses can be used as metaphors to describe the role conceptual frameworks play in dissertations. Your dissertation provides direct access to the perspective from which your research is evaluated and interpreted. Feminist theory, for example, differs greatly from legal theory, poststructural theory, or game theory when examining economic trends.
In creating the conceptual framework for your dissertation, you demonstrate how dynamic knowledge production is, and also how mutable topics can be depending on the lens through which you view them.
Take note of the references the authors make when reading different conceptual framework examples. Which theories do they cite? Who are the most influential researchers? As part of the conceptual framework, you should expect to see landmark studies and seminal works used as a foundation for further investigation. Finding your North Star and then identifying which theories will help you get there is a piece of advice my mentor once gave me.
Difference Between Theoretical and Conceptual Framework
A scale, or the distinction between the Big Ideas and the smaller ones, is the contrast between theoretical and conceptual frameworks. A group of distinct concepts that can be applied within a larger theoretical framework makes up the conceptual framework. Many concepts that are contained in a theoretical framework might not be thoroughly examined in the publication or experiment it frames. However, by definition, the research process uses every component of the conceptual framework.
Keep in mind that the conceptual framework frequently draws from a theoretical framework. For instance, a Freudian psychologist is probably going to give early childhood data from their subjects a lot of weight. However, the theoretical framework may also dictate which concepts are excluded from a conceptual framework. For example, a behaviorist is unlikely to take into account a subject’s dreams.
Theoretical and Conceptual Framework in Research
Theories are developed to explain, forecast, and comprehend phenomena as well as, frequently, to challenge and advance current knowledge while staying within the bounds of crucial limiting assumptions. The structure that can hold or support a research study’s theory is known as the theoretical framework. The theory explaining why the research problem under study occurs is introduced and explained in the theoretical framework.
A theoretical framework is made up of concepts, their definitions, and references to pertinent academic works that are employed in the theory that is used for your specific study. The theoretical framework should show a comprehension of ideas and concepts that are pertinent to your research paper’s subject and connect to more general fields of knowledge.
Most of the time, the theoretical framework is difficult to locate in the literature. You must go over the readings from the course and related research studies to find theories and analytical models that apply to the research issue you are looking into. The suitability, practicality, and explanatory strength of a theory should be taken into consideration when choosing it.
Conceptual Vs. Theoretical Framework
Although “theoretical framework” and “conceptual framework” are frequently used synonymously, there are important distinctions between the two:
In essence, the span of theoretical and conceptual frameworks varies.
A conceptual framework is more specialized and embodies the researcher’s vision for how the study problem will be investigated, as opposed to a theoretical framework, which analyzes the relationships between items in a given phenomenon in a wide and general fashion.
The concepts that are utilized to define research and assess data are part of a conceptual framework. They are frequently presented via visuals and images and typically fit inside a theoretical framework. They frequently appear at the beginning of a study or experiment, just like theoretical frameworks.
Variables, concepts, theories, and pieces of already-existing frameworks make up the term conceptual frameworks.
Which Framework Should A Researcher Use?
A researcher who constructs a strong study would include both a theoretical and a conceptual framework that would test and inform every aspect, in accordance with Joseph Maxwell’s critical observation (Maxwell, 2013). According to Maxwell, theoretical and conceptual frameworks are built by researchers and require a philosophical and methodological paradigm to inform a researcher’s work. The researcher shapes the study’s methodology and design in collaboration with the research topic and the researcher’s philosophical and paradigmatic dispositions in order to contextualize the work in order to achieve insights, inconsistencies, and alternatives. A theoretical and conceptual framework, when used effectively together, gives a researcher enough justification to explain the necessity and applicability of the study in the field. In addition, the researcher who decides to include a theoretical and conceptual framework in the research study exhibits the proper level of academic rigor in developing a solid study.
How to Create a Theoretical Framework
Here are the four phases to developing a theoretical framework for your study or research paper:
1. Specify your goal
The first step in developing a theoretical framework is to specify your study goal, after which you should acquire evidence. Think about your goals for your research and the novel knowledge you want to contribute to your field.
Additionally, consider the topic you intend to research and how your findings can add to or subtract from the body of knowledge already held by the scientific community. Clarify each of your objectives to make it easier for your audience to understand in order to set yourself up for a successful study.
2. Compose a problem assertion
Once your objectives are clear, you can construct a problem statement that outlines the goals of the study and the issues it is intended to address. For instance, if you’re looking into Mars’ moons, you might formulate a problem statement along these lines:
To make your study’s goal easy to understand, try utilizing clear, succinct language in your problem statement rather than going into great detail.
3. State the research questions you have
A query that you hope to answer with the findings of your study is known as a research question. These inquiries frequently serve as the foundation for your theories or hypotheses. They can also aid your audience in understanding the goal of the study and the data you’re looking for. This might help your audience understand whether your study was a success. The following research queries could be posed by a researcher looking at the moons of Mars:
- How can I establish that the heavenly body I’m witnessing is a different moon?
- What resources can I use to validate my results?
- What characteristics am I looking for to confirm the object orbits, Mars?
- What elements influence the object’s motion in space?
- Why hasn’t the object been seen before by anyone else?
Consider including a section of subquestions to support your main research topic if you intend to use your study to address more than one question.
4. Write a literature review to draw attention to pertinent theories
An overview of all the studies you read before conducting your own research is known as a literature review. It compiles important sources on a subject and describes how your study fits with those sources’ and other researchers’ beliefs, as well as how you’re drawing on their work to form your own theories. Given that certain investigations need the use of multiple theories from various studies, it can be useful to explain in your theoretical framework how each theory relates to your research.
If you’re researching Mars’ moons, for instance, you might assess the findings of astronomers, astrophysicists, or other experts to decide whether they confirm or refute the presence of further Mars moons.
How to Write a Conceptual Framework
You must complete the following steps before creating your conceptual framework:
Select your themes.
Choose a subject for your research. The subject should fall under your area of expertise. (Use brainstorming techniques to come up with a study topic.
1. Review the literature
Review current and pertinent research on the subject you choose to explore after carefully examining the problem at hand. Use reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals whenever possible because they are trustworthy sources of information.
2. Isolate the critical factors
Find the specific factors mentioned in the literature and determine their relationships. Some research abstracts include the variables, making the key findings potentially useful. Find the summary of the research paper if these are not accessible.
If the study variables are not clearly stated in the summary, return to the methods or the results and discussion section and quickly pinpoint the key findings. Read articles using the TSPU Technique to quickly scan them for the most important information.
3. Create the theoretical framework
Utilizing a combination of the factors from the scientific publications you have studied, create your conceptual framework. It is constructed using your problem statement or study objective as a guide. In essence, your study will try to provide an explanation for the question that has not previously been addressed by other academics. A knowledge gap should be the focus of your investigation.
As you can see, it’s not easy to find the ideal theoretical/conceptual framework for your dissertation. I personally feel that, if done properly, a topic narrative will allow for better organization and focus. It also makes for better reading as well—unless, of course, that was not your goal. But overall, you should consider what you intend to accomplish with your dissertation and make sure that each framework is on target with that goal.