What is the difference between a conceptual framework and a theoretical framework?

This article sets out to clarify these differences along with providing pointers on how to go about constructing each framework. Consider a study exploring the impact of classroom environments on student learning outcomes. The theoretical framework might be grounded in Piaget's theory of cognitive development, which offers a broad lens for understanding how students learn and process information.

The theoretical framework often inspires the research question based on previous theories' predictions or understanding about the phenomena under investigation. A conceptual framework then emerges from the research question, providing a contextualized structure for what exactly the research will explore. Though interconnected, theoretical and conceptual frameworks have distinct roles in research and contribute differently to the research. This section will contrast the two in terms of scope, purpose, their role in the research process, and their relationship to the data analysis strategy and research question. Conceptual frameworks, though related to theoretical frameworks, serve distinct functions within research.

How to correctly write your theoretical framework

Next, we need to identify other variables that could influence the relationship between our independent and dependent variables. Some common variables to include are moderators, mediators, and control variables. When clearly defined, there is no reason to confuse the theoretical and conceptual frameworks. Their differences are substantial, but both frameworks are critical to conducting sound research.

  • Theoretical frameworks provide a broad and general view of the research problem, rooted in established theories.
  • It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.
  • A conceptual framework is the researcher’s idea on how the research problem will have to be explored.
  • If your research question is more exploratory and requires a broad understanding of the problem, a theoretical framework can provide a useful lens for interpretation.

Use a literature review to assess how others have defined your key concepts, and compare their definitions to choose the best one for you. Describe the models related to your findings and explain why you decide to apply them to your writing. The conceptual framework explains the findings you expect while conducting https://personal-accounting.org/godaddy-bookkeeping-review-features-pricing/ your research. This is done by defining the variables relevant to your study and exploring how they may be related. While both the theoretical and conceptual framework provides a structure for a study, they serve different functions and can impact the research in distinct ways depending on how they are combined.

Structure: Theoretical Framework vs Conceptual Framework

Although it is distinct, the conceptual framework falls under the broader theoretical framework. Next, we’ll take a closer look at the difference between conceptual and theoretical frameworks. The answers to these questions will guide your analysis, help you interpret the results of your study, and make generalizations. You can find an example conceptual versus theoretical framework of theoretical framework in qualitative research in various research studies available online. A common question among both undergraduate and graduate students is, “what is the difference between theoretical and conceptual framework? ” Differentiating between the two can be difficult, especially since the terms are often used interchangeably.

  • Frameworks are based on the identification of key concepts and the relationship between those concepts.
  • You could also choose to look at the effect of exercise levels as well as diet, or even the additional effect of the two combined.
  • The theoretical framework is most often not something readily found within the literature.

Often, the terms theoretical framework and conceptual framework are used interchangeably, which, in this author’s opinion, makes an already difficult to understand idea even more confusing. According to Imenda (2014) and Mensah et al. (2020), there is a very distinct difference between conceptual and theoretical frameworks, not only how they are defined but also, how and when they are used in empirical research. There are often multiple theories that inform our understanding of a single phenomenon. For example, there are many theories of human agency (i.e., agency can be defined as the extent to which individuals are able to exert control in their personal and social lives). As Varpio et al12 point out, theorists such as Giddens, Bourdieu, Butler, McNay, and Bandura have all addressed different aspects of agency, each offering different insights into the phenomenon. As this example illustrates, many scholars offer competing theories explaining phenomena.

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Instead, these research approaches can be used across paradigms.26 Our descriptions should act as guideposts for when and how to engage with theory, theoretical frameworks, and conceptual frameworks. The real work of research is negotiating across these terms when we put them into action in our projects. This decision will guide the development of the theoretical framework, including practical decisions of research design (e.g., the design of interview or focus group questions, study participant selection, the sensitizing concepts [if applicable]).

These existing models and concepts are tools to help you organize and make sense of your data. After choosing your framework is to articulate the theory or concept that grounds your study by defining it and demonstrating the rationale for this particular set of theories or concepts guiding your inquiry. Write up your theoretical perspective sections for your research plan following your choice of worldview/ research paradigm. For a quantitative study you are particularly interested in theory using the procedures for a causal analysis. For qualitative research, you should locate qualitative journal articles that use a priori theory (knowledge that is acquired not through experience) that is modified during the process of research (Creswell & Creswell, 2018).

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The conceptual framework specifies the variables that will have to be explored in the investigation. In this example, the variable “teaching method” represents stimulus while the “students’ academic performance” represents the response. The variables make clear the kind of statistical treatment that will have to be used to analyze the relationship. A study's own conceptual framework plays a vital role in guiding the data collection process and the subsequent analysis. The conceptual framework specifies which data you need to collect and provides a structure for interpreting and making sense of the collected data. For instance, if your conceptual framework identifies a particular variable as impacting another, your data collection and analysis will be geared towards investigating this relationship.

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