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Theoretical Framework and

Conceptual Framework:
Rudiments of A Good Research
• Conceptual framework represent ways of
thinking about a problem.

• It deals with abstractions ( concepts) that

are assembled by virtue of relevance to a
common theme.

• CF is an explanation of how a researcher

sees the different concepts and outcomes of
study and its relations with each other.

• It can be developed from the researcher's

personal experience, previous studies, or
from more than one theory or models
A written or visual presentation that:

“explains either graphically, or by narration,

the main things to be studied – the key
factors, concepts or variables - and the
presumed relationship among them”. (Miles
and Huberman, 1994, P18)
• A CF provides a coherent,
unified and orderly way of
seeing related events or processes
relevant to a study/ research and
less formal than theories.
• It broadly presents understanding of the
phenomenon of interest and reflects the
assumptions and philosophic view of the

• It is researcher‟s own position on the

problem- the way the researcher shapes
it together.
What it does?
• CF shows the relationship of the stated
hypotheses with central factors or key
• Part of CF offers a synopsis of the
study's main points.
What it
• Each framework highlights or
emphasizes different aspects of a
problem or research question.
• Any one conceptual framework
presents only a partial view of reality.
• Focuses attention on and amplify
certain elements of a problem like a
magnifying glass
• Conceptual Framework
• Keeps research on track
• Provides clear links from the literature to
the research goals and questions

• Helps the researcher to see clearly the variables of

the study

• Clarifies concepts and propose

relationships among concepts
• Provides an organizing structure for
the research design and methods.

• Useful to prepare research proposal

using experimental or descriptive

• Guides the development and testing of

interventions and hypotheses
• Provides general framework for data
• The interpretation of findings flows
from the conceptualization
represented by the framework
• Makes research findings meaningful and

• Provides reference points for discussion of the

methodology and analysis of the data.

• Explains observations

• Contributes to the trustworthiness of the study.

• Encourages theory development that is useful to

• A conceptual framework is composed of concepts and
the relational linkages between them ( called
propositional statements)
• Concepts abstractly describes and names an object
or phenomenon, thus providing it with separate
identity or meaning.
• It is actually the intellectual representation of some
aspect of reality, derived from observations made
from phenomenon.
• Example: Anxiety, stress or pain
Basic elements

Relational statement as
Concept synthesis

Conceptual definition Concept derivation

Concept analysis
Concept synthesis
• Process of describing and naming a
previously unrecognized concept
Eg:- Selye performed concept
synthesis to identify and define the
concept stress.
Concept derivation
• Meanings are derived from other
disciplines may be modified and
carefully evaluated to fit in the nursing
Conceptual analysis
• A strategy through a set of
characteristics essential to the
connotative meaning of a concept is

• A strategy that involves examining

the attributes \ characteristics of a
(Walker & Avant 1983)
A philosophical inquiry –
Researcher explores various ways the term is used
and try to identify set of characteristics that can
be used to describe the concept.

By × search of literature
× personal experience and
thought Walker & Avant
× Reasoning 1985.
Types of
•Three types of concepts According to
level of abstraction:

1.Abstract concepts or theoretical concepts

2.Empirical or descriptive concepts

According to level of categorization:

1. Global or domain concepts

2. Middle range concepts

3. Empirical concepts
• According to levels of measurements

• 1.Nominal

• 2.Ordinal

• 3.Interval

• 4.Ratio
• Concepts are important because they
provide a road map
• Give the big picture ideas (the concepts) up
front, and then fit in the smaller facts and

• Provide the context for the researcher

Next steps is to state Relations with

? Relational statement- declares that a

relationship of some kind exists
between two or more concepts.
(Walker & Avant 1980)
Importance of relational
statements/ propositions
• Core of frame work
• Relational statement are tested through
• Relational statements determines the
- Objectives
- Research questions and hypothesis
- Research design
- Statistical analysis
- Type of findings expected.
N.B: For critiquing a study too the link between
the hypothesis, design and frame work are
Special features It describes

* Direction * Sequencing
* Shape * Probability of
* Strength
* Necessity
* Symmetry
* Sufficiency
Depicted with diagrams or by literary means.
What inputs go into
developing a conceptual
• Experiential knowledge of researcher and supervisor

– Literature review
– Technical knowledge.

– Research background.

– Personal experience.

– Data (particularly for qualitative).

How might a conceptual
framework be developed?
1. Explore/

4.Operationalise 2. Identify the

concepts concept

3. Define concepts
• Identify the concept and categorize them
• It can be abstract or concrete.
• For an abstract concept it is broad and may not
be readily observable and the meaning of which
are more far from time, space and referent
group and is not easily measurable
• Specific or concrete concepts are
amenable to measurements
• This is the main function of a
conceptual framework in descriptive study/
• Example
• Quality of life
• Accessibility of care
• Regular users
• Visitor demand
• In other words, how can
abstract intangible concepts be made
• How can concepts like
• Regeneration
• Community
•• Deprivation
Local etc be , assessed,
recognized measured or
• Empirical referents or indicators must be
• out to depict the existence of concepts
after operationalising the concept.
• Example
• Numerical pain scale to measure
the pain intensity
• Depression scale to measure depression
• Empirical referents is a means
of measurement of concepts
Develop relational
statements/ propositions
• State the relation between concepts
• This provides idea for testing and
hypothesis development

• Hypothesis are developed these

propositional statements ofa
conceptual framework
In nut shell
Develop the structure by:

•Identifying the key words used in the subject area of the study.
•Draw out the key things within something that have already written
about the subject area – literature review.
•Take one key concept, idea or term at a time and brainstorm all the
other things that might be related and then go back and select those
that seem most relevant.

•It will take time and a number of iterations and the focus should be
both on the content and the inter-relationships.
General forms of CF
• Process frameworks
– Set out the stages through which an action moves from
initiation to conclusion. These relate to the ‘how?’ question.

• Content frameworks

• Set out the variables, and possibly the relationship

(with relative strengths) between them, that
together answer the ‘why?’ question.
What specific forms might a conceptual framework take?

• The possibilities include:

– Flow charts.
– Tree diagrams.
– Shape based – triangles, concentric circles,
overlapping circles.
– Mind maps.
– Soft systems.
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The pros and cons of
• Why are conceptual frameworks useful?
• Conceptual frameworks provide researchers with:

– The ability to move beyond descriptions of „what‟ to

explanations of „why‟ and „how‟.
– A means of setting out an explanation set that might be used
to define and make sense of the data that flow from the
research question.
– A filtering tool for selecting appropriate research questions
related data collection methods.
– A reference point/structure for the discussion of the literature,
methodology and results.
– The boundaries of the work.
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The pros and cons of conceptual

• Allow upon one

another‟s work; thereby building a
body of knowledge
to build

• Programmatic, conceptuall base

research y d
understanding overaccumulat
time and this deepe
moves a disciplinee(such as nursing)
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What are the cons/
• Conceptual framework:

– Is influenced by the experience and knowledge of

the individual – initial bias.

– Once developed will influence the researcher‟s

thinking and may result in some things being
given prominence and others being ignored –
ongoing bias.

• The solution is to revisit the conceptual framework,

particularly at the end when evaluating your work.

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Criteria to evaluate conceptual

• Comprehensiven
ess of content

• logical

• conceptual clarity

• level of
2/18/2014 3
INFANT CF for infant/child pain parent
AND coping
Bradykinin Physiologic
Serotonin Behavioural
K+ Miscellaneous
Histamines Characteristics

Infant and child



Characteristics Psychological

2/18/2014 42
• The conceptual framework encapsulates the research as it:
– Sets out the focus and content.
– Acts as the link between the literature, the methodology and the
• Thus it can be/will be the focus/starting point of the evaluation of
originality of a research to find
– Whether what has been focussed on entirely new?

– Is the way the subject been investigated different to the


– Has new light been shed on previously explored issues?

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• Hart C. (1998): Doing a Literature Review.”
London, Sage.
• Jennings G. (2001): Tourism Research.
Australia, John Wiley and Sons.
• Maslow A (1954): “Motivation and Personality.”
New York: Harper.
• Miles, M. B., & Huberman, M. A. (1994):
“Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded
Sourcebook” (2nd edition). Beverley Hills, Sage.
• Rogers, E.M. (2003): “Diffusion of Innovations.”
5th Edition. London,
2/18/2014 Simon and Schuster. 4
2/18/2014 4
What is a Theoretical Framework

 It is the ‘blueprint’ or guide for a research (Grant &

Osanloo, 2014). It is ‘borrowed’ by the researcher to build
his/her own house.
 It serves as the foundation upon which a research is

 Sinclair (2007) compares the role of the theoretical

framework to that of a map or travel plan.

 Brondizio, Leemans, and Solecki (2014) contend that it is

the specific theory or theories about aspects of human
endeavour that can be useful to the study of events.
What is a Theoretical Framework
 All aspects of the dissertation research should connect to
the theoretical framework (Grant & Osanloo, 2014).

 The relevant theory or theories that underpin the

knowledge base of the phenomenon to be researched.

 It consists of theoretical principles, constructs, concepts,

and tenants of a theory (Grant & Osanloo, 2014).

 Make a unique application of the selected theory so as to

apply the theoretical constructs to his/her dissertation
Importance of Theoretical
Framework in Research

 It provides the structure to define how a researcher

defines his/her study philosophically, epistemologically,
methodology and analytically (Grant & Osanloo, 2014).

 It normally serves as the focus for the research study and

it is linked to the research problem under study.
Importance of Theoretical
Framework in Research
 It guides a researcher’s choice of research design and
data analysis plan.

 It provides a common worldview or lens from which to

support one’s thinking on the problem and analysis of
data (Grant & Osanloo, 2014).

 The theoretical framework guides and must resonates

with every aspect of the research (Statement of the
problem, Literature Review, Methodology, Presentation
and Discussion of Findings).
Importance of Theoretical
Framework in Research
 The theoretical framework guides the kind of data to be
collected (Lester, 2005).

 Simon and Goes (2011) as well as Maxwell (2004) avers

that theoretical frameworks deepen the essence of the

 It convinces readers that the study is not based on the

personal instincts of the researcher but rather on
established theory gathered via credible studies.
Examples of Theoretical Framework

 Transformational Theory
 Culture Theory
 Cognitive Theory
 Gender Theory
 Behavioral Theory
 Developmental Theory
 Human Environment Relations Theory
 Culture Ecology Theory
 Culture Determinism Theory
How To Construct a Theoretical

 There is no one perfect or right theory for a dissertation,

though certain theories are popular (Grant & Osanloo,

 The theory must reflect the understanding of the

researcher regarding the study and must direct the study
(Simon & Goes, 2011).

 The selection of a theoretical framework requires a

thorough understanding of the problem, purpose,
significance and research questions of a study (Grant &
Osanloo, 2014).
How To Construct a Theoretical

 The chosen theoretical framework must accentuate the

purpose and importance of the study dissertation (Grant
& Osanloo, 2014).

 Consider the guiding principles of the study and situate

the problem in relation to a theoretical context.

 The research questions of the study must entail

noticeable aspects of the theoretical framework and must
agree with the assertions promulgated by the theorists of
the selected theory (Maxwell, 2004).
How To Construct a Theoretical
 The research findings accrued finally from the study may
support, extend, or modify an existing theory that was
borrowed for the study (Lester, 2005).

 The researcher may critique, develop and/or expand the

theory that served as a guide for his/her study vis-à-vis
the findings gleaned from the study (Grant & Osanloo,

 Munhall and Chenail (2008) contend that this should be

done at the data analysis stage.
How To Construct a Theoretical
 Using Grant and Osanloo (2014) checklist to identify the
suitable theoretical framework for a study:

1. What discipline will the theory be applied to?

2. Does the theory agree with the methodology plan for the
3. Is the theory to be selected well developed with many
theoretical constructs?
4. Have specific concepts or theoretical principles been
selected to meet the objectives of the study?
How To Construct a Theoretical
5. Does the problem of the study, the purpose and
importance of the study correlates with the theoretical
6. Can the theory be used hand in hand with the research
questions for the study?
7. Does the theoretical framework inform the literature
8. Does the data analysis plan agrees with the selected
theoretical framework?
9. Does the theoretical framework undergirds the
conclusions and recommendations based on the data
How To Construct a Theoretical
Simon and Goes (2011) also suggest some points that can
help articulate the theory for an informed research:

1. The main concern for inquiry in the research

2. The key variables in the research
3. Read and review current related literature on the topic
using key word search.
4. List the constructs and variables that might be relevant
for the study.
5. Consider how the variables are related to the theory
How To Construct a Theoretical
6. Revise the search and add the word ‘theory’ to the key
words to find the theories and theorists most in line with
the thinking of the researcher.
7. Discuss the propositions of each theory and highlight its
relevance to the research.
8. Consider alternative theories that challenges the
perspectives of the researcher.
9. Consider the limitations associated with the selected
theory which the problem to be investigated can help
address or provide logic explanations.
Where To Place The Theoretical
Framework in A Thesis

 The student must select and clarify a theoretical framework

from the time the dissertation topic is initially conceptualized
(Dooyeweerd as cited in Sire, 2004).

 Staunch researchers profess that the researcher’s choice

of a theory must be stated explicitly early in the writing of a
dissertation (Grant & Osanloo, 2014).

 Mertens (1998) argues that the theoretical framework

influence every decision made by the researcher in the
carrying out of the research.
What is Conceptual Framework

 Conceptual framework is a structure which the researcher

believes could best explain the natural progression of the
phenomenon to be studied (Camp, 2001).

It offers a logical structure of connected concepts that help

provide a picture or visual display of how ideas in a study
relate to one another (Grant & Osanloo, 2014).

It assists the researcher to specify and define the concepts

within the problem of the study (Luse, Mennecke &
Townsend, 2012).
What is Conceptual Framework

 It represents an integrated way of looking at a problem

under study (Liehr & Smith, 1999).

 It is seen as an outline of courses of action or preferred

approach to a thought to be carried out in a research
study (Dixon, Gulliver & Gibbon, 2001).

 Miles and Huberman (1994, p.18) opine that conceptual

frameworks can be ‘graphical or in a narrative form
showing the key variables or constructs to be studied and
the presumed relationships between them’.
Importance of Conceptual Framework in

 It aids the researcher to identify and construct his/her

worldview and approach to the topic of study (Grant &
Osanloo, 2014).

 It brings together related concepts to explain or predict a

given event or give a detailed understanding of the
research problem and its asserted solution (Liehr &
Smith, 1999).

 It accentuates the reasons why a research topic is worth

studying, the assumptions of a researcher, the scholars
s/he agrees with and disagrees with and how s/he
conceptually grounds his/her approach (Evans, 2007).
How To Construct a Conceptual
 Mostly, diagrams are created to clearly define the
constructs or variables of the research topic and their
relationships are shown by the use of arrows.

 Researchers are at liberty to adopt existing frameworks,

but have to modify it to suit the nature of the context of
their research as well as the nature of their research
questions (Fisher, 2007).

 Fisher adds that a good conceptual framework must also

be expressed in writing for it to be understood clearly.
Differences Between Theoretical
Framework and Conceptual Framework

 Theoretical framework is curled from an existing theory or

theories in the literature that has already been tested and
validated by others and is considered as an acceptable
theory in the scholarly literature (Grant & Osanloo, 2014).

 Conceptual framework is the researcher’s understanding

of how the research problem will be explored, the specific
direction the research will have to take, and the relationship
between the different variables in the study.
Differences Between Theoretical
Framework and Conceptual Framework
 While a whole theory may serve as one’s theoretical
framework, a conceptual framework is carefully put
together in the form of a conceptual model and
immediately applied to a particular study (Liehr & Smith,

 Theoretical framework is derived from a theory while

conceptual framework is derived from concepts.
Where To Place The Conceptual
Framework in A Thesis

 Since the theoretical perspectives of the main

variables or constructs of a study are rigorously
reviewed in chapter two of a thesis, the conceptual
framework are mostly placed in the chapter two.
Culture Theory

 Propounded by Milton (1996) postulates that the views of

any individual on matters are shaped by their social group
and cultural practices (Tansey & O’riordan, 1999).
 Understanding the value systems of these practices of
people can give practical insights and help
environmentalists make intelligent decisions concerning the
conservation and sustainability (Serrat, 2008).


Culture Determinism Theory
 It was propounded by the German/American Anthropologist
Franz Boas in 1920.

 Posits that the emotional and behavioural patterns of man is

formed and molded entirely by their culture. Cultural
factors fully determine environmental activities
(Teasley, 2003).

Pandey’s (2000) Conservation of
Biodiversity in Landscape Continuum
Conceptual Framework

 There is a strong link between the biodiversity not just in the

Protected Areas but also the landscape continuum with the
cultural practices of a people.

 Traditional conservation ethos is reflected in cultural

practices such as sacred groves, taboos, ceremonies and
religious beliefs.

 Traditional conservation ethos in the cultural practices is still

capable of protecting the decimating biodiversity.
Conceptual Framework for the Study

Conservation of Ghana’s

Develop traditional Scientific biodiversity

biodiversity conservation conservation strategy

Philosophical Underwritings of
Conservation values and Ethos

Festivals Asante Cultural and Artistic Usage and Conservation of
Taboos Practices Ghana’s Biodiversity
Cosmological Beliefs
Conceptual Framework for the study

 The Asante cultural and artistic practices have a strong

relationship with the usage of Ghana’s biodiversity.

 The traditional conservation ethos enshrined in the cultural

and artistic practices still hold great worth in the
conservation of biodiversity in modern societies.

 Believes traditional biodiversity strategy can be developed

from those conservation ethos to complement the scientific
models of conservation popularly used in Ghana.
Thank you
Lester, F. (2005). On the Theoretical, Conceptual and Philosophical
Foundations for Research in Mathematics Education. ZDM, 37(6), 457-
Camp, W.G. (2001). Formulating and Evaluating Theoretical Frameworks
for Career and Technical Education Research. Journal of Vocational
Educational Research, 26(1), 27-39.
Maxwell, J. (2004). Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach
(2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Munhall, P. & Chenail, R. (2008). Qualitative Research Proposals and
Reports: A Guide (3rd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett
Luse, A., Mennecke, B., & Townsend, A. (2012). Selecting a Research
Topic: A Framework for Doctoral Students. International Journal of
Doctoral Studies, 7, 143-152.
Mertens, D. (1998). Research Methods in Education and Psychology:
Integrating Diversity with Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches.
Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Sire, J. (2004). Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Downers
Grove, IL: InterVasity.
Grant, C. & Osanloo, A. (2014). Understanding, Selecting, and Integrating
a Theoretical Framework in Dissertation Research: Creating the
Blueprint for your ‘House’. Administrative Issues Journal, Vol. 4, Issue 2.
Simon, K.M. & Goes, J. (2011). Developing a Theoretical Framework. (accessed 12/02/2017).
The Conceptual

Lecture 8

Organization of this lecture
Conceptual Framework:
 Role of the Conceptual Framework
 Theory: Source of Conceptual
 Hypotheses and Hypothesis Testing
 Operational Suggestions

“Economics is the science of thinking in
terms of models joined to the art of
choosing models which are relevant to the
contemporary world. Good economists are
scarce, because the gift of using ‘vigilant
observation’ to choose good models …
appears to be a very rare one.”
John Maynard Keynes

• Although a conceptual framework may not always
be required in a research proposal, no economic
research should start without developing one.
• There is more misunderstanding and confusion
about the conceptual framework than any other
part of a research proposal (or project).
– What is it?
– What is the purpose?
– How is it approached?
• It is an integral part of understanding and
analyzing the research problem

 A clear statement of the research problem often
does not occur until the conceptual framework is
 It should be considered “complementary” to the
problem description, statement of objectives, and
literature review, rather than a “fourth step”.
 The reasoning in the conceptual framework runs
through the whole proposal.

 The conceptual framework is often neglected, or
done hastily and inadequately
 Reasons for this might be that it requires complex
reasoning and abilities
 Abstract reasoning
 Recognition and synthesis of central points
 Knowledge of existing relevant theory
 Understanding the details of a problem and the
surrounding issues
 It is hard work and often frustrating

 Another reason the conceptual framework is
overlooked is that researchers often want to get
on with “real research” instead of “theorizing”
(especially in subject-matter and problem-solving
 However, failure to conceptualize while planning,
may actually slow down the research, or can lead
to fatal errors in design, procedures or

Role of the Conceptual
• Concepts are generalizations. In
economics, a concept is “a logical, mental
construction of one or more relationships”.
• Concepts are inherently abstract and are
based on logic and reasoning. In
economics, concepts typically focus on
relationships between variables.
• The primary purpose of the conceptual
framework is to lead to hypotheses that are
subject to testing
 The conceptual framework may be viewed as an
analysis of the research problem using theory.
 Economic theory will be used, and possibly
theories from other disciplines as well.
 The theories are identified and then used in a
conceptual analysis of the specific research

Source Material for the Conceptual
Framework: Theories
• Which theory is relevant? The relevant
theory will provide insights into one or more
of the following issues:
– Sources of the research problem
– Possible solutions to the problem
– Relevant variables
– Relationships involved in analyzing the
– Hypotheses to be tested
(Williams, 1984)
• For example – if one is interested in the problem
of water use efficiency of the Nile river in Egypt:
– The general theory of the efficiency in use of a
limited, but replenishable resource would be used
– The theory would be adapted to the particular
natural resource (water) and place (Egypt), in its
various uses (agricultural, domestic, industrial)
• In this example, it is also likely that Egyptian
policy would need to be considered
eg. Egypt has a policy of free water for
agriculture, which affects water use efficiency

 Sometimes, there is no existing theory sufficient
to analyze the research problem.
 In this case, one can either develop or refine a
theory, or simply identify the gap and present an
incomplete conceptual framework
 This latter option of proceeding without an
adequate theoretical basis, might be defensible in
an MS thesis, but probably not in a PhD
dissertation or in professional research

Hypotheses and Hypothesis
• A primary function of the conceptual
framework is to lead to hypotheses relevant
to the research problem. Hypotheses result
from the reasoning done in the conceptual
• Hypotheses need to be testable and
• Hypotheses are tentative assertions that are
subject to testing.
• Hypotheses can take the form of a simple
proposition of an expected outcome, or can assert
the existence of a relationship. eg.
– A simple proposition might be that one production
system, based on a particular technology is more
profitable than another production system based
on another technology
– A hypothesis of a relationship could be that in
demand for wine in the US, the per capita
consumption of wine is affected by price of wine,
the price of other beverages, per capita income,
religious affiliation, and ethnic background

 Quantitative hypotheses are subject to empirical
testing, the most common form being a statistical
test. Four characteristics facilitate this:
1) They must be stated in specific terms
2) Appropriate data must be available
3) Analytical techniques must be available
4) There must be a conceptual basis (without which
quantification only shows association, not

• Qualitative hypotheses can be of three types (as
introduced in Lecture 3)
1. Maintained hypotheses (assumed) often take the
form of assumptions we make on conditions in
which the problem exists. eg. The commodity
production segment in agricultural may be
assumed to be competitive
2. Diagnostic hypotheses deal with the causes of a
problem. eg. A country’s chronic trade deficit may
be hypotheses as due in part to foreign investment
policy and commodity price ceilings.
3. Remedial hypotheses, which deal with solutions to
problems, are optional since they are so closely
related to diagnostic hypotheses
 Three difficulties people often have in developing
hypotheses are:
1. Absence of a clear theoretical framework or
absence of theory
2. Inability to use the framework logically to
see the hypotheses within
3. Failure to understand research techniques
that allow the hypotheses to be tested

Operational Suggestions
• Keep a clear focus on the primary purpose
of the conceptual framework – to analyze
the research problem.
• A good way to start is to use simple
conceptual models, and then build on them
to the complexity and sophistication
• This can be a useful approach for all kinds
of research, policy analysis, and problem
The following steps may be useful in
developing the conceptual model:
1) Study the research literature related to your
problem. How have others conceptualized
problems similar to yours? Are their conceptual
analyses adaptable to your framework?
2) Reduce the problem to the simplest set of
conditions. Sometimes you can “assume away”
parts of a complex problem to gain an initial
3) Identify applicable economic theory. Consider
a wide range of economic theories in selecting
the most appropriate.
4) Start with a “base model” analysis. Based on
your literature review and basic assumptions,
start with a simple model (statistical, graphical,
mathematical …)
5) Expand the base model to other relevant
dimensions of the problem. Alter and relax
assumptions, then reanalyze the problem. This
will likely make the model more complex, but
remember, the goal is not complexity, but
rather, accurately addressing the problem.
6) Assemble relevant, testable hypotheses from
the conceptual analysis.
 Conceptual frameworks go by many
names; “model”, “conceptual model”,
“conceptual considerations”, “theoretical
considerations”, etc.
 Sometimes it is simply integrated into the
problem description, but in academic
proposals, conceptual frameworks are
usually presented in a separate section.

The Theoretical Framework

A theoretical framework is similar to the
frame of the house.
Just as the foundation supports a house, a
theoretical framework provides a
rationale for predictions about the
relationships among variables of a
research study

A theory is a set of interrelated constructs,
definitions, and propositions that present a
systematic view of phenomena by specifying
relations among variables, with the purpose of
explaining and predicting the phenomena.
Constructs are concepts adapted for a scientific
Through research, scientists can develop, modify, or
evaluate theories.

Theories are generated by using inductive

A deductive approach is used to evaluate and modify

existing theory by testing predictions about
relationships between observed phenomena.

Theoretical Framework
 It provides a context for examining a problem i.e.
theoretical rationale for:
 Developing hypotheses
 A frame of reference/base for
 Observations
 Definitions of concepts
 Research designs
 Interpretations
 Generalizations
 Serves as a guide to systematically identify logical,
99 precisely defined relationships among variables
Process of Hypothesis Generation
Con Con Con
cept cept cept
Prop Hypot Prop
ositio hesis
Hypotheses should express
relationships between
n in an unambiguous, precise manner,
variables n and
should be based on the propositions that evolved
from the theoretical framework
Testing the Hypotheses
• Testing the hypothesis involves:
– Selecting the individual subjects to participate in the
– Using instruments that will validly and reliably measure
the variables
– Developing a method of systematically collecting the
information needed to test hypothesized relationships
– Selecting statistical measures that will determine the
extent and meaning or significance of the relationships

The Use of a Theoretical Framework as a
Guide in a Research Study
The outcomes of the study must be viewed in terms
of their support or lack of support of the chosen
theoretical rationale

The theoretical framework plays an important role in

guiding the entire process of the research study

The Use of a Theoretical Framework as a
Guide in a Research Study

If the framework is logically sound and substantiated

by previous research studies, there is a strong
possibility that the predictions or hypotheses
developing from that framework will be supported.

In some cases, a theoretical rationale in

inappropriately used. e.g. a theory is designed to
explain a particular behavior in infants may not be
appropriate for the study of those behaviors in
How to Develop a Theoretical Framework
1. Select concepts
a concept is an image or symbolic representation of an
abstract idea. e.g. health, pain, intelligence …
2. Identify the interrelationships among concepts
A relationship may be:
a. rigid = scientific law e.g. laws of motion
No known contradiction has been observed
b. tentative or questionable = relationship that
does not convey truth or falsity

Laws and hypotheses are types of propositions

How to Develop a Theoretical Framework
3.Formulating definitions: to develop a
theoretical framework that can generate and
test hypotheses, concepts must be clearly
A.Conceptual definition … conveys the general meaning of
the concept
B. Operational definition … adds another dimension to the

conceptual definition by delineating the procedures or

operations required to measure the concept
Some concepts are easily defined in operational terms,
e.g. pulse, other concepts are more difficult to define
operationally, e.g. coping
4. Formulating the theoretical rationale
Through the literature review, an investigator
becomes aware of or confirms identified
theoretical connections between variables
In evaluating the formulation of the theoretical
rationale, the internal structures, such as
concepts and their definitions, should have clarity
and continuity, and the approach to
understanding phenomena, whether inductive or
deductive, should be logical
Types of Theories & Types of Research
Theories may describe a particular phenomenon,
explain relationships between or among
phenomena, or predict how one phenomenon
affects another
Descriptive theories “describe or classify specific
dimensions or characteristics of individuals,
groups, situations, or events by summarizing the
commonalities found in discrete observations
To test descriptive theories, researchers conduct
descriptive research studies

Types of Theories & Types of Research

Explanatory theories “specify relations

among the dimensions or
characteristics of individuals,
groups, situations, or events
Explanatory theories are tested by
using correlational research

Predictive theories are intended to predict
“precise relationships between the dimensions or
characteristics of a phenomenon or differences
between groups”

Predictive theories are tested through

Experimental or quasi-experimental research


Contribution of Nursing Theories or
Frameworks to Research
When developing a theoretical framework for
nursing research studies, knowledge is acquired
 Disciplines other than nursing and rented for the
purpose of answering nursing questions
 Identifying and asking questions about phenomena
that are unique to nursing

Contribution of Nursing Theories or
Frameworks to Research

Theories unique to nursing help nursing define

how it is different from other disciplines

The central phenomena of interest to nursing are

persons, environment, health & nursing

Critiquing the theoretical framework

1. Is the theoretical framework clearly identified?

2. Is the theoretical framework consistent with what
is being studied?
3. Are the concepts clearly and operationally
defined? Do they reflect the area of investigation?
4. Was sufficient literature reviewed to support the
proposed relationships?
5. Is the theoretical basis for hypothesis formulation
clearly articulated? Is it logical?

Critiquing the theoretical framework

6. Are the relationships among propositions clearly

7. If the theory is borrowed from a discipline other
than nursing, are the data related specifically to
8. Does the instrument used to measure the
variables, consistent with the theoretical
9. Are the study findings related to the theoretical
 Meaning:
A Conceptual framework is used in research to
outline possible courses of action.
 It is the researcher’s own position on the
problem and gives direction to the study.
A written or visual presentation that: “explains
either graphically, or in narrative form, the main
things to be studied – the key factors, concepts
or variables - and the presumed relationship
among them”.

All theoretical & conceptual frameworks are:

 Mental images
 Conceptions
 Ways of looking at reality
The pieces of the conceptual framework are
borrowed but the researcher provides the
structure. To develop the structure you could:
 Identify the key words used in the subject area
of your study.
 Draw out the key things.
 Take one key concept, idea or term at a time
and brainstorm all the other things that might
be related and select those that seem most
 Focus is both on the content and the inter-
 Started early in the development of the
framework but refinement is the last step
 To develop a map arrange the concepts on the
page in sequence of occurrence from left to
 with outcome concepts located on the far right
 Link concepts using arrows indicating path of
Decide what sort of medical research you want
to conduct. Experiments requiring drug tests or
other scientific investigation are best done with
the quantitative method. If your nursing
research involves people, opt for the qualitative
 Identify the thesis statement of your research
and write it in a circle in the middle of a piece of
paper. Draw lines away from the center and
make circles to record your secondary ideas.
 Create a different diagram---a spider or a
hierarchy---.The shape is of secondary
concern; it is generating the ideas for the
conceptual framework that counts.
 Highlight the gaps, connections and
contradictions in your conceptual framework.
Leave it alone for a while and then revisit the
design to see if it suits your nursing research
project or it you need to add additional material
 Review the ethical regulations of nursing
research and make sure your conceptual
framework fits within the guidelines. The
conceptual framework of your nursing research
will be reviewed by a board to examine the
privacy and involvement of others.
 Meet with your supervisor to review your
conceptual framework. An experienced medical
researcher may be able to identify points you
missed in your conceptual framework and
make suggestions on how you could improve it.
The ability to move beyond descriptions to
explanations means ‘what’ to ‘why’ and ‘how’.
 A means of setting out an explanation set that
might be used to define and make sense of the
data that flow from the research question
 A filtering tool for selecting appropriate
research questions and related data collection
 A reference point for the discussion of the
Influenced by the experience and knowledge of
the individual – initial bias
 Once developed will influence the researcher’s
thinking and may result in some things being
given prominence and others being ignored –
ongoing bias
 The solution is to revisit the conceptual
framework, particularly at the end when
evaluating your work
Orem’s self care model (1985)
 Orem’s (1995)
 Imogene King’s General System’s framework
 Imogene King’s Open System Model(1981)
 Roy’s Adaptation Model
 Pender’s Health Model
 Margret Newman’s theory
 Betty Neuman theory etc.