You are on page 1of 3




What is a conceptual framework? How do you prepare one? This article defines the meaning of
conceptual framework and lists the steps on how to prepare it. A simplified example is added to
strengthen the readers understanding.
In the course of preparing your research paper as one of the requirements for your course as an
undergraduate or graduate student, you will need to write the conceptual framework of your
study. The conceptual framework steers the whole research activity. The conceptual framework
serves as a map or rudder that will guide you towards realizing the objectives or intent of
your study.

What then is a conceptual framework in the context of empirical research? The next section
defines and explains the term.

Definition of Conceptual Framework

A conceptual framework represents the researchers synthesis of literature on how to explain a
phenomenon. It maps out the actions required in the course of the study given his previous
knowledge of other researchers point of view and his observations on the subject of research.

In other words, the conceptual framework is the researchers understanding of how the
particular variables in his study connect with each other. Thus, it identifies the variables required
in the research investigation. It is the researchers map in pursuing the investigation.
As McGaghie et al. (2001) put it: The conceptual framework sets the stage for the presentation
of the particular research question that drives the investigation being reported based on the
problem statement. The problem statement of a thesis presents the context and the issues that
caused the researcher to conduct the study.
The conceptual framework lies within a much broader framework called theoretical framework.
The latter draws support from time-tested theories that embody the findings of many researchers
on why and how a particular phenomenon occurs.

Step by Step Guide on How to Make the Conceptual Framework

Before you prepare your conceptual framework, you need to do the following things:

1. Choose your topic. Decide on what will be your research topic. The topic should be within
your field of specialization.
2. Do a literature review. Review relevant and updated research on the theme that you decide
to work on after scrutiny of the issue at hand. Preferably use peer-reviewed and well-known
scientific journals as these are reliable sources of information.
3. Isolate the important variables. Identify the specific variables described in the literature and
figure out how these are related. Some abstracts contain the variables and the salient findings
thus may serve the purpose. If these are not available, find the research papers summary. If
the variables are not explicit in the summary, get back to the methodology or the results and
discussion section and quickly identify the variables of the study and the significant findings.
Read the TSPU Technique on how to skim efficiently articles and get to the important points
without much fuss.
4. Generate the conceptual framework. Build your conceptual framework using your mix of
the variables from the scientific articles you have read. Your problem statement serves as a
reference in constructing the conceptual framework. In effect, your study will attempt to
answer a question that other researchers have not explained yet. Your research should address
a knowledge gap.

Example of a Conceptual Framework

Statement number 5 introduced in an earlier post titled How to Write a Thesis Statement will
serve as the basis of the illustrated conceptual framework in the following examples.
Thesis statement: Chronic exposure to blue light from LED screens (of computer monitors and
television) deplete melatonin levels thus reduce the number of sleeping hours among middle-
aged adults.
The study claims that blue light from the light emitting diodes (LED) inhibit the production of
melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. Those affected experience insomnia;
they sleep less than required (usually less than six hours), and this happens when they spend too
much time working on their laptops or viewing the television at night.
Fig. 1 The research paradigm illustrating the researchers conceptual framework.
Notice that the variables of the study are explicit in the paradigm presented in Figure 1. In the
illustration, the two variables are 1) number of hours devoted in front of the computer, and 2)
number of hours slept at night. The former is the independent variable while the latter is the
dependent variable. Both of these variables are easy to measure. It is just counting the number of
hours spent in front of the computer and the number of hours slept by the subjects of the study.

Assuming that other things are constant during the performance of the study, it will be possible
to relate these two variables and confirm that indeed, blue light emanated from computer screens
can affect ones sleeping patterns. (Please read the article titled Do you know that the computer
can disturb your sleeping patterns? to find out more about this phenomenon) A correlation
analysis will show whether the relationship is significant or not.