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How To Write Conceptual Framework In Research Paper

Thesis writing or research requires a good understanding of the topic being investigated. For this reason, a conceptual framework needs to be drawn up to guide the direction of the investigation. How is a conceptual framework arrived at? This article explains and presents a simplified example on how to make a conceptual framework which college students will find helpful in their quest for new knowledge.

Research or thesis writing is a logical process whereby new information can be generated. In carrying out research, one of the fundamental requirements is to be able to define clearly the direction of the study. If the issues are not clear in the researcher's mind, it is easy to wander away from what needs to be investigated.

This is where the idea of putting things into focus comes into play, i. e., the building of a conceptual framework. The conceptual framework works like a map that sets the direction of research or thesis writing.

How to Make a Conceptual Framework

Coming up with a conceptual framework requires reading and understanding theories that explain relationships between things. A comprehensive understanding of the research issue, therefore, can be achieved through an exhaustive review of literature.

Since research or thesis writing involves the explanation of complex phenomena, there is a need to simplify or reduce the complexity of the phenomena into measurable items called variables. Only a portion of the phenomena can be explained at a time.

Example of Conceptual Framework

A researcher might want to test Lamarck's Theory of Use and Disuse. Basically the theory says that whatever characteristic the organism acquires during its lifetime, this can be passed on to its offspring. And this trait is strengthened or developed with constant use during its lifetime. Otherwise, the trait is lost.

The classic example used to illustrate this theory is the long neck of giraffes. Giraffes stretch their necks to reach the leaves of tall, flat topped trees in the savanna. If they don't stretch their necks, then their necks would be shorter. And these traits will be passed on to its offspring.

Two variables in this case may be used. These are the length of necks of giraffes and their habitat - a place where they can stretch their necks to feed and a place where they need not do so.

The conceptual framework may be illustrated thus:

Independent and Dependent Variables

For any phenomenon, the independent variable is the cause while the dependent variable is the outcome. In the example above, the independent variable is the type of habitat while the dependent variable is the length of the giraffe's neck. Using a diagram to embody the conceptual framework, it is now easy to figure out what needs to be done to find out if indeed the opportunities presented in the giraffe's habitat has something to do with the length of its neck. The researcher can measure the giraffe's neck in two different habitats.

The investigation, of course, does not stop here because the researcher has also to find out if the trait of the giraffe developed in its lifetime will be passed on to its offspring. Will the offspring have a long neck, probably longer and stronger than its parent? 

What the conceptual framework really does is to pin down the theory into something that the researcher can objectively measure. This will help him test the validity of the claim, that is, the theory which arose from insights derived by a senior scientist from observations or previous findings. 

Final Notes

The making of a conceptual framework is an iterative process. This means that as a researcher or one engaged in thesis writing becomes much more familiar with the issue or chosen topic, the variables incorporated in the conceptual framework changes in order to capture the essence of the theories. For this reason, conceptual frameworks may not really look as simple as illustrated above.

For more information on variables, read examples of variables from global to local perspective.

©2012 July 30 Patrick A. Regoniel

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 reader’s 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 researcher’s 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 researcher’s 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 researcher’s “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 paper’s 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.

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 one’s 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.

e-Book on Conceptual Framework Development

Due to the popularity of this article, I wrote an e-Book designed to suit the needs of beginning researchers. This e-Book answers the many questions and comments regarding the preparation of the conceptual framework. I provide five practical examples based on existing literature to demonstrate the procedure.

So, do you want a more detailed explanation with five practical, real-life examples? Get the 52-page e-Book NOW!


McGaghie, W. C.; Bordage, G.; and J. A. Shea (2001). Problem Statement, Conceptual Framework, and Research Question. Retrieved on January 5, 2015 from

©2015 January 5 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (January 5, 2015). Conceptual Framework: A Step by Step Guide on How to Make One. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from

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