Although there is no agreed-upon definition of the conceptual and theoretical framework, it is clear that the frameworks give the rationale for the development of research questions and hypotheses. There is a suggestion that where a framework is based on theories, it should be referred to as a theoretical framework. Conceptual frameworks, on the other hand, identify the researchers worldviews on their research topics outlining their assumptions and preconceptions about the areas being studied. It is defined as the visual or written product that offers either a graphic or narration of the topic to be studied regarding the concepts, variables, or key factors and the alleged relationship between them.
Based on this definition, it is therefore rightful to state that the conceptual framework of the study and theories that support and inform the research are important aspects of the design. Conceptual frameworks, in this case, are the systems of concepts, expectations, assumptions, beliefs, and theories that inform the study (Maxwell, 2012). They are the actual ideas and beliefs of the researcher about the topic being studied. Most importantly it is important to note that the conceptual framework is primarily a conception or model of the existing literature on what you plan to study, what is going on with these things and why. In other words, develop a tentative theory of the phenomenon under study. Therefore, the focus of this theory is to inform the study and help to assess and refine your goals, select appropriate methods, develop relevant research questions, and identify potential threats the conceptual framework. Just lime conceptual framework, a theoretical framework is essential in the development of assumptions. Researchers can use both frameworks to develop the design of the study whereby if the study is explicit the framework can be found in a section of the literature review (Ravitch & Carl, 2015). Secondly, both frameworks can be used in the development of a theory which is the most important aspect of the qualitative study. The frameworks can be used to make the research findings meaningful and generalizable.
In order to successfully identify the assumptions of the researcher, it is important to develop the right conceptual and theoretical frameworks. Developing the right frameworks cannot simply be achieved by reviewing and summarizing some of the theoretical and empirical publications. This is because summarizing some theoretical and empirical publications can lead to a narrow focus on the literature ignoring other resources that may contribute significantly to the study (Green, 2014). Furthermore, summarizing only the theoretical and empirical publications leads to the loss of the researchers thinking and speculation. Also, summarizing the empirical and theoretical publications leads to the loss of focus on the studies and theories that are relevant to the research because the researcher tends to cover the general field (Anfara Jr & Mertz, 2014). However, it is important to note that some of the conceptual and theoretical frameworks that are considered most productive are those that bring ideas from outside the traditionally defined field of study or integrate different approaches in the line of investigation. Therefore, such frameworks make it easy to identify the assumptions of the researcher because they are based on a variety of sources and are not limited to theoretical or empirical publications.
In conclusion, theoretical and conceptual frameworks play a major role in the qualitative study. They help in identifying the assumptions of the researcher more so on how the phenomenon being investigated might be understood. This is because they bring out ideas from outside the traditional field of study and integrate them in the research making it possible to develop a more productive research.
Anfara Jr, V. A., & Mertz, N. T. (2014). Theoretical frameworks in qualitative research. Sage publications.
Green, H. (2014). Use of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in qualitative research. Nurse Researcher. 21, 6, 34-38.
Maxwell, J. A. (2012). Conceptual Framework: What do you think is going on. In Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Ravitch, S. M. & Carl, R.M. (2015). Qualitative Research: Bridging the Conceptual, Theoretical, and Methodological. SAGE Publications.
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