We all know that a research paper has plenty of concepts involved. However, a great deal of concepts makes your study confusing.
A conceptual framework ensures that the concepts of your study are organized and presented comprehensively. Let this article guide you on how to make the conceptual framework of your study.
Table of Contents
At a Glance: Free Conceptual Framework Templates
Too busy to create a conceptual framework from scratch? No problem. We’ve created templates for each conceptual framework so you can start on the right foot. All you need to do is enter the details of the variables. Feel free to modify the design according to your needs. Please read the main article below to learn more about the conceptual framework.
Conceptual Framework Template #1: Independent-Dependent Variable Model
Conceptual Framework Template #2: Input-Process-Output (IPO) Model
Conceptual Framework Template #3: Concept Map
What Is a Conceptual Framework?
A conceptual framework shows the relationship between the variables of your study. It includes a visual diagram or a model that summarizes the concepts of your study and a narrative explanation of the model presented.
Why Should Research Be Given a Conceptual Framework?
Imagine your study as a long journey with the research result as the destination. You don’t want to get lost in your journey because of the complicated concepts. This is why you need to have a guide. The conceptual framework keeps you on track by presenting and simplifying the relationship between the variables. This is usually done through the use of illustrations that are supported by a written interpretation.
Also, people who will read your research must have a clear guide to the variables in your study and where the research is heading. By looking at the conceptual framework, the readers can get the gist of the research concepts without reading the entire study.
What Is the Difference Between Conceptual Framework and Theoretical Framework?
|Conceptual Framework||Theoretical Framework|
|You can develop this through the researcher’s specific concept in the study.||Purely based on existing theories.|
|The research problem is backed up by existing knowledge regarding things the researcher wants us to discover about the topic.||The research problem is supported using past relevant theories from existing literature.|
|Based on acceptable and logical findings.||It is established with the help of the research paradigm.|
|It emphasizes the historical background and the structure to fill in the knowledge gap.||A general set of ideas and theories is essential in writing this area.|
|It highlights the fundamental concepts characterizing the study variable.||It emphasizes the historical background and the structure to fill the knowledge gap.|
Both of them show concepts and ideas of your study. The theoretical framework presents the theories, rules, and principles that serve as the basis of the research. Thus, the theoretical framework presents broad concepts related to your study. On the other hand, the conceptual framework shows a specific approach derived from the theoretical framework. It provides particular variables and shows how these variables are related.
Let’s say your research is about the Effects of Social Media on the Political Literacy of College Students. You may include some theories related to political literacy, such as this paper, in your theoretical framework. Based on this paper, political participation and awareness determine political literacy.
For the conceptual framework, you may state that the specific form of political participation and awareness you will use for the study is the engagement of college students on political issues on social media. Then, through a diagram and narrative explanation, you can show that using social media affects the political literacy of college students.
What Are the Different Types of Conceptual Frameworks?
The conceptual framework has different types based on how the research concepts are organized1.
In this type of conceptual framework, the phenomena of your study are grouped into categories without presenting the relationship among them. The point of this conceptual framework is to distinguish the categories from one another.
2. Visual Presentation
In this conceptual framework, the relationship between the phenomena and variables of your study is presented. Using this conceptual framework implies that your research provides empirical evidence to prove the relationship between variables. This is the type of conceptual framework that is usually used in research studies.
3. Mathematical Description
In this conceptual framework, the relationship between phenomena and variables of your study is described using mathematical formulas. Also, the extent of the relationship between these variables is presented with specific quantities.
How To Make Conceptual Framework: 4 Steps
1. Identify the Important Variables of Your Study
There are two essential variables that you must identify in your study: the independent and the dependent variables.
An independent variable is a variable that you can manipulate. It can affect the dependent variable. Meanwhile, the dependent variable is the resulting variable that you are measuring.
You may refer to your research question to determine your research’s independent and dependent variables.
Suppose your research question is: “Is There a Significant Relationship Between the Quantity of Organic Fertilizer Used and the Plant’s Growth Rate?” The independent variable of this study is the quantity of organic fertilizer used, while the dependent variable is the plant’s growth rate.
2. Think About How the Variables Are Related
Usually, the variables of a study have a direct relationship. If a change in one of your variables leads to a corresponding change in another, they might have this kind of relationship.
However, note that having a direct relationship between variables does not mean they already have a cause-and-effect relationship2. It takes statistical analysis to prove causation between variables.
Using our example earlier, the quantity of organic fertilizer may directly relate to the plant’s growth rate. However, we are not sure that the quantity of organic fertilizer is the sole reason for the plant’s growth rate changes.
3. Analyze and Determine Other Influencing Variables
Consider analyzing if other variables can affect the relationship between your independent and dependent variables3.
4. Create a Visual Diagram or a Model
Now that you’ve identified the variables and their relationship, you may create a visual diagram summarizing them.
Usually, shapes such as rectangles, circles, and arrows are used for the model. You may create a visual diagram or model for your conceptual framework in different ways. The three most common models are the independent-dependent variable model, the input-process-output (IPO) model, and concept maps.
a. Using the Independent-Dependent Variable Model
You may create this model by writing the independent and dependent variables inside rectangles. Then, insert a line segment between them, connecting the rectangles. This line segment indicates the direct relationship between these variables.
Below is a visual diagram based on our example about the relationship between organic fertilizer and a plant’s growth rate.
b. Using the Input-Process-Output (IPO) Model
If you want to emphasize your research process, the input-process-output model is the appropriate visual diagram for your conceptual framework.
To create your visual diagram using the IPO model, follow these steps:
- Determine the inputs of your study. Inputs are the variables you will use to arrive at your research result. Usually, your independent variables are also the inputs of your research. Let’s say your research is about the Level of Satisfaction of College Students Using Google Classroom as an Online Learning Platform. You may include in your inputs the profile of your respondents and the curriculum used in the online learning platform.
- Outline your research process. Using our example above, the research process should be like this: Data collection of student profiles → Administering questionnaires → Tabulation of students’ responses → Statistical data analysis.
- State the research output. Indicate what you are expecting after you conduct the research. In our example above, the research output is the assessed level of satisfaction of college students with the use of Google Classroom as an online learning platform.
- Create the model using the research’s determined input, process, and output.
Presented below is the IPO model for our example above.
c. Using Concept Maps
If you think the two models presented previously are insufficient to summarize your study’s concepts, you may use a concept map for your visual diagram.
A concept map is a helpful visual diagram if multiple variables affect one another. Let’s say your research is about Coping with the Remote Learning System: Anxiety Levels of College Students. Presented below is the concept map for the research’s conceptual framework:
5. Explain Your Conceptual Framework in Narrative Form
Provide a brief explanation of your conceptual framework. State the essential variables, their relationship, and the research outcome.
Using the same example about the relationship between organic fertilizer and the growth rate of the plant, we can come up with the following explanation to accompany the conceptual framework:
Figure 1 shows the Conceptual Framework of the study. The quantity of the organic fertilizer used is the independent variable, while the plant’s growth is the research’s dependent variable. These two variables are directly related based on the research’s empirical evidence.
Conceptual Framework in Quantitative Research
You can create your conceptual framework by following the steps discussed in the previous section. Note, however, that quantitative research has statistical analysis. Thus, you may use arrows to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship in your model. An arrow implies that your independent variable caused the changes in your dependent variable.
Usually, for quantitative research, the Input-Process-Output model is used as a visual diagram. Here is an example of a conceptual framework in quantitative research:
Research Topic: Level of Effectiveness of Corn (Zea mays) Silk Ethanol Extract as an Antioxidant
Conceptual Framework in Qualitative Research
Again, you can follow the same step-by-step guide discussed previously to create a conceptual framework for qualitative research. However, note that you should avoid using one-way arrows as they may indicate causation. Qualitative research cannot prove causation since it uses only descriptive and narrative analysis to relate variables.
Here is an example of a conceptual framework in qualitative research:
Research Topic: Lived Experiences of Medical Health Workers During Community Quarantine
Conceptual Framework Examples
Presented below are some examples of conceptual frameworks.
Research Topic: Hypoglycemic Ability of Gabi (Colocasia esculenta) Leaf Extract in the Blood Glucose Level of Swiss Mice (Mus musculus)
Figure 1 presents the Conceptual Framework of the study. The quantity of gabi leaf extract is the independent variable, while the Swiss mice’s blood glucose level is the study’s dependent variable. This study establishes a direct relationship between these variables through empirical evidence and statistical analysis.
Research Topic: Level of Effectiveness of Using Social Media in the Political Literacy of College Students
Figure 1 shows the Conceptual Framework of the study. The input is the profile of the college students according to sex, year level, and the social media platform being used. The research process includes administering the questionnaires, tabulating students’ responses, and statistical data analysis and interpretation. The output is the effectiveness of using social media in the political literacy of college students.
Research Topic: Factors Affecting the Satisfaction Level of Community Inhabitants
Figure 1 presents a visual illustration of the factors that affect the satisfaction level of community inhabitants. As presented, environmental, societal, and economic factors influence the satisfaction level of community inhabitants. Each factor has its indicators which are considered in this study.
Tips and Warnings
- Please keep it simple. Avoid using fancy illustrations or designs when creating your conceptual framework.
- Allot a lot of space for feedback. This is to show that your research variables or methodology might be revised based on the input from the research panel. Below is an example of a conceptual framework with a spot allotted for feedback.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I create a conceptual framework in Microsoft Word?
First, click the Insert tab and select Shapes. You’ll see a wide range of shapes to choose from. Usually, rectangles, circles, and arrows are the shapes used for the conceptual framework.
Next, draw your selected shape in the document.
Insert the name of the variable inside the shape. You can do this by pointing your cursor to the shape, right-clicking your mouse, selecting Add Text, and typing in the text.
Repeat the same process for the remaining variables of your study. If you need arrows to connect the different variables, you can insert one by going to the Insert tab, then Shape, and finally, Lines or Block Arrows, depending on your preferred arrow style.
2. How to explain my conceptual framework in defense?
If you have used the Independent-Dependent Variable Model in creating your conceptual framework, start by telling your research’s variables. Afterward, explain the relationship between these variables. Example: “Using statistical/descriptive analysis of the data we have collected, we are going to show how the <state your independent variable> exhibits a significant relationship to <state your dependent variable>.”
On the other hand, if you have used an Input-Process-Output Model, start by explaining the inputs of your research. Then, tell them about your research process. You may refer to the Research Methodology in Chapter 3 to accurately present your research process. Lastly, explain what your research outcome is.
Meanwhile, if you have used a concept map, ensure you understand the idea behind the illustration. Discuss how the concepts are related and highlight the research outcome.
3. In what stage of research is the conceptual framework written?
The research study’s conceptual framework is in Chapter 2, following the Review of Related Literature.
4. What is the difference between a Conceptual Framework and Literature Review?
The Conceptual Framework is a summary of the concepts of your study where the relationship of the variables is presented. On the other hand, Literature Review is a collection of published studies and literature related to your study.
Suppose your research concerns the Hypoglycemic Ability of Gabi (Colocasia esculenta) Leaf Extract on Swiss Mice (Mus musculus). In your conceptual framework, you will create a visual diagram and a narrative explanation presenting the quantity of gabi leaf extract and the mice’s blood glucose level as your research variables. On the other hand, for the literature review, you may include this study and explain how this is related to your research topic.
5. When do I use a two-way arrow for my conceptual framework?
You will use a two-way arrow in your conceptual framework if the variables of your study are interdependent. If variable A affects variable B and variable B also affects variable A, you may use a two-way arrow to show that A and B affect each other.
Suppose your research concerns the Relationship Between Students’ Satisfaction Levels and Online Learning Platforms. Since students’ satisfaction level determines the online learning platform the school uses and vice versa, these variables have a direct relationship. Thus, you may use two-way arrows to indicate that the variables directly affect each other.
- Conceptual Framework – Meaning, Importance and How to Write it. (2020). Retrieved 27 April 2021, from https://afribary.com/knowledge/conceptual-framework/
- Correlation vs Causation. Retrieved 27 April 2021, from https://www.jmp.com/en_ph/statistics-knowledge-portal/what-is-correlation/correlation-vs-causation.html
- Swaen, B., & George, T. (2022, August 22). What is a conceptual framework? Tips & Examples. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/conceptual-framework/