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How to Make a Conceptual Framework

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

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