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What is a conceptual framework?

A conceptual framework is described as a set of broad ideas and

principles taken from relevant fields of enquiry and used to structure a
subsequent presentation (Reichel & Ramey, 1987). When clearly articulated,
a conceptual framework has potential usefulness as a tool to scaffold
research and, therefore, to assist a researcher to make meaning of
subsequent findings. Such a framework should be intended as a starting
point for reflection about the research and its context. The framework is a
research tool intended to assist a researcher to develop awareness and
understanding of the situation under scrutiny and to communicate this. As
with all investigation in the social world, the framework itself forms part of
the agenda for negotiation to be scrutinised and tested, reviewed and
reformed as a result of investigation (Guba & Lincoln, 1989).

A conceptual framework is used in research to outline possible

courses of action or to present a preferred approach to an idea or thought. It
is also a type of intermediate theory that attempt to connect to all aspects of
inquiry (e.g., problem definition, purpose, literature review, methodology,
data collection and analysis). Conceptual frameworks can act like maps
that give coherence to empirical inquiry. Because conceptual frameworks are
potentially so close to empirical inquiry, they take different forms depending
upon the research question or problem.

An underlying structure in a professional education unit that gives

conceptual meanings through an articulated rationale to the unit’s operation,
and provides direction for programs, courses, teaching, candidate
performance, faculty scholarship and service, and unit accountability. It is
also a group of concepts that are broadly defined and systematically
organized to provide a focus, a rationale, and a tool for the integration and
interpretation of information. Usually expressed abstractly through word
models, a conceptual framework is the conceptual basis for many theories,
such as communication theory and general systems theory.

The conceptual framework became the heart of the study as the

research gained momentum. It increasingly scaffolded, strengthened and
kept a research on track by

• providing clear links from the literature to the research goals and
• informing the research design
• providing reference points for discussion of literature, methodology
and analysis of data
• contributing to the trustworthiness of the study (Goetz & LeCompte,

Subsequently, the generalist nature of the principles and descriptors

forming the conceptual framework were not idiosyncratic to its context and
that it may have potential to assist me to gain further insight into other
aspects of the perplexing failure of many educational change management

Nevertheless, there are some cautions to be aware of when utilising a

conceptual framework. Firstly, the framework is a construction of knowledge
bounded by the life-world experiences of the person developing it and should
not be attributed a power that it does not have. Secondly, the nature of a
conceptual framework means that it consciously, or unconsciously informs
thought and practice by increasing personal sensitivity to notice particular
occurrences so this must be accounted for (Mason & Waywood, 1996).
Thirdly, no researcher can expect that all data will be analysed using the
framework without the risk of limiting the results from the investigation.

In terms of the context provided by the analysis of the implementation

of an innovative new curriculum, judgements and recommendations were
made about the structures and processes used to manage the
implementation. Therefore, the guiding principles provided by the conceptual
framework fulfilled these criteria. Now, the basic tenets of the conceptual
framework should be tested in further scholarly and research activity.

Several types of conceptual frameworks have been identified such


1. Working hypothesis - A working hypothesis is a hypothesis that is

provisionally accepted when no alternatives are available or when the
philosophical implications of the alternatives are considered to be
absurd or otherwise undesirable. Like all hypotheses, a working
hypothesis can be constructed as a statement of expectations. They
can be linked to the exploratory research purpose in experimental
investigation, and are also often used as a conceptual framework as
they are well suited to qualitative research methods.

Working hypotheses are a pivotal concept in John Dewey's theory

of inquiry. These hypotheses are a "provisional, working means of
advancing investigation" and lead to the discovery of other important
facts. In what Abraham Kaplan would describe as "provisional or
loosely formatted" theory, they are constructs.

2. Descriptive categories
3. Practical ideal types

4. Models of operations research - Operational research, also known

as operations research, is an interdisciplinary mathematical
science that focuses on the effective use of technology by
organizations. In contrast, many other science & engineering
disciplines focus on technology giving secondary considerations to its

Employing techniques from other mathematical sciences --- such

as mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, and mathematical
optimization --- operations research arrives at optimal or near-optimal
solutions to complex decision-making problems. Because of its emphasis on
human-technology interaction and because of its focus on practical
applications, operations research has overlap with other disciplines,
notably industrial engineering and management science, and draws
on psychology and organization science. Operations Research is often
concerned with determining the maximum (of profit, performance, or yield)
or minimum (of loss, risk, or cost) of some real-world objective. Originating in
military efforts before World War II, its techniques have grown to concern
problems in a variety of industries.

5. Formal hypotheses - Stating a formal hypothesis can be done in

variety of ways. One of the easier ways in which to create your
hypotheses is to 1) decide what you want to conclude based on the
literature (what we previously called our informal hypothesis) and
then 2) Convert this to a mathematical equation based (i.e. one
group Belize < Samoa). 3) Convert our culture names to the symbol
representing them (either mu1 or mu2). This is our alternative
An Example of a Conceptual Framework