Conceptual Framework for Descriptive Design

Conceptual Framework for Descriptive Design

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What is a Conceptual Framework?

In research, a conceptual framework refers to a visual or written representation of the expected relationship between the variables being studied. It depicts what a researcher expects to find through their research and clearly maps out the steps that must be carried out through the course of the study. 

As the conceptual framework illustrates a researcher’s understanding of how variables connect, it can be used to identify the key variables that need to be investigated. It acts as a “map” that provides researchers with a shape and structure to their research, helping them carry out their study more effectively.

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Why use a Conceptual Framework for Descriptive Research?

A conceptual framework should be constructed before the data collection process is commenced so as to guide the investigation. These are a few advantages of using a conceptual framework for descriptive research: 

  • Provides a framework that can be used to make decisions and to solve new and emerging practical problems.
  • Can be used by organizations to enhance financial reporting by making it easier to understand for users. 
  • Can be used to enhance the compatibility of a company’s financial statements with competitors. 
  • It focuses on the theory of a phenomenon and can provide a base and structure for research to be built on.
  • It is a quick and cost-effective form of research as it does not require experimentation and instead relies on information obtained through previously conducted studies.

Using Qualitative and Quantitative Data in the Conceptual Framework

The way you formulate your research design will vary depending on the nature of the data being analysed. Let’s look at how the conceptual framework will vary when used with qualitative data in comparison to when it is used with quantitative data. 

Qualitative data is used when a research problem focuses on meanings, perceptions, and/or descriptions of the research topic. When analysed, qualitative data allows researchers to understand behaviours, interactions, situations, and contexts. Researchers can then analyse these observations to identify correlations, patterns, and categories. 

Quantitative data is used when a research problem requires numerical values associated with the variables being studied, whether they be traits, trends, or characteristics. When analysed, quantitative data can illustrate any outliers among the data. The numerical values can even depict the degree of difference or relationship between the variables being studied. Additionally, the data can help determine whether the findings are generalizable to the larger population or whether they are only true for the sample. 

Variables in the Conceptual Framework

Independent and Dependent Variables

When testing the cause-and-effect relationship, there are two key variables we must identify: the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

  • Independent Variable: The variable that the researcher manipulates, and is assumed to influence the dependent variable.
  • Dependent Variable: The variables being tested and measured, and is thought to be ‘dependent’ on the value of the independent variable.

Moderating and Mediating Variables

As we expand our framework, there are other important variables to consider, specifically Moderating and Mediating variables. 

  • Moderating Variables: Also known as moderators. They alter or influence the effect that an independent variable has on the dependent variable. Therefore, these variables change the effect component of the cause-and-effect relationship between the independent and dependent variables. Moderation can also be referred to as the interaction effect.
  • Mediating Variables: Also known as a mediator. A mediating variable is a variable that links the independent and dependent variables, and its existence helps explain the relationship between them.

4 Steps on How to Make a Conceptual Framework

Conceptual Framework for Descriptive Design2

Create a conceptual framework using the following four steps:

  • Outline your Topic

The first step in creating your conceptual framework is to clearly outline your topic of research. In this step, you must decide on your topic of research. It is important to select a topic that relates to your field of specialization so that you will be familiar with the different aspects of your study. 

  • Conduct a Literature Review

A literature review involves the search and evaluation of the available and relevant literature in a chosen topic area. In this step, you must review and synthesise well-known scientific journals and research papers, preferably those that are peer-reviewed, to gain a deep and comprehensive understanding of the research problem at hand. 

  • Isolate the Key Variables

Once you’ve carried out the literature review, you should have an idea of the most important and relevant variables to your research topic. This brings us to the third step which requires you to isolate the key variables described in the literature and then determine how these variables relate to each other. In research papers, you will generally find the key variables outlined in the abstract, methodology, and summary section. The summary in research papers should also provide you with an understanding of how these variables work together.

  • Generate the Conceptual Framework

Your fourth and final step is to generate your conceptual framework. Now that you’ve identified your most important variables and have a general idea of how they relate to each other, you can begin creating your conceptual framework. Your problem statement should serve as a reference for constructing it.

FAQs on Conceptual Framework

In descriptive research, the theoretical framework is a single formal theory that acts as a synthesis of the theory developed regarding a research problem. When a study is designed using the theoretical frameworks, the theory is the primary means by which the research problem is investigated.

A conceptual framework can be defined as an outline of the expected relationship between the variables being studied. It illustrates the researcher’s understanding of how the variables relate to each other.

When using the conceptual framework in quantitative research, it is vital to define the research problem, as well as the key variables that can be used to resolve it. This is in contrast to qualitative research, wherein researchers aim to build up a theory so the conceptual framework emerges after the research is complete.

When using the conceptual framework in qualitative research, an inductive approach is taken. This means that the researcher builds up the theory and only establishes a conceptual framework once the research is complete.

The main purpose of the conceptual framework is to define all the relevant variables being studied and to illustrate how they may be related to each other. It provides a visual format using which researchers can carry out their study more effectively.

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