Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks for Thesis Studies: What you must know

thesis with conceptual framework

A theoretical framework is a conceptual model that provides a systematic and structured way of thinking about a research problem or question. It helps to identify key variables and the relationships between them and to guide the selection and interpretation of data. Theoretical frameworks draw on existing theories and research and can be used to develop new hypotheses or test existing ones. They provide a foundation for research design, data collection, and analysis and can help to ensure that research is relevant, rigorous, and coherent. Theoretical frameworks are common in many disciplines, including social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities, and are essential for building knowledge and advancing understanding in a field.

This article explains the importance of frameworks in a thesis study and the differences between conceptual frameworks and theoretical frameworks. It provides guidelines on how to write a thesis framework, definitions of variable types, and examples of framework types.

What is a research framework and why do I need one?

When planning your thesis study, you need to justify your research and explain its design to your readers. This is called the research framework.

When planning your thesis study, you need to justify your research and explain its design to your readers. This is called the research framework. Think of it as the foundation of a building. A good building needs a strong foundation. Similarly, your research needs to be supported by reviewing and explaining the existing knowledge in the field, describing how your research study will fit within or contribute to the existing literature (e.g., it could challenge or test an existing theory or address a knowledge gap), and informing the reader how your study design aligns with your thesis question or hypothesis.

Important components of the framework are a literature review of recent studies associated with your thesis topic as well as theories/models used in your field of research. The literature review acts as a filtering tool to select appropriate thesis questions and guide data collection, analysis, and interpretation of your findings. Think broadly! Apart from reviewing relevant published papers in your field of research, also explore theories that you have come across in your undergraduate courses, other published thesis studies, encyclopedias, and handbooks.

There are two types of research frameworks: theoretical and conceptual .

What is a conceptual framework?

A conceptual framework is a written or visual representation that explains the study variables and their relationships with each other. The starting point is a literature review of existing studies and theories about your topic.

Steps to develop a conceptual framework

  • Clarify your study topic by identifying and defining key concepts in your thesis problem statement and thesis question. Essentially, your thesis should address a knowledge gap.
  • Perform a literature review to provide a background to interpret and explain the study findings. Also, draw on empirical knowledge that you have gained from personal experience.
  • Identify crucial variables from the literature review and your empirical knowledge, classify them as dependent or independent variables, and define them.
  • Brainstorm all the possible factors that could affect each dependent variable.
  • Propose relationships among the variables and determine any associations that exist between all variables.
  • Use a flowchart or tree diagram to present your conceptual framework.

Types of variables

When developing a conceptual framework, you will need to identify the following:

  • Independent variables
  • Dependent variables
  • Moderating variables
  • Mediating variables
  • Control variables

First, identify the independent (cause) and dependent (effect) variables in your study. Then, identify variables that influence this relationship, such as moderating variables, mediating variables, and control variables. A moderating variable changes the relationship between independent and dependent variables when its value increases or decreases. A mediating variable links independent and dependent variables to better explain the relationship between them. A control variable could potentially impact the cause-and-effect relationship but is kept constant throughout the study so that its effects on the findings/outcomes can be ruled out.

Example of a conceptual framework

You want to investigate the hours spent exercising (cause) on childhood obesity (effect).

thesis with conceptual framework

Now, you need to consider moderating variables that affect the cause-and-effect relationship. In our example, the amount of junk food eaten would affect the level of obesity.

thesis with conceptual framework

Next, you need to consider mediating variables. In our example, the maximum heart rate during exercise would affect the child’s weight.

thesis with conceptual framework

Finally, you need to consider control variables. In this example, because we do not want to investigate the role of age in obesity, we can use this as a control variable. Thus, the study subjects would be children of a specific age (e.g., aged 6–10 years).

thesis with conceptual framework

What is a theoretical framework?

A theoretical framework provides a general framework for data analysis. It defines the concepts used and explains existing theories and models in your field of research.

A theoretical framework provides a general framework for data analysis. It defines the concepts used and explains existing theories and models in your field of research. It also explains any assumptions that were used to inform your approach and your choice of specific rationales. Theoretical frameworks are often used in the fields of social sciences.

Purpose of a theoretical framework

  • Test and challenge existing theories
  • Establish orderly connections between observations and facts
  • Predict and control situations
  • Develop hypotheses

Steps to develop a theoretical framework

  • Identify and define key concepts in your thesis problem statement and thesis question.
  • Explain and evaluate existing theories by writing a literature review that describes the concepts, models, and theories that support your study.
  • Choose the theory that best explains the relationships between the key variables in your study.
  • Explain how your research study fills a knowledge gap or fits into existing studies (e.g., testing if an established theory applies to your thesis context).
  • Discuss the relevance of any theoretical assumptions and limitations.

A thesis topic can be approached from a variety of angles, depending on the theories used.

  • In psychology, a behavioral approach would use different methods and assumptions compared with a cognitive approach when treating anxiety.
  • In literature, a book could be analyzed using different literary theories, such as Marxism or poststructuralism.

Structuring a theoretical framework

The structure of a theoretical framework is fluid, and there are no specific rules that need to be followed, as long as it is clearly and logically presented.

The theoretical framework is a natural extension of your literature review. The literature review should identify gaps in the field of your research, and reviewing existing theories will help to determine how these can be addressed. The structure of a theoretical framework is fluid, and there are no specific rules that need to be followed, as long as it is clearly and logically presented. The theoretical framework is sometimes integrated into the literature review chapter of a thesis, but it can also be included as a separate chapter, depending on the complexity of the theories.

Example of a theoretical framework

The sales staff at Company X are unmotivated and struggling to meet their monthly targets. Some members of the management team believe that this could be achieved by implementing a comprehensive product-training program, but others believe that introducing a sales commission structure will help.

Company X is not achieving their monthly sales targets

To increase monthly sales.

Research question:

How can Company X motivate their sales team to achieve its monthly sales targets?


  • Why do the sales staff feel unmotivated?
  • What is the relationship between motivation and monetary rewards?
  • Do the sales staff feel that they have sufficient product knowledge?

Theoretical framework:

A literature search will need to be performed to understand the background of the many different theories of motivation in psychology. For example, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (basic human needs—physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization—have to be fulfilled before one can live up to their true potential), Vroom’s Theory of Expectancy (people decide upon their actions based on the outcomes they expect), and Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory (goals are a key driver of one’s behavior). These theories would need to be investigated to determine which would be the best approach to increase the motivation of the sales staff in Company X so that the monthly sales targets are met.

A robust conceptual or theoretical framework is crucial when writing a thesis/dissertation. It defines your research gap, identifies your approach, and guides the interpretation of your results.

A thesis is the most important document you will write during your academic studies. For professional thesis editing and thesis proofreading services, check out Enago's Thesis Editing service s for more information.

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What type of framework is used in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) domain? +

Theoretical frameworks are typically used in the HSS domain, while conceptual frameworks are used in the Sciences domain.

What is the difference between mediating versus moderating variables? +

The difference between mediators and moderators can be confusing. A moderating variable is unaffected by the independent variable and can increase or decrease the strength of the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. A mediating variable is affected by the independent variable and can explain the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. T he statistical correlation between the independent and dependent variables is higher when the mediating variable is excluded.

What software should I use to present my conceptual framework? +

The software program Creately provides some useful templates that can help you get started. Other recommended programs are SmartDraw , Inkscape , and .

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How to Make a Conceptual Framework

How to Make a Conceptual Framework

  • 6-minute read
  • 2nd January 2022

What is a conceptual framework? And why is it important?

A conceptual framework illustrates the relationship between the variables of a research question. It’s an outline of what you’d expect to find in a research project.

Conceptual frameworks should be constructed before data collection and are vital because they map out the actions needed in the study. This should be the first step of an undergraduate or graduate research project.

What Is In a Conceptual Framework?

In a conceptual framework, you’ll find a visual representation of the key concepts and relationships that are central to a research study or project . This can be in form of a diagram, flow chart, or any other visual representation. Overall, a conceptual framework serves as a guide for understanding the problem being studied and the methods being used to investigate it.

Steps to Developing the Perfect Conceptual Framework

  • Pick a question
  • Conduct a literature review
  • Identify your variables
  • Create your conceptual framework

1. Pick a Question

You should already have some idea of the broad area of your research project. Try to narrow down your research field to a manageable topic in terms of time and resources. From there, you need to formulate your research question . A research question answers the researcher’s query: “What do I want to know about my topic?” Research questions should be focused, concise, arguable and, ideally, should address a topic of importance within your field of research.

An example of a simple research question is: “What is the relationship between sunny days and ice cream sales?”

2. Conduct a Literature Review

A literature review is an analysis of the scholarly publications on a chosen topic. To undertake a literature review, search for articles with the same theme as your research question. Choose updated and relevant articles to analyze and use peer-reviewed and well-respected journals whenever possible.

For the above example, the literature review would investigate publications that discuss how ice cream sales are affected by the weather. The literature review should reveal the variables involved and any current hypotheses about this relationship.

3. Identify Your Variables

There are two key variables in every experiment: independent and dependent variables.

Independent Variables

The independent variable (otherwise known as the predictor or explanatory variable) is the expected cause of the experiment: what the scientist changes or changes on its own. In our example, the independent variable would be “the number of sunny days.”

Dependent Variables

The dependent variable (otherwise known as the response or outcome variable) is the expected effect of the experiment: what is being studied or measured. In our example, the dependent variable would be “the quantity of ice cream sold.”

Next, there are control variables.

Control Variables

A control variable is a variable that may impact the dependent variable but whose effects are not going to be measured in the research project. In our example, a control variable could be “the socioeconomic status of participants.” Control variables should be kept constant to isolate the effects of the other variables in the experiment.

Finally, there are intervening and extraneous variables.

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Intervening Variables

Intervening variables link the independent and dependent variables and clarify their connection. In our example, an intervening variable could be “temperature.”

Extraneous Variables

Extraneous variables are any variables that are not being investigated but could impact the outcomes of the study. Some instances of extraneous variables for our example would be “the average price of ice cream” or “the number of varieties of ice cream available.” If you control an extraneous variable, it becomes a control variable.

4. Create Your Conceptual Framework

Having picked your research question, undertaken a literature review, and identified the relevant variables, it’s now time to construct your conceptual framework. Conceptual frameworks are clear and often visual representations of the relationships between variables.

We’ll start with the basics: the independent and dependent variables.

Our hypothesis is that the quantity of ice cream sold directly depends on the number of sunny days; hence, there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the independent variable (the number of sunny days) and the dependent and independent variable (the quantity of ice cream sold).

Next, introduce a control variable. Remember, this is anything that might directly affect the dependent variable but is not being measured in the experiment:

Finally, introduce the intervening and extraneous variables. 

The intervening variable (temperature) clarifies the relationship between the independent variable (the number of sunny days) and the dependent variable (the quantity of ice cream sold). Extraneous variables, such as the average price of ice cream, are variables that are not controlled and can potentially impact the dependent variable.

Are Conceptual Frameworks and Research Paradigms the Same?

In simple terms, the research paradigm is what informs your conceptual framework. In defining our research paradigm we ask the big questions—Is there an objective truth and how can we understand it? If we decide the answer is yes, we may be working with a positivist research paradigm and will choose to build a conceptual framework that displays the relationship between fixed variables. If not, we may be working with a constructivist research paradigm, and thus our conceptual framework will be more of a loose amalgamation of ideas, theories, and themes (a qualitative study). If this is confusing–don’t worry! We have an excellent blog post explaining research paradigms in more detail.

Where is the Conceptual Framework Located in a Thesis?

This will depend on your discipline, research type, and school’s guidelines, but most papers will include a section presenting the conceptual framework in the introduction, literature review, or opening chapter. It’s best to present your conceptual framework after presenting your research question, but before outlining your methodology.

Can a Conceptual Framework be Used in a Qualitative Study?

Yes. Despite being less clear-cut than a quantitative study, all studies should present some form of a conceptual framework. Let’s say you were doing a study on care home practices and happiness, and you came across a “happiness model” constructed by a relevant theorist in your literature review. Your conceptual framework could be an outline or a visual depiction of how you will use this model to collect and interpret qualitative data for your own study (such as interview responses). Check out this useful resource showing other examples of conceptual frameworks for qualitative studies .

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Building a Dissertation Conceptual and Theoretical Framework: A Recent Doctoral Graduate Narrates Behind the Curtain Development

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Dr. Jordan Tegtmeyer

This article examines the development of conceptual and theoretical frameworks through the lens of one doctoral student’s qualitative dissertation. Using Ravitch and Carl’s (2021) conceptual framework guide, each key component is explored, using my own dissertation as an example. Breaking down each framework section step-by-step, my journey illustrates the iterative process that conceptual framework development requires. While not every conceptual framework is developed in the same way, this iterative approach allows for the production of a robust and sound conceptual framework.


While progressing on my doctoral journey I struggled to learn, and then navigate, what it meant to do quality academic research. While I had worked in higher education for over 15 years when I entered into my doctoral program in Higher Education at Penn, and had earned multiple master’s degrees, I felt wholly unprepared to complete a dissertation. It felt, at first, beyond my reach. Now that I have completed the dissertation, my hope is to pay it forward by sharing reflections on the process as a guide to help other researchers navigate the development of a robust conceptual and theoretical framework for their own dissertations.

My journey into this doctoral inquiry began before I even realized it. I entered the program with a strong idea of what I wanted to study but no “academic” frameworks to help me chart the journey. Little did I know that that is in fact what conceptual frameworks do, they help guide you from early ideation to a finalized study. The turning point in my own learning, let’s call it an epiphany of sorts, happened in a qualitative research methods course that introduced Ravitch and Carl’s Qualitative Research: Bridging the Conceptual, Theoretical, and Methodological. I was introduced to the basic concepts needed to turn my own research ideas into actionable research questions. While this was not the only source to guide me on this journey, conversations with peers and professionals, other courses and independent studies also moved me along, it was reading this text that gave me the academic terminology and frameworks I needed to build a robust and rigorous dissertation research design.

To guide the development of strong conceptual and theoretical frameworks I use Ravitch and Carl’s (2021) components of a conceptual framework graphic (p. 38) below:

thesis with conceptual framework

Using this visual of the framework as a guide, I share how I developed and used theoretical frameworks in a case study dissertation and how the development of my conceptual framework played out in my study. 

Building a Dissertation Study

For context, I describe my dissertation study to bridge the theoretical with the reality of my dissertation. Seeing these ideas and terms applied in a real-world context should provide some guidance on how to address them in the construction of your own conceptual framework.

My dissertation study examined gender equity in college sports, specifically examining institutional characteristics and their potential impact on Title IX compliance. Using case study research, I examined two institutions and then contrasted them to see if there were particular characteristics about those institutions that made them more likely to comply with Title IX’s three-part test. Overall, the study found that there are some institutional characteristics that impact Title IX compliance.

The evolution of a research idea into a study design is useful for understanding the impact that developing a conceptual framework has on this work. Adding the academic structure required to go from idea to fully realized conceptual framework is integral to a sound study. Going into the doctoral program I had a couple of broad ideas I wanted to bring together in a formal study. I knew I wanted to study college sports for a number of reasons including that I am a huge sports fan working in higher education who wanted to better understand the college sports context. I also wanted to integrate issues of gender disparities into my work to better understand disparities around athletic participation between the sexes as outlined by Title IX legislation. For me, the goal was  to bring these broad topics and interests together. Turning these topics into a problem my study could address was critical. Once I made this shift to problem statement, it became about transitioning from problem to research questions from which I could use to drive the potential study.

Understanding this evolution, from a research idea into a study design, is important as it speaks to the understanding the two are not the same. A researcher has to work through an iterative process in order to take a research idea, and through developing their study’s conceptual framework, turn it into a study. Starting with research interests you are passionate about is important, but it is only the first step in a journey to a high-quality research study. For me this meant understanding what made my ideas important and how they could be studied. Why was gender equity in college sports important and what was causing the inequities in athletic participation between the genders? Say a bit more on this–how did you do this?

Developing Guiding Research Questions        

I began with the Ravitch and Carl (2021) conceptual framework diagram as a guide, starting with the research questions positioned at the top. It's important to note that the development of research questions is an active and iterative process that evolves and changes over time. Looking back at notes I took throughout my dissertation journey, I found at least a dozen different iterations of my own research questions. Looking back at the evolution of my own research question, allowed me to see just how iterative of a process this really is. Second, developing research questions is largely about whittling down your broad ideas and interests into something that is scoped in such a way as to be doable.

For me, I started with these broad areas of interest and whittled them down from there, focusing and iterating. Next, I sought to understand the goals of my study and who the intended audiences were (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). I knew I wanted to develop something that was useful for practitioners. Being a higher education practitioner myself, I wanted something people in the field could use and learn from. Knowing this was extremely important to developing the study’s research questions since it helped me to map them onto the goals and audiences I imagined for the study.

The research questions should address the problem you are trying to solve and why it's important (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). For me, the goal was to explore what was causing gender athletic participation inequities and how that fit into broader gender disparities in higher education and the country .

My final research questions show how far they had come from my topics of interest.

  • What is the relationship between gender and varsity participation opportunities in collegiate sports?
  • What is the relationship of institutional characteristics to gender equity in collegiate sports participation?

Additional questions related to institutional characteristics are:

  • What is the range and variation of institutional characteristics among schools that are in compliance with the three-part test of Title IX?
  • How do contextual factors mediate their compliance?

thesis with conceptual framework

At first these questions focused on understanding gender disparities in regards to athletic participation opportunities in college sports. I sought to understand the extent of the disparities and which institutions had them. From there I wanted to understand potential institutional characteristics that could serve as predictors of Title IX compliance. For this, I wanted to explore the impact general institutional characteristics like, undergraduate gender breakdown, might have on creating potential difficulties with navigating Title IX compliance. It was important to investigate the similarities and differences between the two cases in my study. This would help inform whether there were unique things about each institution that were having an effect on Title IX compliance at that institution. This was about understanding what is happening at each of the cases and the reason I chose the methodological approach I did.

Developing Study Goals

A study’s goals are the central part of the conceptual framework as they help turn an interest or concern into a research study. Goal mapping for a study is this process that maps out, or theoretically frames the key goals of the study (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). The study’s goals come from many different sources including personal and professional goals, prior research, existing theory, and a researcher’s own thoughts, interests, and values (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). In my dissertation study, it was a combination of all of those things, although I didn’t realize it at first. The truth is, I didn’t realize I was building conceptual and theoretical frameworks at the time, but in fact I was incrementally building up to them. I talked with experts, advisors, my professors, mentors, academic peers and practitioners to slowly build my own contextual understanding of the research questions, theory, and methodology along the way.

The study goals for my dissertation emerged from multiple vantage points. I thought it was senseless that after 50 years of Title IX, schools were still ignoring the law (willfully or not). Some of the best athletes I’ve known have been women, including my sister. This gave me an appreciation for women’s sports at an early age. From a practitioner-scholar’s standpoint, I didn’t see anything that was usable in “real life.” At least nothing that didn’t require a law degree or extensive knowledge of the law, something most people do not have. I had also come across Charles Kennedy’s 2007 Gender Equity Scorecard in a prior class that gave me the idea for the compliance model. This study was designed to measure schools’ compliance with various aspects of Title IX, but only examined the proportionality requirement of the three-part test (Kennedy, 2007). This was a good start because it provided a template from which to assess compliance when examining gender equity in college sports but helped me to see the need for an easy-to-understand model that covered all aspects of the three-part test that practitioners could use on their own campuses. As a way to better understand Title IX compliance among institutions I then built the compliance model that addressed the entire three-part test with a lawyer friend and used it to do an almost test run of the sampling.

Lastly, as I refined my topic, there seemed to be something missing from the literature. This missing piece gave me the idea for merging the theoretical and the practical dimensions of Title IX compliance within the context of college athletics. A compliance model, using a legal and statutory approach but also grounded in theory, that could be used by practitioners in real life. This model could then help researchers understand why Title IX non-compliance was still an issue today. For me and my study, applying this model to publicly available data, helped to understand why women athletes are not getting their fair share of athletic participation opportunities guaranteed by a law passed over 50 years ago. This process of having to seek out data, taught me the continued need for a proactive approach to measuring compliance with all the participation aspects of Title IX.

Understanding Contexts of the Work

Understanding the contexts of your intended study is critical as it helps set the stage for your study’s position in the real world. Knowing the actual setting of your study and its context are important as it speaks to the micro contexts. The who and what aspects of that setting are central to your research. It is this context within the context that helps us understand the aspects that influence what we study and how we frame the study (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). At the micro level, my study sought to focus on the institutional structures and workings of two universities. I chose case study research because it allowed me to focus on those two institutions, and that was very intentional, as I wanted to understand their specific institutional structures and their potential impacts on Title IX compliance.

Understanding the macro level contexts impacting my study was also important. It is the combination of social, historical, national, international, and global level contexts that create the conditions in which your study is conducted. As Ravitch and Carl (2021) state it is these broad contexts “that shape society and social interactions, influence the research topic, and affect the structure and conditions of the settings and the lives of the people at the center of your research and you” (p. 52). This has two important implications for conceptual framework development. First, it is important to investigate and thoroughly understand the setting of the study that reflects the conditions as lived by the stakeholders (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). As you design your study it is important to consider what’s happening in that moment and how your study is situated in a specific moment in time which impacts both the context and setting of your study but also how you come to view and approach it (Ravitch & Carl, 2021).

For my dissertation, understanding college sports and higher education in the broadest sense was important when thinking about the macro contexts influencing my study. Things like: how does the NCAA and conferences play a role in this area? How does higher education handle gender equity in college sports as it relates to the missions of the institutions? And even more broadly, how does this study fit into broader societal structures regarding equality? Given everything that was going on in college sports at the time (issues at the NCAA’s women’s basketball tournament, volleyball, softball), the contexts illustrated the broader need for understanding this issue in that moment of time. This illuminates the importance of taking the time to understand the different contexts impacting your study and why they are important.

Researcher Reflexivity

When thinking about social identity and positionality, it is vital to understand that the researcher is viewed as a vital part of the study itself, the primary instrument and filter of interpretation (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). Positionality refers to the researcher’s role and social identity in relationship to the context and setting of the research. I think of this as what we as researchers bring to the table—who we are and what we know and how that impacts what we do and how we do it. Understanding how these aspects of oneself all interact and make me who I am, while also understanding my potential impact on my research is critical to a strong conceptual framework.

For my study, I worried about my positionality in particular: my gender and my fandom. I was worried my various identities would influence my approach negatively in ways I would be unaware of. I, someone who identifies as male, wanted to be taken seriously while addressing a gender equity issue from a privileged gender position. I also didn’t want to overlook or discount anything because of who I am and how I viewed the world of college sports. This illuminates the importance of understanding one’s identities and their potential impact on the study. There were numerous ways I addressed this through the study including engaging my critical inquiry group, drafting memos, and using a researcher interview to elicit self-reflection.

Theoretical Framework Development

When working through the development of a theoretical framework within a conceptual framework, one must account for the integration of formal theory and the use of the literature review. Formal theory is those established theories that come together to create the frame for your research questions. The researcher must seek out formal theories to help understand what they are studying and why they are studying it (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). Ravitch & Carl said this best, “the theoretical framework is how you weave together or integrate existing bodies of literature…to frame the topic, goals, design, and findings of your specific study” (p. 58).

It is important to point out that the process of creating a theoretical framework is separate from a literature review. The theoretical framework does impact the literature review and the literature review impacts it, but they are separate. You may discover theories that strengthen your theoretical framework as you review literature, and you may seek out theories to validate a hypothesis you have related to your study. This is important because your formal theories do not encompass all the theories related to your topic, but the specific theories that bind your study together and give it structure.

For my study, formal theories ended up being an equity-equality framework developed by Espinoza (2007) and a structuralism-subordination framework derived from Chamallas (1994). The equity-equality framework was used to address what I had seen as confusion between the two terms, using them interchangeably, when reviewing literature examining Title IX. I wanted to understand if the confusion about the terms, equity and equality, led to a misunderstanding about the true intent of Title IX and intercollegiate athletics. For the structuralism-subordination framework, I wanted to understand if there were institutional structures that institutions had built that led to the subordination of women. I also wanted to understand if those structures manifest themselves in ways that hinder institutions’ Title IX compliance, leaving women without the participation opportunities required by law.

Both of these formal theories had an impact on and were impacted by my literature review. The structuralism-subordination framework was discovered after my initial review of Title IX literature, while the equity-equality framework was needed to reflect inconsistencies in the use of those terms in texts reviewed for the literature review. These formal theories also helped me refine my research questions and the purpose of my study. The formal theories impact on the different aspects of my conceptual framework then required me to refine and redefine by literature in order to incorporate their impact. This understanding of formal theory as the framework to construct a study is central to constructing a robust theoretical framework.

What helped me arrive at these theories in the great morass of theories was Title IX’s application to college sports, feminist scholar’s work related to college sports, and the use and misuse of the equity and equality in the literature.

Naming Tacit Theories

It is not just your role as the researcher that impacts your study, it is also all the informal ways in which we understand the world. We all have working hypotheses, assumptions, or conceptualizations about why things occur and how they operate (Ravitch & Carl, 2021). This is a result of how we were raised and socialized which has a direct impact on the ways that we see our work and the contexts in which it takes place. For me as the researcher for this study, three tacit theories emerged upon examination through memos and dialogic engagement with peers and advisors, described in the next section. One, was related to what I call, college sports fandom or the ESPN culture. For me, I grew up on ESPN as did many of my friends. We got most of our sports news through these mediums and it greatly impacted how we viewed and thought of college sports. The problem with this is that ESPN has helped propagate many false narratives and misconceptions about college sports. A few examples include: big time college sports and programs make money (most do not), men’s sports are more popular than women’s (men get the majority of airtime), and college sports make a lot of money (where it gets its “money” is not where you think). There was also the continual sexualization and diminishment of women athletes.

Family dynamics also played a major role in my sports fandom and its importance. Sports were big in my family as most members played but we also watched a lot together. It was a bonding mechanism for us. For our family, my sister was our best athlete. This meant attending a lot of her games which led to an appreciation of women’s sports at an early age. Lastly, I had a general lack of knowledge around gender equity in college sports, mostly related to my fandom described above. I didn’t develop a true understanding until graduate school when I went out of my way to do deep dives into the topic whenever I could. This process of self-discovery and reflection with my own tacit theories teaches the importance of examining oneself, our socialization and its impact on your research. The dissertation reflection process was cathartic, it brought together these various strands of my identity, history, and interests and helped me to identify and then reckon with my unconscious biases, assumptions, and drivers.

Structured Reflexivity and Dialogic Engagement

I relied on structured reflexivity and dialogic engagement as my main reflexivity strategy, reflecting on my research through purposeful engagement with others a lot throughout my study. I went back and forth many times between different aspects of my conceptual framework as “new” information was discovered. Sometimes this reflexivity was planned, for example, after completing one part of my conceptual framework I would review other aspects to consider the impact. This would help me to ensure the potential impact of this new information was assessed against all parts of the conceptual framework. Other times it was completely spontaneous such as an illuminating reading or discovery would spark me to think about a piece of conceptual framework differently and adjust. In one particular moment, I came across some conflicting information during one of the cases that required me to rethink aspects of my entire conceptual framework. This conflicting information indicated another approach to measuring Title IX compliance which was at conflict with mine. I met with various members of my critical inquiry group to decide on a path forward and then wrote a memo outlining what happened and the decision made. This incident caused me to not only conduct dialogic engagement but also structured reflexivity as I reviewed all aspects of my conceptual framework to ensure everything still made sense as it was structured given the new information.

The key structured reflexivity mechanisms I used in my study were memos, a critical inquiry group, a researcher interview and case reports. Each of these proved to be an invaluable resource when navigating the construction of my conceptual framework. I used different kinds of memos to highlight key decisions which were useful later when writing my dissertation.

My critical inquiry group, composed of college sports experts, peers, women’s rights advocates, Title IX consultants and lawyers, had multiple functions throughout my study. They challenged me on assumptions and decision making, helped me work through challenges and served as sounding boards to bounce ideas off of. My researcher interview, which is when the researcher is interviewed to pull out tacit knowledge and assumptions, was particularly useful as it allowed for a non-biased critique to focus on process, procedure, and theory (both the theoretical and conceptual). My interviewer also called out my tacit theories and biases which were helpful in structuring that section of my conceptual framework. Lastly, I used case reports as a way to summarize my cases individually in their own distinct process guaranteeing each received a deep dive. This also allowed me to make refinements after the first case and also helped lay the groundwork for a cross-case analysis. The entire process taught me that having these structured mechanisms adds validation points and reflection opportunities from which I could refine my work.

Methodological Approach and Research Methods

For any researcher the methodological approach is guided by the study’s research questions. This section is also partly shaped and derived from the conceptual framework. For some, they will arrive at the methodological approach that best fits their study along the way, picking it up from other pieces of their conceptual framework. For others, the approach is clear from the beginning and drives some of their conceptual framework decision making. For me, I arrived at my methodological approach as it became clear as my conceptual framework developed. As I worked through the interactions of my research questions, informed by my developing conceptual framework, it became clear that case study research was the right methodological approach for my study.

The methodological approach I chose for my dissertation was case study research, which made sense given that the primary goal was to gain a clear understanding of the “how” and “why” of each case, which is especially important when examining the two cases in this study (Yin, 2018). Understanding the complexities and contextual circumstances of Title IX cases is especially crucial given its real-world impact on universities (Yin, 2018). The in-depth focus of case study research allowed for a much richer understanding of the potential impacts of institutional and athletics department characteristics impacting Title IX compliance today (Yin, 2018).

I used a multi-case approach because I wanted to compare and contrast one school that was “good” at Title IX compliance and one that was not. Each case was completed separately for a deep dive and better understanding using thematic analysis for the data analysis. After each case report was completed, themes were reviewed. After both cases were completed a cross-case analysis was done to compare and contrast the cases using the themes derived from each case. For the data collection process, I used the following: archival records and documents including meeting minutes and institutional reports, memos for data collection and data analysis, dialogic engagement, and a researcher interview. My learning throughout the dissertation process illuminates the importance and generative value of using a methodological approach that aligns with the goals of the study and is guided by the research questions.

Key Takeaways

If you remember anything from this, please remember these three things:

  • Developing a conceptual framework is an iterative process. It will feel like you are constantly making changes. That’s ok. That’s what good research is, constantly evolving and getting better. My research questions looked nothing like what they started as. They evolved and were informed by newer and better research over time. That is what this process is meant to do, make your research better as you move along.
  • When you get a new piece of information, use it to inform the next part of your process and refine the last. You should use each new finding or insight to refine your work and inform the next piece.
  • Engage your classmates and professors for guidance. You have access to incredible resources in these two populations, use them to help you along the way. And of course, be a resource to them as well. I can’t remember how many times I sought out a classmate who shared something insightful in class to find out more information. You are surrounded by smart, motivated people, who want you to succeed, actively use that support system.

Parting Wisdom

My last bits of wisdom as you are embarking on this journey are meant to serve as things that I wish I had known at the beginning that I wanted to be sure others knew too.

  • First and foremost, love your topic. I cannot stress this enough. You are going to be spending a lot of time and investing a lot of energy in it, you should love it. That’s not to say you won’t be frustrated, tired and “over it” at times, but at the end of the day you should love it.
  • Second, use your classmates as a resource and be a resource to them. Although they aren’t likely to know your topic as in-depth as you do, they can offer valuable insights, largely because they are not you. You can “stress test” your ideas, research questions, frameworks or just have a fresh set of eyes on your work. You should be the same for them as it only makes your own work stronger as well. Reciprocity is key.
  • Third, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The old adage is true, there are no dumb questions. Ask all of your questions, in whatever manner you are comfortable doing so, just be sure to ask them. You’ll find that once you give them air, they do get answered and the path gets that much more clear.
  • Fourth, don’t be afraid to admit possible mistakes or confusions and ask for help mid-concern. No one is perfect and mistakes happen. Acknowledging those mistakes sooner rather than later can only make your work stronger. I had a setback towards the end of my dissertation that at first froze me and I didn’t know what to do. It was only after I acknowledged the mistake and talked with my advisor and critical inquiry group that I could come up with a path forward. My work was better and stronger because of the help I received, even though in the moment I felt vulnerable fessing up.
  • Fifth, memos are your best friends. I cannot stress this enough. I wish I could go back and tell myself this at the very beginning of my journey to chart more at that stage. Documenting decision making, mistakes, rationales, conversations and anything else of even possible importance to your methods is invaluable when you get to the writing stage. Being able to refer to those documents and reflect on them makes your methods more specific and your dissertation stronger.
  • Sixth, know when to stop. This is especially true during your literature review. There is so much material out there, you will never read it all. Take that in. Knowing when you should stop and move on is extremely important. For me, I read about 2 months too long and it set me behind. I still had huge stacks of reading that I could have done but pulling more and more sources from more and more readings was a never-ending path. Get what you need, cover your ground, trust yourself to call it when it's covered. Ask people if you can stop if you aren’t sure.

Finally, and this may feel challenging, let yourself enjoy the ride! Parts will be smooth, others bumpy. By the end you will be tired, burnt out and just want to be done. But stop along the way and enjoy the moments of learning and connection. Those middle of the night texting sessions with your classmates about some obstacle or interesting article you found do matter. Those coffees with professors discussing your topic (and your passion for it) stay with you. Those classes with other really smart and engaged classmates continue to teach you. I can tell you that, looking back almost a year after defending, I miss it all. You will never have this moment in your life again, try to enjoy it.

thesis with conceptual framework

Chamallas, M. (1994). Structuralist and cultural domination theories meet Title VII: Some contemporary influences. Michigan Law Review , 92(8), 2370–2409.

Espinoza, O. (2007). Solving the equity-equality conceptual dilemma: A new model for analysis of the educational process. Educational Research , 49(4), 343–363.

Kennedy, C. L. (2007). The Gender Equity Scorecard V. York, PA. Retrieved from .

Ravitch S. M. & Carl, M. N. (2021). Qualitative Research: Bridging the Conceptual, Theoretical, and Methodological. (2nd Ed.). Sage Publications.

Yin, R. K. (2018). Case study research and applications: Design and methods (6th ed.). Sage.

Articles in this Volume

[tid]: building a dissertation conceptual and theoretical framework: a recent doctoral graduate narrates behind the curtain development, [tid]: family income status in early childhood and implications for remote learning, [tid]: the theater of equity, [tid]: including students with emotional and behavioral disorders: case management work protocol, [tid]: loving the questions: encouraging critical practitioner inquiry into reading instruction, [tid]: supporting the future: mentoring pre-service teachers in urban middle schools, [tid]: embracing diversity: immersing culturally responsive pedagogy in our school systems, [tid]: college promise programs: additive to student loan debt cancellation, [tid]: book review: critical race theory in education: a scholar's journey. gloria ladson-billings. teachers college press, 2021, 233 pp., [tid]: inclusion census: how do inclusion rates in american public schools measure up, [tid]: in pursuit of revolutionary rest: liberatory retooling for black women principals, [tid]: “this community is home for me”: retaining highly qualified teachers in marginalized school communities, [tid]: a conceptual proposition to if and how immigrants' volunteering influences their integration into host societies.

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  • Chapter 1: Home
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Defining The Conceptual Framework

Making a conceptual framework, conceptual framework for dmft students, conceptual framework guide, example frameworks, additional framework resources.

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What is it?

  • The researcher’s understanding/hypothesis/exploration of either an existing framework/model or how existing concepts come together to inform a particular problem. Shows the reader how different elements come together to facilitate research and a clear understanding of results.
  • Informs the research questions/methodology (problem statement drives framework drives RQs drives methodology)
  • A tool (linked concepts) to help facilitate the understanding of the relationship among concepts or variables in relation to the real-world. Each concept is linked to frame the project in question.
  • Falls inside of a larger theoretical framework (theoretical framework = explains the why and how of a particular phenomenon within a particular body of literature).
  • Can be a graphic or a narrative – but should always be explained and cited
  • Can be made up of theories and concepts

What does it do?

  • Explains or predicts the way key concepts/variables will come together to inform the problem/phenomenon
  • Gives the study direction/parameters
  • Helps the researcher organize ideas and clarify concepts
  • Introduces your research and how it will advance your field of practice. A conceptual framework should include concepts applicable to the field of study. These can be in the field or neighboring fields – as long as important details are captured and the framework is relevant to the problem. (alignment)

What should be in it?

  • Variables, concepts, theories, and/or parts of other existing frameworks

How to make a conceptual framework

  • With a topic in mind, go to the body of literature and start identifying the key concepts used by other studies. Figure out what’s been done by other researchers, and what needs to be done (either find a specific call to action outlined in the literature or make sure your proposed problem has yet to be studied in your specific setting). Use what you find needs to be done to either support a pre-identified problem or craft a general problem for study. Only rely on scholarly sources for this part of your research.
  • Begin to pull out variables, concepts, theories, and existing frameworks explained in the relevant literature.
  • If you’re building a framework, start thinking about how some of those variables, concepts, theories, and facets of existing frameworks come together to shape your problem. The problem could be a situational condition that requires a scholar-practitioner approach, the result of a practical need, or an opportunity to further an applicational study, project, or research. Remember, if the answer to your specific problem exists, you don’t need to conduct the study.
  • The actionable research you’d like to conduct will help shape what you include in your framework. Sketch the flow of your Applied Doctoral Project from start to finish and decide which variables are truly the best fit for your research.
  • Create a graphic representation of your framework (this part is optional, but often helps readers understand the flow of your research) Even if you do a graphic, first write out how the variables could influence your Applied Doctoral Project and introduce your methodology. Remember to use APA formatting in separating the sections of your framework to create a clear understanding of the framework for your reader.
  • As you move through your study, you may need to revise your framework.
  • Note for qualitative/quantitative research: If doing qualitative, make sure your framework doesn’t include arrow lines, which could imply causal or correlational linkages.
  • Conceptural and Theoretical Framework for DMFT Students This document is specific to DMFT students working on a conceptual or theoretical framework for their applied project.
  • Conceptual Framework Guide Use this guide to determine the guiding framework for your applied dissertation research.

Let’s say I’ve just taken a job as manager of a failing restaurant. Throughout first week, I notice the few customers they have are leaving unsatisfied. I need to figure out why and turn the establishment into a thriving restaurant. I get permission from the owner to do a study to figure out exactly what we need to do to raise levels of customer satisfaction. Since I have a specific problem and want to make sure my research produces valid results, I go to the literature to find out what others are finding about customer satisfaction in the food service industry. This particular restaurant is vegan focused – and my search of the literature doesn’t say anything specific about how to increase customer service in a vegan atmosphere, so I know this research needs to be done.

I find out there are different types of satisfaction across other genres of the food service industry, and the one I’m interested in is cumulative customer satisfaction. I then decide based on what I’m seeing in the literature that my definition of customer satisfaction is the way perception, evaluation, and psychological reaction to perception and evaluation of both tangible and intangible elements of the dining experience come together to inform customer expectations. Essentially, customer expectations inform customer satisfaction.

I then find across the literature many variables could be significant in determining customer satisfaction. Because the following keep appearing, they are the ones I choose to include in my framework: price, service, branding (branched out to include physical environment and promotion), and taste. I also learn by reading the literature, satisfaction can vary between genders – so I want to make sure to also collect demographic information in my survey. Gender, age, profession, and number of children are a few demographic variables I understand would be helpful to include based on my extensive literature review.

Note: this is a quantitative study. I’m including all variables in this study, and the variables I am testing are my independent variables. Here I’m working to see how each of the independent variables influences (or not) my dependent variable, customer satisfaction. If you are interested in qualitative study, read on for an example of how to make the same framework qualitative in nature.

Also note: when you create your framework, you’ll need to cite each facet of your framework. Tell the reader where you got everything you’re including. Not only is it in compliance with APA formatting, but also it raises your credibility as a researcher. Once you’ve built the narrative around your framework, you may also want to create a visual for your reader.

See below for one example of how to illustrate your framework:

thesis with conceptual framework

If you’re interested in a qualitative study, be sure to omit arrows and other notations inferring statistical analysis. The only time it would be inappropriate to include a framework in qualitative study is in a grounded theory study, which is not something you’ll do in an applied doctoral study.

A visual example of a qualitative framework is below:


Some additional helpful resources in constructing a conceptual framework for study:

  • Problem Statement, Conceptual Framework, and Research Question. McGaghie, W. C.; Bordage, G.; and J. A. Shea (2001). Problem Statement, Conceptual Framework, and Research Question. Retrieved on January 5, 2015 from
  • Building a Conceptual Framework: Philosophy, Definitions, and Procedure

Conceptual Framework Research

A conceptual framework is a synthetization of interrelated components and variables which help in solving a real-world problem. It is the final lens used for viewing the deductive resolution of an identified issue (Imenda, 2014). The development of a conceptual framework begins with a deductive assumption that a problem exists, and the application of processes, procedures, functional approach, models, or theory may be used for problem resolution (Zackoff et al., 2019). The application of theory in traditional theoretical research is to understand, explain, and predict phenomena (Swanson, 2013). In applied research the application of theory in problem solving focuses on how theory in conjunction with practice (applied action) and procedures (functional approach) frames vision, thinking, and action towards problem resolution. The inclusion of theory in a conceptual framework is not focused on validation or devaluation of applied theories. A concise way of viewing the conceptual framework is a list of understood fact-based conditions that presents the researcher’s prescribed thinking for solving the identified problem. These conditions provide a methodological rationale of interrelated ideas and approaches for beginning, executing, and defining the outcome of problem resolution efforts (Leshem & Trafford, 2007).

The term conceptual framework and theoretical framework are often and erroneously used interchangeably (Grant & Osanloo, 2014). Just as with traditional research, a theory does not or cannot be expected to explain all phenomenal conditions, a conceptual framework is not a random identification of disparate ideas meant to incase a problem. Instead it is a means of identifying and constructing for the researcher and reader alike an epistemological mindset and a functional worldview approach to the identified problem.

Grant, C., & Osanloo, A. (2014). Understanding, Selecting, and Integrating a Theoretical Framework in Dissertation Research: Creating the Blueprint for Your “House. ” Administrative Issues Journal: Connecting Education, Practice, and Research, 4(2), 12–26

Imenda, S. (2014). Is There a Conceptual Difference between Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks? Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi/Journal of Social Sciences, 38(2), 185.

Leshem, S., & Trafford, V. (2007). Overlooking the conceptual framework. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 44(1), 93–105.

Swanson, R. (2013). Theory building in applied disciplines . San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Zackoff, M. W., Real, F. J., Klein, M. D., Abramson, E. L., Li, S.-T. T., & Gusic, M. E. (2019). Enhancing Educational Scholarship Through Conceptual Frameworks: A Challenge and Roadmap for Medical Educators . Academic Pediatrics, 19(2), 135–141.

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Theoretical Framework Example for a Thesis or Dissertation

Published on October 14, 2015 by Sarah Vinz . Revised on July 18, 2023 by Tegan George.

Your theoretical framework defines the key concepts in your research, suggests relationships between them, and discusses relevant theories based on your literature review .

A strong theoretical framework gives your research direction. It allows you to convincingly interpret, explain, and generalize from your findings and show the relevance of your thesis or dissertation topic in your field.

Table of contents

Sample problem statement and research questions, sample theoretical framework, your theoretical framework, other interesting articles.

Your theoretical framework is based on:

  • Your problem statement
  • Your research questions
  • Your literature review

A new boutique downtown is struggling with the fact that many of their online customers do not return to make subsequent purchases. This is a big issue for the otherwise fast-growing store.Management wants to increase customer loyalty. They believe that improved customer satisfaction will play a major role in achieving their goal of increased return customers.

To investigate this problem, you have zeroed in on the following problem statement, objective, and research questions:

  • Problem : Many online customers do not return to make subsequent purchases.
  • Objective : To increase the quantity of return customers.
  • Research question : How can the satisfaction of the boutique’s online customers be improved in order to increase the quantity of return customers?

The concepts of “customer loyalty” and “customer satisfaction” are clearly central to this study, along with their relationship to the likelihood that a customer will return. Your theoretical framework should define these concepts and discuss theories about the relationship between these variables.

Some sub-questions could include:

  • What is the relationship between customer loyalty and customer satisfaction?
  • How satisfied and loyal are the boutique’s online customers currently?
  • What factors affect the satisfaction and loyalty of the boutique’s online customers?

As the concepts of “loyalty” and “customer satisfaction” play a major role in the investigation and will later be measured, they are essential concepts to define within your theoretical framework .

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Below is a simplified example showing how you can describe and compare theories in your thesis or dissertation . In this example, we focus on the concept of customer satisfaction introduced above.

Customer satisfaction

Thomassen (2003, p. 69) defines customer satisfaction as “the perception of the customer as a result of consciously or unconsciously comparing their experiences with their expectations.” Kotler & Keller (2008, p. 80) build on this definition, stating that customer satisfaction is determined by “the degree to which someone is happy or disappointed with the observed performance of a product in relation to his or her expectations.”

Performance that is below expectations leads to a dissatisfied customer, while performance that satisfies expectations produces satisfied customers (Kotler & Keller, 2003, p. 80).

The definition of Zeithaml and Bitner (2003, p. 86) is slightly different from that of Thomassen. They posit that “satisfaction is the consumer fulfillment response. It is a judgement that a product or service feature, or the product of service itself, provides a pleasurable level of consumption-related fulfillment.” Zeithaml and Bitner’s emphasis is thus on obtaining a certain satisfaction in relation to purchasing.

Thomassen’s definition is the most relevant to the aims of this study, given the emphasis it places on unconscious perception. Although Zeithaml and Bitner, like Thomassen, say that customer satisfaction is a reaction to the experience gained, there is no distinction between conscious and unconscious comparisons in their definition.

The boutique claims in its mission statement that it wants to sell not only a product, but also a feeling. As a result, unconscious comparison will play an important role in the satisfaction of its customers. Thomassen’s definition is therefore more relevant.

Thomassen’s Customer Satisfaction Model

According to Thomassen, both the so-called “value proposition” and other influences have an impact on final customer satisfaction. In his satisfaction model (Fig. 1), Thomassen shows that word-of-mouth, personal needs, past experiences, and marketing and public relations determine customers’ needs and expectations.

These factors are compared to their experiences, with the interplay between expectations and experiences determining a customer’s satisfaction level. Thomassen’s model is important for this study as it allows us to determine both the extent to which the boutique’s customers are satisfied, as well as where improvements can be made.

Figure 1 Customer satisfaction creation 

Framework Thomassen

Of course, you could analyze the concepts more thoroughly and compare additional definitions to each other. You could also discuss the theories and ideas of key authors in greater detail and provide several models to illustrate different concepts.

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What Is a Conceptual Framework? | Tips & Examples

Published on 4 May 2022 by Bas Swaen and Tegan George. Revised on 5 August 2022.


A conceptual framework illustrates the expected relationship between your variables. It defines the relevant objectives for your research process and maps out how they come together to draw coherent conclusions.

Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to help you construct your own conceptual framework.

Table of contents

Developing a conceptual framework in research, step 1: choose your research question, step 2: select your independent and dependent variables, step 3: visualise your cause-and-effect relationship, step 4: identify other influencing variables, frequently asked questions about conceptual models.

A conceptual framework is a representation of the relationship you expect to see between your variables, or the characteristics or properties that you want to study.

Conceptual frameworks can be written or visual and are generally developed based on a literature review of existing studies about your topic.

Your research question guides your work by determining exactly what you want to find out, giving your research process a clear focus.

However, before you start collecting your data, consider constructing a conceptual framework. This will help you map out which variables you will measure and how you expect them to relate to one another.

In order to move forward with your research question and test a cause-and-effect relationship, you must first identify at least two key variables: your independent and dependent variables .

  • The expected cause, ‘hours of study’, is the independent variable (the predictor, or explanatory variable)
  • The expected effect, ‘exam score’, is the dependent variable (the response, or outcome variable).

Note that causal relationships often involve several independent variables that affect the dependent variable. For the purpose of this example, we’ll work with just one independent variable (‘hours of study’).

Now that you’ve figured out your research question and variables, the first step in designing your conceptual framework is visualising your expected cause-and-effect relationship.


It’s crucial to identify other variables that can influence the relationship between your independent and dependent variables early in your research process.

Some common variables to include are moderating, mediating, and control variables.

Moderating variables

Moderating variable (or moderators) alter the effect that an independent variable has on a dependent variable. In other words, moderators change the ‘effect’ component of the cause-and-effect relationship.

Let’s add the moderator ‘IQ’. Here, a student’s IQ level can change the effect that the variable ‘hours of study’ has on the exam score. The higher the IQ, the fewer hours of study are needed to do well on the exam.


Let’s take a look at how this might work. The graph below shows how the number of hours spent studying affects exam score. As expected, the more hours you study, the better your results. Here, a student who studies for 20 hours will get a perfect score.


But the graph looks different when we add our ‘IQ’ moderator of 120. A student with this IQ will achieve a perfect score after just 15 hours of study.


Below, the value of the ‘IQ’ moderator has been increased to 150. A student with this IQ will only need to invest five hours of study in order to get a perfect score.


Here, we see that a moderating variable does indeed change the cause-and-effect relationship between two variables.

Mediating variables

Now we’ll expand the framework by adding a mediating variable . Mediating variables link the independent and dependent variables, allowing the relationship between them to be better explained.

Here’s how the conceptual framework might look if a mediator variable were involved:


In this case, the mediator helps explain why studying more hours leads to a higher exam score. The more hours a student studies, the more practice problems they will complete; the more practice problems completed, the higher the student’s exam score will be.

Moderator vs mediator

It’s important not to confuse moderating and mediating variables. To remember the difference, you can think of them in relation to the independent variable:

  • A moderating variable is not affected by the independent variable, even though it affects the dependent variable. For example, no matter how many hours you study (the independent variable), your IQ will not get higher.
  • A mediating variable is affected by the independent variable. In turn, it also affects the dependent variable. Therefore, it links the two variables and helps explain the relationship between them.

Control variables

Lastly,  control variables must also be taken into account. These are variables that are held constant so that they don’t interfere with the results. Even though you aren’t interested in measuring them for your study, it’s crucial to be aware of as many of them as you can be.


A mediator variable explains the process through which two variables are related, while a moderator variable affects the strength and direction of that relationship.

No. The value of a dependent variable depends on an independent variable, so a variable cannot be both independent and dependent at the same time. It must be either the cause or the effect, not both.

Yes, but including more than one of either type requires multiple research questions .

For example, if you are interested in the effect of a diet on health, you can use multiple measures of health: blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, pulse, and many more. Each of these is its own dependent variable with its own research question.

You could also choose to look at the effect of exercise levels as well as diet, or even the additional effect of the two combined. Each of these is a separate independent variable .

To ensure the internal validity of an experiment , you should only change one independent variable at a time.

A control variable is any variable that’s held constant in a research study. It’s not a variable of interest in the study, but it’s controlled because it could influence the outcomes.

A confounding variable , also called a confounder or confounding factor, is a third variable in a study examining a potential cause-and-effect relationship.

A confounding variable is related to both the supposed cause and the supposed effect of the study. It can be difficult to separate the true effect of the independent variable from the effect of the confounding variable.

In your research design , it’s important to identify potential confounding variables and plan how you will reduce their impact.

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Chapter: part i introduction and conceptual framework--1 introduction, part i introduction and conceptual framework.

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1 Introduction

In many parts of the developing world, simultaneous changes in technology, economics, culture, politics, demographics, the environment, and education have become so pervasive and globally inclusive as to create new and emergent conditions for the coming of age of recent cohorts. These changes are reaching across national boundaries and into the smallest rural communities, carrying with them both the transformative force of markets, technology, and democracy, but also the risk of marginalization. Adolescents and young adults whose lives are affected by these changes can be beneficiaries when they are prepared for them but can also bear their scars if they are not. Those who do not feel the immediate impact of these changes will nonetheless be affected indirectly as the overall pace and pervasiveness of change continue to accelerate.

While young people—a term used in this report to capture this phase of the life cycle roughly equivalent to the age range 10 to 24—have little opportunity to affect the speed and direction of change, some will soon be taking responsibility for its management as adults. Their success in making a well-timed and proficient transition from childhood to adulthood will fundamentally affect the extent to which they will be able to become active participants in and beneficiaries of global change in the future.

Concerns about how global forces are altering the passage into adulthood are all the more urgent because of the changing demographic profile of many developing countries. The acceleration of these global changes has coincided with unprecedented growth in the size of the population of young people in developing countries. In 2005, the total number of 10-24-year-olds is estimated to reach 1.5 billion, constituting nearly 30 percent of the

population of these regions. The population of young people of the world is quite unevenly distributed: 86 percent of all young people live in developing countries, and 71 percent of young people in developing countries currently live in Asia (United Nations, 2003b). Furthermore, rates of growth vary widely. In terms of absolute size, each subsequent cohort of young people in the developing world is projected to continue to increase until 2035, as the rapid growth in Africa and parts of Asia counteracts some slow declines in absolute numbers in other parts of Asia and in Latin America.

Across the developing world, the life experience of many young people today is profoundly different from the experience of their parents or even of young people growing up a decade ago. While change in and of itself is not new, the rapidity and scale of recent change has profound implications for both the opportunities and the risks faced by the current generation of young people and for relationships between the generations.

Improvements in health and survival have ensured for a great many more infants and children the opportunity to enjoy life into adolescence and beyond. These improvements, moreover, have meant that these children have developed better cognitively as well as in terms of physical health. Furthermore, the fertility transition, which is in process in most of the developing world, means that many young people are growing up with fewer siblings and in smaller households. Rapid urbanization also means that a higher percentage of young people are growing up in cities or moving to cities during their formative years. School enrollment and attainment are increasing around the world at the same time that ages of labor force entry are rising. With rising levels of education, young people have more possibilities to participate in a rapidly modernizing economy—in their local village, a nearby town, the capital city, or even another country—and experience and enjoy freer and more fulfilling lives. However, that promise cannot be realized without certain legal rights and protections and supportive institutions, including good schools, a sufficient number of remunerative and satisfying jobs, the opportunity for community participation and political voice, the absence of discrimination, good nutrition and health, access to health services, and, for women, a choice about freedom from premature marriage and childbearing.

Barriers to mobility have lessened due to reduced costs of transportation and increasingly available means of transportation at the same time that greater access to information conveys news of a wider range of geographic opportunities for schooling, jobs, and marriage partners. The development of a global youth culture is facilitated by the growing accessibility of international media and the Internet but at the same time fully effective connectivity requires adequate income to afford access, language competency, and computer literacy—skills that are hard for many young people to acquire without more and better schooling opportunities. Later ages of

marriage and childbearing increase opportunities for further schooling, but they also increase the time during which adolescents are exposed to premarital pregnancy and childbearing.

Young people in less developed regions are confronting opportunities and challenges unique to this historical time. Young people today, especially in urban areas, are the first generation to grow up with widespread access to a radio and increasingly also to television and with the growing potential for Internet connectivity at an early age. They are also the first generation to grow up in a world in which there has always been AIDS and, at least in some parts of the developing world, the first generation with nearly universal knowledge of and access to some form of contraception. This is the first generation to be covered during their childhood by the broad protections internationally recognized in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted in 1991) and supported, in many diverse local contexts, by the work of many international agencies as well as international, national, and local nongovernmental organizations.

In the context of today’s rapid changes, gender role socialization, which is itself undergoing change, combines conflicting messages and contradictory experiences as the global culture interacts with cultural realities on the ground. Girls have historically experienced the transition to adulthood very differently from boys. Although gender role socialization begins at birth, it has generally led to an increasingly sharp differentiation of roles, behaviors, and expectations beginning at the time boys and girls experience puberty and continuing through the assumption of adult roles. This process of socialization is reinforced through social norms, laws, and institutions that in many countries progressively restrict the mobility and public participation of adolescent girls and in some settings makes them seemingly invisible while providing expanded liberties, opportunities, and agency for adolescent boys. Boys and girls usually enter adulthood having experienced differences in the duration and content of schooling, having taken up different work roles in the home and workplace, and having been offered different opportunities for community participation. Furthermore, young women typically assume adult family roles sooner than young men because they marry younger, while young men often assume more public adult roles sooner through their participation in work and their greater opportunities for leadership in schools, communities, work, and sports.

These broad statements capture only the average tendencies for young people in developing countries. At the same time that young people everywhere are becoming part of a more integrated world, at least some people in every country are experiencing transitions to adulthood that increasingly resemble those that are typical of young people in developed countries. But differential rates of change have led, in some cases, to growing differences among adolescents within and across countries, as some young people

experience progress and others are left behind. Although poverty rates have been declining for developing countries as a whole, significant fractions of young people still live in poverty. Trends in poverty rates vary across regions, with big declines in Asia but an increase in poverty in Africa. In the panel’s view, the successful achievement by 2015 of many of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals will require that policy makers center their attention on adolescents (see Box 1-1 ).

Critics of globalization argue that it has been associated with growing income inequality and social polarization, as some local participants in global change improve their economic situation while the livelihoods of others remain largely unchanged or decline (see, for example, Milanovic, 2003; United Nations, 2004; Wade, 2004). Over time the situation of those left behind may actually deteriorate, as their skills and assets become less

and less valued. Relative and absolute poverty may increase within countries as well as across them. Growing economic inequality has reverberating consequences for the next generation. Young people growing up in poverty are the most vulnerable to the negative consequences of globalization and are in the greatest need of protection and support.

The very different demographic, political, and economic circumstances of countries throughout the developing world mean that the experiences of today’s young people, and the implications of globalization for them, vary enormously. From young women in garment factories in Bangladesh, to child soldiers in Sierra Leone, to university students in Mexico, to unemployed youth in refugee communities in Palestine, to young workers in the Silicon Valley of India, to family farm workers in Egypt, to young Pakistani migrant workers in the Persian Gulf, to young wives of polygamous husbands in Senegal, one can only begin to imagine the range of experience that these examples encompass. Indeed, the diversity of experiences can only be growing, as traditional roles persist, albeit experienced in qualitatively different ways than in the past, and at the same time new opportunities and experiences emerge. Young people are adaptable and continue to demonstrate resilience in handling the contradictions of today’s world. However, the challenge is to ensure successful transitions to adulthood in these rapidly changing circumstances and to spread opportunities for success more equitably given the enormous gaps that persist between rich and poor and between boys and girls. Policies and programs, if they are to be effective, will need to be evidence-based, appropriate to the local context, and embraced and supported by the local community.


Recognizing the critical gaps in knowledge of the transitions to adulthood in developing countries in this time of rapid change, the National Academies convened a panel of experts to review the research in this area and related implications for policies and programs. Specifically, the panel’s charge was to

document the situation and status of adolescents and young adults in developing countries, highlighting what is known about various (and multiple) transitions to adulthood, with special emphasis on gender differences;

ascertain the changes that are occurring in the nature, timing, sequencing, and interrelationships of transitions to adulthood in developing countries;

assess the knowledge base regarding the causes and consequences of these changes;

identify the implications of this knowledge for policy and program interventions affecting adolescent reproductive health; and

identify research priorities that are scientifically promising and relevant for integrating adolescent research and policy.

The charge to the panel was intentionally very broad because the National Academies recognized that the transition to adulthood is multifaceted and comprises multiple and interrelated transitions across different spheres of life. To implement the charge, the panel reviewed knowledge on the full range of transitions to adulthood—schooling, health, work, citizenship, marriage, and parenthood, as well as policies and programs affecting all of these transitions. This was necessary because transitions are interrelated and interventions directed at any single transition can affect other transitions. The panel therefore addressed both the direct and indirect effects of policies and programs on adolescent reproductive health, to the extent possible given existing research and data.

The juxtaposition of diversity in the lives of young people in less developed regions and incomplete data coverage of the full range of contemporary experiences presented special challenges to the panel. The recognition that a study, no matter how comprehensive and empirically grounded, would inevitably neglect the experience of some young people led the panel to set the study in a conceptual framework that is neither time nor context specific. This allows the reader to adapt the framework (presented in the next chapter) to an understanding of the lives of the many young people whose stories will not be told or will be told only with respect to a specific time and place that is undergoing rapid change. Furthermore, in assessing the experiences of young people, the panel developed its own set of definitions of successful transitions to adulthood against which the actual experiences of young people could be compared. These definitions build on our understanding of adolescent development and of the contemporary global context and provide an essential yardstick with which data and research findings can be interpreted.

The panel’s approach was to build on the positive while not ignoring the negative. Thus, while the emphasis is on opportunity and how it can be enhanced, the panel did not ignore the risks and constraints of contemporary life. Indeed, special attention was paid to examining both success stories and failures from past policies and programs designed to reduce risks and lift constraints, particularly as they apply to the disadvantaged. The panel gives special emphasis throughout the report to the different experiences of young men and women and to the circumstances of the poor regardless of gender. The panel views the achievement and maintenance of health, in particular reproductive health during the adolescent years, as integrally connected to success in other developmental domains.

We therefore emphasize in the report the interrelationships between these developmental domains and policies and programs that may affect these interrelationships.

The panel defined adulthood as a set of culturally, historically, and gender-specific activities, rights, and responsibilities that people acquire over time by means of a process of transition. The transition to adulthood begins during adolescence, but it continues beyond adolescence, sometimes even into the late 20s or early 30s. Therefore, in several places in the subsequent descriptive analysis, we make reference to

an early phase of the transition (between ages 10 and 14),

a middle phase of the transition (between ages 15 and 20), and

a later phase of the transition (21+).

It is important for a report such as this to define terms such as “children,” “adolescents,” “youth,” and “young people” and then use them consistently since the definitions and nuances of these terms vary from country to country and no common consensus exists. Even within the international community there is no ready and straightforward agreement. For example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child covers all children, defined as anyone under the age of 18, while the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) distinguishes between acceptable “child labor” that is performed by children under the age of 15 and “child work” that may contribute to a child’s healthy development. Light work may be allowed for children 12 and older (National Research Council, 2004). Given the panel’s broad definition of the process of transition, developed to encompass diversities both within and across countries, our definition and terminology differ slightly from those adopted by some international agencies, for example the World Health Organization (UNICEF and WHO, 1995), which has used the terms “adolescent” for those ages 10-19, “youth” for those ages 15-24, and “young people” for those ages 10-24. Although the panel has frequently used the terms in the same way, for the most part, we prefer to use the term “young people” to refer to the relevant age range, roughly corresponding to 10- to 24-year-olds, during which time the transition to adulthood generally occurs. Note again, however, that in some cases, the transition can continue into one’s late 20s or even early 30s. Recent analysis of the transition to adulthood in the West shows that the transition is being prolonged well into the third decade of life and sometimes even beyond (Arnett, 2000, 2004; Furstenberg et al., 2002). It is likely that a narrow focus on the age range 10 to 24 at this time in history in the developing world would risk missing important aspects of recent change. Consequently, in some of our detailed statistical analysis, the panel thought it more informative to present

data for the broader age group 10 to 29. (See also Arnett, 2002, for a discussion of how transitions to adult roles are becoming delayed, creating a distinct period of “emerging adulthood” among the [minority but growing] middle class in developing countries.)

While the panel views marriage as an important marker of adulthood, we do not think that marriage is sufficient in and of itself to confer adulthood on a young person who has not yet achieved the age of majority or completed other transitions to adulthood. This is an important caution, because much contemporary literature on adolescents focuses primarily on the unmarried, neglecting the concerns of the married, particularly young women, who are not yet fully prepared to assume adult roles and are particularly vulnerable because society provides them with few protections.


The concept of a successful transition to adulthood is inherent in the panel’s larger mission: to advance understanding of the impact of rapid and pervasive global change on the adolescent-to-young-adult phase of the life course and to propose interventions for enhancing that transition in developing countries. In particular, the panel is not concerned with traditional rites of passage, such as circumcision or (arranged) marriage, or solely with the acquisition of skills that will enable young people to become more productive as adults, but more fundamentally about the enhancement of capabilities that will allow them “to lead lives they have reason to value and to enhance the substantive choices they have” (Sen, 1997:1959). This represents a very different approach to the study of adolescent development than that taken in the United States over the last few decades, in which the focus has been primarily on problem behaviors rather than on normative development (Steinberg and Morris, 2001). It is also very different from the approach to the study of child outcomes in developing countries, which views parents as decision-makers and children as having no agency of their own (Levison, 2000). Defining what is meant by “a successful transition,” however, remains problematic, and it engages several important considerations about adolescent development in general.

First, the transition to adulthood has to be seen as embedded in the larger developmental life course, reflecting and constrained by what has gone before as well as by what lies ahead. From this perspective, the experiences and events of earlier adolescence—and of infancy and childhood—are not only precursors of, but also preparation for, making that transition. From this perspective, too, the opportunities and barriers of future adulthood, both real and perceived, also shape the course and content of that transition. It follows, then, that efforts to safeguard or enhance a successful transition cannot be confined to that brief segment of the life trajectory

between adolescence and young adulthood alone; rather, interventions must engage both earlier and later developmental periods as well.

The interrelationship between success in adolescence and opportunities at later phases of the life cycle is particularly salient in the case of gender inequalities that are socially and institutionally embedded. There is now clear evidence that countries with more equal rights for women in various domains, including politics and the law, social and economic matters, and marriage and divorce, have smaller gender gaps in such key outcome indicators as health, schooling, and political participation (King and Mason, 2001). It is rarely noted, however, that these gender gaps, which are measured for adults, take shape during adolescence. Indeed, in most societies, local definitions of success may differ profoundly for girls and boys. By contrast, the panel’s definitions of success are gender neutral and embody an emerging set of international norms about gender equality that have been embodied in many international agreements and conventions.

A second consideration in defining what is meant by successful transition to adulthood is the need to make it sensitive to the enormous diversity of developing societies, appropriate to local situations, and responsive to the dynamics of historical change. It is clear that there are prevailing cultural expectations and traditions about what constitutes the attainment of maturity, and these may vary not only in different parts of the world but also across different subgroups in the same country. For example, in some contexts, the establishment of an independent household may be a marker of adulthood, whereas in others living with one’s parents is entirely consistent with the assumption of all other adult roles. Furthermore, in some cultures in which strong family and community linkages are valued more than autonomy, success may be measured by the ability to mobilize social networks rather than by the ability to act autonomously (Mensch et al., 2003c).

Finally, it is also necessary to conceptualize successful transitions relative to a particular time in history (for this report, it is the present) and to the dynamics and speed of societal change that may be under way. What might have been considered a successful transition to adulthood before the globalization of production, the pervasive spread of information technology, and the greater access to a transnational and homogenizing youth culture may no longer be considered so today. In the contemporary world, success requires competence in coping with the reverberations of rapid global and societal change on daily life—a competence that cannot be entirely provided within the family but that requires extrafamilial inputs. In short, a successful transition entails being prepared for a changing future rather than one based on extrapolations of the past.

While success is ultimately measured at the individual level, nothing is clearer than that the burden of enhancing successful transitions to adult-

hood in developing countries is primarily on society and its institutions at the local, national, and international level, rather than on particular individuals or their families. Essential social supports for success include access to quality schooling and other educational resources outside the classroom, adequate health care, livelihood training and job opportunities, resources for civic engagement and family and community models, and supports for positive social development. The existence of norms and the availability and effectiveness of laws and institutions that can support the accomplishment of the major developmental tasks of adolescence must become a major and obligatory concern of any society seeking to enhance successful transitions to adulthood.

In light of these various considerations, the panel sought a conceptualization of successful transitions to adulthood that is both generally and locally applicable; that is predicated on preparation in prior developmental stages, especially adolescence, but also childhood; that is appropriate despite pervasive gender and socioeconomic disparities as well as different endowments and capabilities; that is open to shaping by both antecedent and subsequent life course interventions; and that recognizes the imperatives of contemporary global change. The defining attributes of such a conceptualization of successful transition to adulthood, which must be seen within the constraints of personal endowments and capabilities, include at least the following:

Good mental and physical health, including reproductive health, and the knowledge and means to sustain health during adulthood.

An appropriate stock of human and social capital to enable an individual to be a productive adult member of society.

The acquisition of prosocial values and the ability to contribute to the collective well-being as citizen and community participant.

Adequate preparation for the assumption of adult social roles and obligations, including the roles of spouse or partner, parent, and household and family manager.

The capability to make choices through the acquisition of a sense of self and a sense of personal competence.

A sense of general well-being.

Although no claim can be made that this is an exhaustive listing of the attributes of successful transition to adulthood, it does capture what the panel views as essential components of that process. What can be claimed is that the essential components listed can serve as a guide for the interpretation of a conceptual framework (presented in the next chapter) as well as for the design and targeting of societal interventions to maximize the attainability of those attributes.

Furthermore, the panel was concerned not only about the acquisition of certain personal values and attributes necessary for success, but also about the timing and sequencing of their acquisition. When young people take on adult work or family obligations before finishing school, success may be compromised. If young men who have assumed other adult roles are unable to marry until their 30s because of escalating financial demands, their need for sexual expression may compromise their health and the health of others and deprive them of the pleasures of and social status that accompanies a family life. The panel recognizes that all adulthood roles are not acquired at the same time, and therefore the report refers to multiple transitions rather than a single transition. Indeed, the panel expects that success in one domain will foster success in other domains of adult life, allowing transitions in various domains to occur in a steady succession. Ultimately, the benefit and enjoyment of each role is enhanced by the acquisition of the others.


The panel agreed early in its deliberations that our approach to the charge would be highly empirical. The panel set high standards for evidence, placing an emphasis on comparative quantitative data of high quality, supplemented by well-designed and statistically sound experimental and observational studies along with country case studies and qualitative materials.

The panel developed its own conceptual framework in order to guide our interpretation of the empirical evidence and assess claims of causal inference. This conceptual framework is presented in Chapter 2 . While the panel’s ambitions were as broad as the conceptual framework, the actual scope of the report was constrained by the availability of comparative and time-series data as well as by the limitations of existing empirical analyses of transitions to adulthood in developing countries, which are largely based on cross-sectional data.

The panel’s approach to addressing the questions outlined in the charge flows logically from the conceptual framework presented below and includes the following six elements:

To use the conceptual framework as a guide to the identification of key research questions.

To review existing research studies on trends in the contextual factors, transitions, and outcomes laid out in the conceptual framework and to supplement these with analysis of comparative data sets.

To review existing literature for insights about possible factors explaining recent changes in the transition to adulthood.

To review existing literature for insights into the longer term consequences of alternative individual and societal outcomes.

To review recent evaluations of the impact of policies and programs in order to identify promising (and ideally cost-effective) approaches to the promotion of adolescent reproductive health and other important health outcomes.

To identify research priorities by situating the panel’s findings within the conceptual framework.

To the extent that resources would permit, in Chapters 3 through 8 , the panel went beyond a mere review of the existing literature and exploited available data in new ways in order to build a more complete picture of recent trends. Whenever possible, estimates of trends that are applicable to all young people or to young people from a particular region were generated by weighting data from different countries by population size, thus allowing conclusions that are more representative of the underlying population of young people.

The panel relied on the best and most up-to-date data available for each topic, while remaining mindful of data quality issues (see Appendix A for a discussion of data quality issues.) Thus the report includes data on trends in education, marriage, childbearing, and other aspects of reproductive behavior from the Demographic and Health Surveys, data on attitudes and participation from the World Value Surveys, data on marriage trends from a United Nations data bank of censuses and national surveys, data on employment and unemployment from International Labour Organization labor force statistics, data on mortality and morbidity by age from the World Health Organization, other selected census and survey data that allow comparisons over time, and data on time use from recent Population Council surveys. While readily acknowledging that the extent of high-quality studies is highly uneven across regions, for most topics, the panel decided that we were able to make statements and draw conclusions about recent change since the 1980s or 1990s. (See Appendix A for more information about the panel’s approach to data analysis, the coverage of the report, and sources of data.)

One of the important roles of the conceptual framework is to guide the interpretation of empirical evidence on causal effects in the rest of the report. Simple associations in observed data, such as between schooling and age of marriage or childbearing, are useful for describing the reality of the transition to adulthood and how those patterns have changed. But descriptions of patterns do not lead to confident assessment of causality for several reasons. Different behaviors are likely to be embedded in a “web of causality,” as described above. So the association between, say, schooling and age of marriage may reflect two-way or reverse causality, or that both are

determined by some third factor, such as changing labor market opportunities, and not simply that schooling affects the age of marriage or that age of marriage affects schooling. The panel’s goal of comprehensively addressing the factors that determine observed outcomes, and not just measured factors and their effects, required a systematic thoughtful and rigorous approach to the sifting of evidence (Bachrach and McNicoll, 2003; Smith, 2003). 1

One scientific method for dealing with such problems of empirical inference is to use well-designed and well-implemented double-blind experiments, with random assignment to treatment and control groups and control for such factors as spillovers. There are some empirical areas for which such experiments have been undertaken and provide some of the evidence regarding what is known about transitions to adulthood in developing countries. But these are relatively limited because of costs and ethical concerns. There are no good experiments for many questions of interest, and they may not even be feasible. Furthermore, such randomized controlled trials “championed by many economists, maximize internal validity, but often at the expense of generalizability and the ability to extrapolate findings” (Moffitt, 2003:445).

In many cases, therefore, the empirical evidence must be based on observational (or sometimes called behavioral) data. These data include imperfect measures of the transitions to adulthood that are determined directly and indirectly, with feedback in many cases, by other factors. The best empirical evidence from such behavioral data makes explicit the behavioral model underlying the determination of the transitions to adulthood. It also uses estimation techniques and data that permit control for various estimation problems, such as selectivity, measurement error, and endogeneity (or the correlation of measured variables with unobservables).

For example, if there is interest in the impact of early childbearing on some other aspects of the transition to adulthood, the best empirical studies control for measurement errors in data on childbearing and for what determines childbearing—family background, ability, motivations, cultural beliefs related to gender, labor market options—in the estimation of the impact of early childbearing on other transitions to adulthood. The failure to do so is likely to lead to misunderstanding of the impact of early childbearing—confounding the effects of childbearing with other effects, such as of those determinants of childbearing noted above.

Undertaking such systematic empirical research is difficult. Many studies in the literature are not explicit about what conceptual framework is being used to interpret behavioral data and often implicitly make very strong assumptions. For example, many studies of the impact of early childbearing make the implicit assumption that childbearing is assigned randomly, or that there are no factors that affect both the outcome being studied as well as the timing of childbearing itself.

This report tries to make clear the quality of the empirical evidence that is being used. At times, simple descriptions are presented because they are of interest in themselves, but they should not be confused with assertions about causality. In a few cases, good experimental evidence is summarized. In other cases, there are good systematic studies using behavioral data with explicit models and methods, so the nature of the underlying assumptions is transparent and the assumptions themselves are plausible. To the extent possible, this report relies on evidence from these high-quality sources. But for some topics that are important, the evidence is much weaker. Too much would be lost by complete omission of these topics. Therefore in such cases the report presents what is known and tries to be clear about why that knowledge is qualified—and thus, why more and better research is warranted in certain areas.

The panel has paid special attention to policy and programs that hold promise of supporting successful transitions in resource-constrained environments. This is an area in which the empirical evidence is particularly uneven. Most interventions that have been rigorously evaluated have relatively narrowly defined intended outcomes and a limited time frame for assessing impact (Knowles and Berhman, 2005). Various policies and programs that are designed to benefit younger children may have important benefits that extend into the second decade of life, but that are generally not measured or evaluated. Furthermore, the impact of many national policies and programs with potentially profound importance to the life course and life chances of young people, such as school reforms, marriage laws, abortion laws, and child labor laws, may never have been assessed. Whether assessing policies and programs in the area of reproductive health or in other important areas, such as education, work, and marriage, the report sets the panel’s review of the empirical evidence on interventions in the larger context of the policies and programs that have the potential to affect the lives of young people.


The report has the following plan. Part I sets the stage with this introduction, and in the next chapter, we introduce our conceptual framework

and use it to guide a discussion of the key elements of global change. Because of the diversity of experiences among young people, the implications of these changes for national and local environments are illustrated using examples from the empirical literature. These serve to make more tangible the many ways in which global change is affecting the daily lives of young people.

Part II looks at the two critical elements of individual resources for which we have relatively rich data and evidence: changes in education ( Chapter 3 ) and changes in health and reproductive health ( Chapter 4 ). Each chapter starts by describing recent data on patterns and trends, then reviews critically what is known from the empirical literature about the factors affecting these patterns and changes and finishes with a review of relevant policies and programs designed to positively affect the necessary resources and attributes for successful transitions, including evidence (when available) about their effectiveness.

Part III is organized around four adult roles: worker ( Chapter 5 ), citizen ( Chapter 6 ), spouse or partner ( Chapter 7 ), and parent ( Chapter 8 ). As there are very few data on the role of household manager, this adult role is not treated separately, although the panel recognizes its potential importance. In Part III , we are particularly interested in how changes at the global level are affecting the very nature of the transition itself, in terms of timing, sequencing, duration, and content. Each successive chapter in this part of the report considers not just that particular adult role in isolation but explores the ways in which one transition relates to another. While considerations of the timing of work in relation to schooling or the timing of marriage in relation to parenthood are more familiar in the literature, the links between work and marriage or schooling and childbearing are less familiar. The interrelationships among transitions is a key theme in each chapter whenever data permit.

It will become obvious to the reader in proceeding from the conceptual framework in Part I to the substantive chapters in Part II and Part III that the panel’s knowledge falls far short of its curiosity. The gaps between the conceptual framework and the empirical evidence remain huge. Nonetheless, the panel’s comparative empirical approach does allow new facts and insights to emerge, some of which have implications for the design of policies and programs. The panel’s conceptual framework highlights the gap between theory and evidence with clear implications for future research priorities. Part IV’s Chapter 9 summarizes the findings from Chapters 2 through 8 and identifies promising avenues for future research that can provide important insights for understanding and for policy choices.

The challenges for young people making the transition to adulthood are greater today than ever before. Globalization, with its power to reach across national boundaries and into the smallest communities, carries with it the transformative power of new markets and new technology. At the same time, globalization brings with it new ideas and lifestyles that can conflict with traditional norms and values. And while the economic benefits are potentially enormous, the actual course of globalization has not been without its critics who charge that, to date, the gains have been very unevenly distributed, generating a new set of problems associated with rising inequality and social polarization. Regardless of how the globalization debate is resolved, it is clear that as broad global forces transform the world in which the next generation will live and work, the choices that today's young people make or others make on their behalf will facilitate or constrain their success as adults. Traditional expectations regarding future employment prospects and life experiences are no longer valid.

Growing Up Global examines how the transition to adulthood is changing in developing countries, and what the implications of these changes might be for those responsible for designing youth policies and programs, in particular, those affecting adolescent reproductive health. The report sets forth a framework that identifies criteria for successful transitions in the context of contemporary global changes for five key adult roles: adult worker, citizen and community participant, spouse, parent, and household manager.

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An Example of a Conceptual Framework with Statement of the Problem

This article shows an example of a conceptual framework. It demonstrates how a conceptual framework and the corresponding statement of the problem are organized and written in a dissertation. Take a look at how it is done, and try to make one for your paper. You may also use this in your thesis.

You may be thinking about too many theories to base your study on. However, a conceptual framework is inbuilt on a theory or model that serves as the basis for your research. Once you have decided which theory to adopt, try to figure out if that theory can best explain the phenomenon with all the associated variables in your study. The example below illustrates how this works.

Example of a Conceptual Framework

This example of a conceptual framework zeroes in on teachers’ professional development activities by espousing the idea. main argument, or thesis that teachers’ classroom performance is a critical factor for student academic performance. The researcher based her assumption from Weiner’s Attribution Theory that external and internal factors can improve performance.

For example, students may attribute their academic performance to their teachers ( external factor ). In contrast, the teachers may attribute their teaching performance to in-service training ( external facto r) and perhaps their teaching efficacy, job satisfaction, and attitude towards the teaching profession ( internal factors ). These relationships are illustrated in Figure 1.


Statement of the Problem

The purpose of this study is to provide baseline data on in-service training for English, Mathematics, and Science Fourth Year High School teachers from the School Year 2006 up to 2010. Also, a professional development model for teachers is proposed.

Specifically, this study sought answers to the following questions:

  • What are the most familiar in-service training activities among teachers? And what are their insights about these activities as to: (a) applicability in the classroom, (b) importance in the teaching profession, and (c) impact on student performance?
  • What feedback do teachers have of the in-service training programs attended in terms of (a) perception, and (b) satisfaction?
  • What are the teachers’ level of teaching efficacy, job satisfaction, and attitude towards the teaching profession?
  • What is the performance of the fourth year high school students in their Subject Achievement Tests in three subject areas: English, Mathematics, and Science during the first semester of SY 2010-2011?
  • Are the teachers’ perception and satisfaction regarding the in-service training programs predictors of their levels of teaching efficacy, job satisfaction, and attitude towards the teaching profession?
  • Are the teachers’ levels of teaching efficacy, job satisfaction, and attitude towards the teaching profession predictors of their student performance in the Subject Achievement Tests?
  • What enhanced professional development model for teachers can be developed on the basis of the results of this study?

Organized Flow of Ideas Characterize a Conceptual Framework

Now, you have learned how a theory is used and how the questions in the problem statement are formulated. Take note that the problem statement questions are arranged according to the flow of the conceptual framework.

First, it has questions on an inventory of in-service training activities , followed by the feedback . The next question is about teacher factors , then the results of student performance . The last question relates to the development of the enhanced professional development model .

Notice that all of the factors identified in the study serve as input to the final outcome of the study which is the enhanced professional development model. It is easy to conceptualize what the researcher is trying to incorporate in the training design for teachers’ professional development. It is a systematic representation of the intention, direction, and outcome of the study.

Can you make it? Yes, you can!

For further information on how to design a training, see the following video.

© 2015 January 19 M. G. Alvior Updated: 15 December 2020; 14 October 2023

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Technical writing tips: interpreting graphs with two variables, about the author, mary g. alvior, phd.

Dr. Mary Gillesania Alvior has PhD in Curriculum Development from West Visayas State University. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching English from De La Salle University, Manila as Commission on Higher Education (CHED) scholar. As academic advisor, she helps learners succeed in their academic careers by providing them the necessary skills and tips in order to survive in this wobbling financial environment. In 2014, she got involved in the establishment of a language institute in the Middle East, particularly in the use of Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Then she went to Thailand and became a lecturer in the international college and handled English and Graduate Education courses. From 2017 to 2021, she became the Focal Person for the Establishment of a Medical School, Director of Curriculum and Instructional Materials Development Office (CIMDO), Head of BAC Secretariat, Quality Management System (QMS) Leader, and TWG member of the Procurement for Medical Equipment. Currently, she is the coordinator of the Project Management Committee for the Establishment of the Medical School. In spite of numerous tasks, she is into data privacy, quality management system, and space industry.


thanks for the info. I have an idea now on how to write a Statement of the Problem and conceptual framework

You are welcome, Jenny.

Topic:relationship between quality assurance and principal role performance in secndary schools in kano metropolis, nigeria. Problem:can the relationship between quality assurance and principals role performance bringing effectiveness on academic performance of secondary school students in kano metropolis? What is the conceptual frame work of my thesis pls?

Hello, Muhammad. Just identify your variables. The independent and dependent variables and make relationships.

I need 5 different definitions of Research problem by different authors can you help with that

I’m so sorry Ife. Please search the internet or read more books. Thank you.

This has really helped me Thanks

i really need to understand conceptual framework pls….

Perhaps the book by Dr. Regoniel can help you a lot, Vinny.

do we really have to include the parameters of the problem statement in the conceptual framework?…thanks..

Yes, Paulo. The conceptual framework should contain the statement of the problem in a form of variables.

May I duplicate the study of yours in our institution? We got lot of trainings and seminars on instruction research and extensions. However, it seems that instruction is at stake due to absences of the teachers attending different professional development programs. I’d like to make a study on that to inform the admin and let them create/design a program that will enhance the capabilities of the teachers but will not affect the learning of the students. Further, are those trainings and seminars really improved their instruction, research and extension capabilities? Or applied what they have learned from those seminars and trainings? I would be grateful if give me permission to do study similar to yours. Thanks, Cecilia

Hello, Ma’am Cecilia. Yes, you may replicate it. Thank you.

Hi Ms. Mary! May I know the thesis title of your sample conceptual framework? Thank you. And can I use it as a sample for my graduate studies presentation on conceptual framework? Thanks.

Hello, Gine. Sure, it is my pleasure. My dissertation is entitled: In-Service Training Programs, Teacher Factors and Student Performance: Bases for Enhanced Professional Development Model for Teachers. Sorry for a late reply. I was so busy then. May I know where you are from?

maternal health and its impact on social-economic development

Hi Mary, can you help me in creating our conceptual framework regarding on students’ academic achievement in relation to their economic status? I hope you will pay attention of this.

Hello Chenny. How can I help you? Please give me some inputs. Or perhaps you can work on this, if there is direct correlation/relationship between acedemic achievement (grades in the subject or grade in all subjects for the entire year) then link it to economic status (poor, mid/average or rich according to their income) . Thank you.

Hi! I’m writting a dissertation on cardiovascular responses to inversion and how time affects the variable responses. The problem is that some treatment procedures are done at vague degrees of inversion. My quest is to find safer degrees to avoid detrimental consequences. Can you help me on how to write a conceptual framework on this?

Hello, Jibril. Perhaps, Dr. Patrick Regoniel can help you with that. Please contact him through the contact section in the upper right portion of the site. Or you click that link and ask him at the comments section,

is statement of the problem needed to conceptual framework?

Hi, JV. Yes! You should address the questions in the conceptual framework and vice versa. Make sure that the statement of the problem is aligned with the conceptual framework.

Hi Mary thanks very much for the example given . may I used my own mindmap even though is not on the theory I used?

Hello, Meriam. You may use your own but in using it make sure that it has something to do with the theory you use. Your mindmap must have relation to the theory. You may modify it but it represents the theory. for example, I used Attribution theory in my paper. Now, you may think of other variables/factors in which you can apply the Theory of Attribution.

Thanks very much for your prop response Mary. What other services do you offer regarding dissertation writing?

Here are the other services: Please click the link,

Hello, can you help me with our research? Our research title is “Awareness of Senior High School Students on the Benefits and Risks of Coffee Consumption: an Analysis”. Thank you!!

Could you help me start with our conceptual framework? Idk how to get started with it.

Topic : Knowledge and practices of indigenous people towards to biodiversity conservation. Is anyone who can help me how to make a conceptional framework and statement of the problem? pleaseee.

Hi can you help me with our research? our topic is about learner-centered teaching strategies. our main concern is to know if there is a significant relationship between the respondents demographic profile such as their senior high school academic strand and the learner-centered approach used by their teacher. what conceptual framework do you suggest?

Good day, do you consider literature review as theoretical framework of the study? thanks

Thank you very much. It has really helped me a lot. I want to know how theoretical framework is clearly different from conceptual framework and how the variables can be positioned accurately as in using distributional or attributional method?

i need help on how to come up with a conceptual framework for this study: ICT Integration-Its Influence in Learner’s Study Habits

thank you very much

how can I prepare conceptual frame work on the research title the practices and challenges of educational supervision on the professional development of teachers.

I need your assistance in writing conceptual framework on “How can overcrowded classroom affect the academic performance of students at the primary school”

Dear Theodora, there are lots of literature on density of the classroom and it is a well studied concern. But with the pandemic nowadays, you cannot afford to have overcrowded classrooms due to health reasons. Search for literature using Google Scholar as it widely returns articles using your keyword search.

Hi, please assist with better ways of presenting conceptual framework for a study in gender, Village Saving Loan Associations and Household Decision making ability.

Dear NEK, please clarify what you want to do first by writing your statements of the problem. Example questions could be: 1) Is there a relationship between household decision making ability and gender?, 2) Is there a relationship between gender and the tendency to apply for a loan in Village Saving Loan Associations? Your conceptual framework depends on the issue you would like to work on. The purpose of your study should be crystal clear.

kindly help me come up with the conceptual framework am doing my research on,effects of tax revenue on economic performance

plss help me for my research its all about the effect of hand held devices and social media to the behavior of the stem student. plss help me ,i do not know how to make an SOP , conceptual frame work ,etc.

I have trouble till this time of my MSc. studies to design a comprehensive conceptual framework but this one is simple and easy to replicate however, there are no arrows showing the flow of the ideas, I found it difficult to follow. If you can include the directions of the arrows on the conceptual framework, it will be easy for students to espouse and replicate the idea. Thank you.

Thank you so much for providing valuable insights. This will definitely helpful for viewers who wanted to make bright career in this field. Courses and training will definitely helpful for gaining knowledge. Unified Mentor is an online learning platform that offers user-friendly certification courses. Learn and excel in your chosen field with ease. I hope you will like our platform and courses

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How to Make a Conceptual Framework for a Thesis

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A conceptual framework is a bit like a recipe or a blueprint. It provides an outline of how you plan to conduct the research for your thesis, but it goes further than that by also positioning your work within the larger field of research. Writing a conceptual framework can not only help to guide your thesis to ensure that your research stays on track, but it also helps to guide fellow researchers or advisers who are analyzing your thesis.

Conduct a Literature Review

Before you can start your own research, you need to understand what research has already been conducted on your topic of interest. Your thesis should always be new research that helps to advance your field of study. You may find that someone has already explored the question you have in mind. Conducting the literature review can help you to refine your central argument or hypothesis. You must also conduct the literature review to be able to place your work within the larger field of study in your conceptual framework. Your framework should introduce the relevant research and show how your work will help to advance the field.

Create a Flow Chart

Conceptual frameworks are often visual in nature and allow those reading the framework to understand the flow of your research. You can present this in whatever way makes the most sense for your work, which can include a flow chart, mind map or diagram. For each component of your research, you should show the variables that influence it. For example, if you are studying childhood development outcomes, you might study home life, school and community, which would each be influenced by different variables. For school, your variables might be peers, teachers and learning disabilities. The more detailed you are with your diagram, the more thorough your conceptual framework will be.

Write a Narrative

Not all conceptual frameworks have to include a diagram or graphic. You can present the same information by writing a narrative. Your narrative should summarize the variables influencing your research and explore how they may change your hypothesis. The narrative should also explain the basic methodology for your research. Even if you include a diagram in your conceptual framework, a narrative should also be included explaining these details for those who prefer more in-depth information. Use bolded headers to separate the sections of your narrative and to create a visual hierarchy of information.

Return and Revise

As you begin your research, you may find that certain elements of your conceptual framework no longer work. You may discover new variables, or you may learn that your hypothesis is incorrect. You may find additional research that challenges your own theory. You should return to your framework and revise it as necessary. The document is not fixed in stone. It should be considered an adaptable guide as you work through your thesis. It should be seen as a partner to your thesis and should be updated as necessary.

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Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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How to Make a Conceptual Framework for a Thesis

A.t. gardner.

Image of a college student studying on the grass.

The conceptual framework for a thesis is similar to an artist's concept illustration for a new building. Just as a good illustration conveys everything the architect wants to accomplish in the building, from how it will actually look to the desired emotion the architect wants to evoke, the conceptual framework communicates the essence of a thesis.

Explore this article

  • Framework Purpose & Elements
  • The Narrative Text
  • The Schematic
  • A Reiterative Process

1 Framework Purpose & Elements

The conceptual framework also guides research. It is a starting point that helps researchers deepen their awareness and understanding of what is to be studied as well as a tool that scaffolds research once the study is underway. A conceptual framework contains both narrative text (such as the hypotheses and key factors, constructs or variables) and a schematic, which illustrates the relationship between them. A thorough framework also helps researchers make meaning of their findings.

2 The Narrative Text

For example, suppose you want to study the effect of campaign issue ads during an election. The framework's narrative portion should communicate your hypotheses as well as any independent and dependent variables. It could be as straightforward as the following -- this study examines the relationship between respondents' exposure to TV and radio campaign issue ads (independent variable) and their attitude towards that issue (dependent variable). It will also take into account respondents' socio-demographic characteristics (independent variable).

3 The Schematic

The schematic shows the relationship between the identified variables. For the campaign issue ad study, the schematic could consist of three components. On the left side, under the heading Independent Variables, there would be two boxes. One would be labeled Issue Ads and contain two variables: television ads and radio ads. The other box, labeled Socio-Demographic Variables, would contain the variables age, sex, income, religion and so on. To the right of these boxes would be an arrow pointing to a box on the right side. Here, under the heading Dependent Variables, would be one box containing this text: Belief and attitude toward issue in advertisement.

4 A Reiterative Process

The conceptual framework should be considered a living document. Anytime a change is made to one framework component, all other components should be reviewed and revised as needed. Also, it is important to review and revise the framework whenever changes are made to other methodology components. Upon conclusion of the study, review the framework's effectiveness by seeing if it provided a common language to describe the study and report your findings.

  • 1 Issues In Educational Research: Exploring the Usefulness of a Conceptual Framework as a Research Tool

About the Author

Based in Southern California, A.T. Gardner has spent more than two decades writing articles, educational materials, video scripts and other content for corporations and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, TRW, Nissan and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He has a bachelor's degree in communications.

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How To Make Conceptual Framework (With Examples and Templates)

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.

Related: How to Write a Concept Paper for Academic Research

Table of Contents

At a glance: free conceptual framework templates.

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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. 

Related: How to Write Significance of the Study (with Examples)

What Is the Difference Between Conceptual Framework and Theoretical Framework?

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 organized 1 .

1. Taxonomy

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 relationship 2 . 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 variables 3 .

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. 

conceptual framework 1

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.

conceptual framework 2

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:

conceptual framework 3

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 4

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 5

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)

conceptual framework 6

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

conceptual framework 7

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

conceptual framework 8

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.

conceptual framework 9

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. 

conceptual framework 10

Next, draw your selected shape in the document.

conceptual framework 11

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.

conceptual framework 12

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
  • Correlation vs Causation. Retrieved 27 April 2021, from
  • Swaen, B., & George, T. (2022, August 22). What is a conceptual framework? Tips & Examples. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from

Jewel Kyle Fabula

Jewel Kyle Fabula is a Bachelor of Science in Economics student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. His passion for learning mathematics developed as he competed in some mathematics competitions during his Junior High School years. He loves cats, playing video games, and listening to music.

14 thoughts on “ How To Make Conceptual Framework (With Examples and Templates) ”

How much variables contain in the research to make conceptual frame work and the title is impact of foreign borrowing on agriculture out put growth in Ethiopia

Thanks for your immense contribution well elaborated and helpful

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A Conceptual Framework for Optimizing the Equity of Hospital-Based Emergency Care: The Structure of Hospital Transfer Networks

Doctor holding hand of patient

By Charleen Hsuan, PhD; Brandan Carr, PhD; David Vanness, PhD; Yinan Wang, PhD; Douglas Leslie, PhD; Eleanor Dunham, PhD; Jeannette Rogowski, PhD

Emergency care includes two key components: initial stabilization and transfer to a higher level of care. Significant work has focused on ensuring that local facilities can stabilize patients. However, less is understood about transfers for definitive care. To better understand how transfer network structure impacts population health and equity in emergency care, we propose a conceptual framework, the hospital transfer network equity-quality model (NET-EQUITY). NET-EQUITY can help optimize population outcomes, decrease disparities, and enhance planning by supporting a framework for understanding emergency department transfers.

The central thesis of our framework is that the structure of hospital transfer networks influences patient outcomes, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, which includes equity. The structure of hospital transfer networks is shaped by internal and external factors. The four main external factors are the regulatory, economic environment, provider, and sociocultural and physical/built environment. These environments all implicate issues of equity that are important to understand to foster an equitable population-based system of emergency care. The framework highlights external and internal factors that determine the structure of hospital transfer networks, including structural racism and inequity. We also describe ways that NET-EQUITY can be applied to generate research questions and how policymakers can respond should research find inequity.

Read the full article  here .

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Thesis Conceptual Framework

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Outline of how you plan to conduct the research for your thesis with Creately's example. Use the template to easily visualize framework with Creately visual workspace.

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Thesis Conceptual Framework

Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health

Research & Reports

New report released on equity of hospital-based emergency care.

Researchers at Penn State have published a new report, A Conceptual Framework for Optimizing the Equity of Hospital-Based Emergency Care: The Structure of Hospital Transfer Networks.

Emergency care includes two key components: initial stabilization and transfer to a higher level of care. Significant work has focused on ensuring that local facilities can stabilize patients. However, less is understood about transfers for definitive care. To better understand how transfer network structure impacts population health and equity in emergency care, we propose a conceptual framework, the hospital transfer network equity-quality model (NET-EQUITY). NET-EQUITY can help optimize population outcomes, decrease disparities, and enhance planning by supporting a framework for understanding emergency department transfers.

The central thesis of our framework is that the structure of hospital transfer networks influences patient outcomes, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, which includes equity. The structure of hospital transfer networks is shaped by internal and external factors. The four main external factors are the regulatory, economic environment, provider, and sociocultural and physical/built environment. These environments all implicate issues of equity that are important to understand to foster an equitable population-based system of emergency care. The framework highlights external and internal factors that determine the structure of hospital transfer networks, including structural racism and inequity. We also describe ways that NET-EQUITY can be applied to generate research questions and how policymakers can respond should research find inequity.

Authors:  Charleen Hsuan, PhD; Brandan Carr, PhD; David Vanness, PhD; Yinan Wang, PhD; Douglas Leslie, PhD; Eleanor Dunham, PhD; and Jeannette Rogowski, PhD

Read the full article here .

Sample Conceptual Framework

Conceptual Framework

The basis for conceptualizing the technology of food dehydration process’ inclusion in the high school curriculum and in the vocational course offering is to provide an option window for secondary level students to acquire skills and knowledge aside from the basics taught in the other subjects that can lead to a path to entrepreneurship and income generation. Prior to the revision of the basic secondary curriculum, the focus was preparing students for higher education less in knowledge base which required critical thinking skills rather than occupational learning.

The paradigm illustrates the conceptual framework of the study and how dehydration technology can be incorporated in the school curriculum and proper application.

The incorporation in the secondary curriculum and its proper application with the end recipient of the study to be the school and its stakeholders as such opening a pathway to career and lifelong education.

By: Engr. Mary Rose Florence S. Cobar, Doctor of Philosophy in Education Thesis title: “Development of a Source Material in Food Dehydration Craft Technology for the Secondary Schools”

4 thoughts to “Sample Conceptual Framework”

kindly help me for a framework for english proficiency among 4th year graduating students tnx

help naman po pano ba ang pagawa nag conceptual framework sa thesis namin ang business po namin ay internet cafe with book store..thanks

thank you for the short term of paradigm

please help me for my thesis, its all about marketing mixed

Comments are closed.

thesis with conceptual framework

Membahas ISU-ISU Penting bagi Anak Bangsa, Berbagi Ide, dan Saling Cinta

Tips Skripsi – Conceptual Frameworks DLL

thesis with conceptual framework

Beberapa Panduan dalam Membuat Skripsi atau Thesis

Pada awalnya adalah Conceptual Framework. Sebelum menulis thesis atau skripsi, para mahasiswa dianjurkan membuat sebuah kerangka (konsep) pemikiran, atau yang biasa disebut conceptual framework .

Conceptual framework : adalah penetapan yang dipilih oleh peneliti ( researcher ) terhadap problem (masalah) yang hendak ditelitinya, dan memberi petunjuk (arah) ke mana tujuan studi (penelitian)-nya itu. Ia bisa merupakan sebuah adaptasi dari sebuah model yang telah digunakan dalam penelitian sebelumnya , yang dilengkapi (dimodivikasi) dengan berbagai hal yang relevan agar sesuai dengan rencana penelitiannya. Selain menunjukkan arah tujuan penelitian (apa yang ingin diketahuinya, apa yang ingin ditelitinya), melalui Conceptual Framework itu peneliti bisa menggambarkan hubungan-hubungan yang ada (terjadi) di antara berbagai constructs yang ingin diteliti (di-investigasi)-nya. [Lihat juga video dalam slide Philip Adu ini (klik di sini )].

Conceptual framework is the researcher’ s  own position on the problem and gives direction to the study. It may be an adaptation of a model used in a previous study, with modifications to suit the inquiry. Aside from showing the direction of the study, through the conceptual framework, the researcher can be able to show the relationships of the different constructs that he wants to investigate.


Beberapa contoh tulisan tentang ‘ Conceptual Framework’ dan beberapa masalah lain dalam Thesis — klik di link yang tersedia:

  • Chapter, from Ludymae .
  • Jaspreet Sodhi

Also look at these fabulous slides by Philip Adu PhD (klick here ) – and you can find my summary from his course down below.

Bagaimana Menulis Problem Statement: Business College (klik di sini ). Menulis Tujuan Riset/Penelitian — Research Objective . Bedanya Theoretical Framework dan Conceptual Framework: klik di sini .

Bagaimana caranya merumuskan tindak lanjut dalam sebuah Conceptual Framework?

  • Tetapkan rencana Conceptual Framework atau Paradigma yang hendak dibangun.
  • Tentukan variable-variable yang hendak diteliti.
  • Pilih variable dependent dan variable antara (intervening variable).
  • Arahkan tujuan studi (penelitian); ke mana penelitian itu hendak mengarah, mau mencari (mengetahui) apa?


Segera setelah Conceptual Framework dipastikan, langkah berikutnya adalah menentukan metode penelitian ( research methods ) yang mau dipakai yang paling baik (tepat) untuk menjawab ‘pertanyaan penelitian’ (definisi masalah) yang diajukan melalui framework tersebut.

Research design depends on the nature of the data to be analyzed. (See Philip Adu) . 

Quantitative data – when your thesis problem requires numerical measurements of traits, trends, characteristics or attributes of the subject matter.  Analysis leads researcher to:

  • depict what is typical and atypical among the data;
  • show the degree of difference or relationship between two or more variables;
  • determine the likelihood that the findings are real for the population as opposed to having occurred only by chance in the sample.

Qualitative data – when your thesis problem focuses on the meanings, perceptions, symbols or description of the subject matter. Here, analysis leads researcher to:

  • observe behaviors, situations, interactions and environments;
  • scrutinize these observations for patterns and categories;
  • answer research questions based on what can be deduced from the findings.

Teori dan Format yang hendak dipakai:

Teori : adalah sejumlah constructs (konstruksi konsep kontstruksi) yang saling berhubungan, yang dibangun menjadi sebuah proposisi guna menunjukkan hubungan-hubungan (yang ada) pada variable-variable itu. Teori tersebut menjelaskan bagaimana ( how ) dan mengapa ( why ) variable-variable tersebut saling berhubungan satu sama lain.

Format-format yang ada, termasuk: 

  • Sejumlah hipotesa;
  • Sederetan pernyataan jika-maka ( if-then statements );
  • Model visual.

Teori yang Dipakai dalam Riset Kualitatif:

Di antara teori yang bisa dipakai, antara lain:

  • Penjelasan panjang (a broad explanation) ;
  • Pandangan teoritis ( theoretical lens ) atau perspective ;
  • Feminist Perspective (biasanya banyak di Barat);
  • Diskursus yang dirasionalisasikan ( Racialized discourse );
  • Critical theory;
  • Queer theory;
  • Disability inquiry.

Bisa juga, meski jarang, pada akhirnya, menciptakan sebuah teori baru.

  • Peneliti bisa juga memilih untuk tidak menggunakan teori dalam studi kualitatifnya. “ Researcher may also choose not to employ theory in a qualitative study,” kata Professor Wylie Tidwell, III .

Logika Induktif pada Studi Kualitatif:

  • Peneliti mengumpulkan informasi;
  • Peneliti mengajukan pertanyaan terbuka ( open-ended questions ) pada para partisipan, atau mencatat hal-hal yang didapatkannya dari lapangan ( field-notes );
  • Peneliti menganalisa data untuk menciptakan tema-tema atau kategori-kategori;
  • Mencari pola yang (lebih) menyeluruh (luas), melakukan penyamarataan ( generalizations ), atau teori=teori yang terkait dengan tema-tema atau kategori-kategori;
  • Peneliti menyelesaikan masalah generalisasi tadi, atau teori-teori, dan membandingkannya dengan pengalaman sebelumnya dan (dengan) literatur.
The Inductive Logic of Research in a Qualitative Study: Researcher gathers information ⇒ Researcher asks open-ended questions of participants or records field-notes ⇒ Researcher analyzes data to form themes or categories ⇒ Researcher looks for broad patterns, generalizations, or theories from themes or categories ⇒ Researcher poses generalizations, or theories, and compares to past experiences and literature.

Penggunaan Teori pada Metode Campuran (Kuantitatif dan Kualitatif): lazimnya di dalam studi campuran dapat: 

  • Termasuk teori yang disusun secara  deduktif (theory testing);
  • Termasuk teori yangdisusun secara induktif (an emerging pattern);
  • Menggunakan kacamata teoritis (theoretical lens) atau perspektif untuk menuntun ( guide ) studi (penelitian) tersebut.

Pertanyaan-pertanyaan pada Riset K ualitatif:

  • Bukan merupakan tujuan ( not objectives );
  • Bukan merupakan hipotesa.

Dua Jenis Pertanyaan Riset Kualitatif yang jadi pokok tujuan sebuah studi:

  • Central question (pertanyaan utama): pertanyaan secara umum (garis besar) yang dipakai untuk mempertanyakan sebuah penjelasan ( exploration ) tentang fenomena pokok (utama);
  • Subquestions (pertanyaan tambahan): Sejumlah pertanyaan yang diajukan untuk mempersempit kepada fokus penelitian ( focus of the study ).

Menyusun Pertanyaan pada Riset Kualitatif:   Ajukan satu atau dua pertanyaan utama ( central questions ) dan 5-7 pertanyaan tambahan ( subquestions ). 

Pertanyaan-pertanyaan itu, sebaiknya:

  • Berkaitan dengan central question dan strategi fokus utama (tujuan) studi;
  • Mulailah dengan “apa” atau “bagaimana”;
  • Fokus pada satu fenomena atau konsep;
  • Gunakan kata kerja yang bertujuan menjelaskan ( exploratory verbs ), seperti ‘terangkan’, atau ‘gambarkan’. Misal: “ Mohon gambarkan bagaimana proses promosi di tempat Anda”; atau “Bagaimana hubungan promosi dengan penjualan di perusahaan Anda?”
  • Hindari kata-kata yang mengarahkan (directional words) seperti ‘dampak’ ( affect ), atau “ impact “;
  • Kembangkan selama (dalam proses) penelitian (studi);
  • Awalnya tetaplah terbuka (open-ended) tanpa mengacu pada rujukan di literatur (Urusan penggunaan literatur baru disesuaikan setelahnya).
  • Tetapkan dan batasi siapa saja partisipan yang ada (secara spesifik), dan (jika belum ditentukan sebelumnya) tetapkanlah lokasi (lapangan) di mana penelitian akan dilakukan.
A Script for Writing a Qualitative Central Question : (How or What) is the ( “ story for ” for narrative research; “ meaning of ” the phenomenon for phenomenology; “ theory that explains the process of ” for grounded theory; “ culture-sharing pattern ” for ethnography; “ issue ” in the “ case ” for case study) of (central phenomenon) for (participants) at (research site) .

Untuk Riset Kuantitatif , silakan rujuk pada literatur yang ada.

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    The paradigm illustrates the conceptual framework of the study and how dehydration technology can be incorporated in the school curriculum and proper application. ... help naman po pano ba ang pagawa nag conceptual framework sa thesis namin ang business po namin ay internet cafe with book store..thanks. jayron says: January 25, 2010 at 5:26 am.

  26. Tips Skripsi

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