Differences Between Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

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Differences Between Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

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September 22nd, 2023

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What Is A Theoretical Framework?

Theoretical framework merely outlines the theoretical component of your study and the tried-and-true theories that support it. To put it another way, a theoretical framework is a group of theories that work together to guide your study.

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What Is A Conceptual Framework?

Your readers will know what to expect and know from your study if you have a conceptual framework. It tells you what factors are important for your study and how they connect. Before gathering data, a mental framework is made, which is usually shown visually. Before you start gathering data, you should sketch out your ideas.

Similarities Between Theoretical Framework And Conceptual Framework.

  • They say the study is reliable based on earlier research and theories.
  • It’s clear from both that the study is reliable because it explains what will happen next in the research.
  • Both help you understand a study problem and plan how to research, gather data, and analyze it.
  • They use pictures to show how thoughts and theories connect to the study.

Framework Differences: Conceptual Vs. Theoretical Frameworks

There are connections between theoretical and conceptual frameworks, but they play different roles in study and add different things. This part will discuss framework differences regarding their goals, roles in the research process, and connections to the research question and data analysis approach.

Scope And Purpose 

The scope of theoretical and conceptual systems varies significantly. Theoretical frameworks based on well-known theories offer a broad and general perspective on the research topic. They understand things by looking at them through a certain theoretical lens. 

Conceptual framework differences, on the other hand, provide a more in-depth analysis of the study question at hand. It clarifies the specific ideas and factors in the study and how they relate.

Both frameworks help with study, but with framework differences, they do so in various ways. Theoretical frameworks direct the general strategy for comprehending the research problem by pointing out the larger conversation the researcher is a part of and helping to shape the research questions.

Conceptual framework differences, which include what factors or ideas to look into and how to analyze them, are like a map for the study. They help with gathering data and figuring out what it all means.

Study Design And Data Analysis

The study question and design are framework differences for the two types of frameworks. The theoretical framework often comes from what other theories have said or what we know about what we are studying. Then, from the research question comes a conceptual framework that gives the study a structure that makes sense in its own right.

Data analysis uses both theoretical and conceptual models. Theoretical theories give us a lens through which to view the data, revealing potential themes and patterns. Conceptual framework differences, on the other hand, show the variables and ideas that will be studied and the connections between them. Conceptual frameworks can include novel concepts or relationships from the studied context and those based on earlier theories.

Lastly, the study question and design are not the same for each type of framework. It’s generally different from the conceptual framework in that the theoretical framework often comes up with the research question based on what the theories say about the thing being studied. On the other hand, framework differences, the study question leads to a conceptual framework that gives us a way to look into it.

Examples Of Theoretical And Conceptual Frameworks

When we use case studies, we can clearly show how theoretical and conceptual models are different. Now, let’s look at some real-life cases that show how each framework works and what it does in a research setting.

Consider a study examining how classroom settings affect how well students learn. The main idea behind the framework could come from Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, which gives us a lot of information about how kids learn and think about things.

After thinking about this theory, the researcher develops a mental framework. The conceptual framework tells us what variables to look at, like the classroom layout, the number of students to teachers, the availability of learning tools, and, most importantly, how well the students do in school. A lower teacher-to-student ratio and well-equipped classrooms are two examples of expected relationships between these factors.

Moreover, The App Founders need a conceptual framework before making an app. 

You need a certain set of theories to do a solid study on cognitive development. 

Another study could aim to find out what makes staff in a business setting happy with their jobs. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the theoretical framework could see job happiness as meeting employees’ physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs.

The researcher builds the conceptual framework from this theoretical point of view, naming specific variables like salary (for physiological needs), job security (for safety needs), teamwork (for social needs), recognition (for esteem needs), and opportunities for career growth (for self-actualization needs). There may be links between these factors and job satisfaction. For example, better salaries and recognition may lead to higher job satisfaction.

Tips On Writing A Good Theoretical Framework. 

  • Look over your question for study. 
  • When you do your study, think about the most important factors. 
  • Read related books and articles from the past to find answers to your study question. 
  • List the factors and constructs that could be important to your study. 

Tips On Writing A Good Conceptual Framework. 

  • Once you have chosen a study topic, you should do a book review. 
  • Research what other people have already written about the subject and add to it. 
  • Get the factors listed in the books and look into how they relate. 
  • Ensure that your thesis adds to what is already known and fills in a gap in that information. 
  • You could use a flowchart, thought map, or idea map to make your conceptual framework. Then, you should explain it. 

Developing Frameworks For Your Study

Then you might ask, “How do I make them for my study?” once you know their specific roles and functions. Remember that you don’t have to pick one over the other; both frameworks can and often work together in the same study project.

Which theoretical and conceptual framework you use will rely on your research question a lot of the time. You can use a theoretical framework to help you understand your research question better if it is more exploratory and needs a broad knowledge of the problem. As you gather more information and find new ideas or connections, your mental framework might look very different from the theory you started with.

Also, think about what your study problem is. Using a theoretical framework to understand your results in light of established theories about a well-researched problem could be helpful. But if your study looks into a new problem or tries to figure out certain relationships or processes, making a conceptual framework that maps these parts might work better.

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Essential Elements Demystified


Aspects of Frameworks Theoretical Framework Conceptual Framework
Definition Outlines the theoretical component of the study Communicates what factors are crucial for the study and how they connect
Purpose Guides the study with tried-and-true theories Sets expectations for readers and visualizes ideas before data collection
Similarities Both rely on earlier research and theories Clearly communicates reliability and what will happen next in the research
Scope and Purpose Provides a broad, general perspective Offers an in-depth analysis of specific ideas and factors in the study
Study Design and Data Analysis Directs general strategy for comprehending the research problem Acts as a map for the study, guiding data gathering and analysis
Examples of Application Piaget’s theory of cognitive development for studying classroom settings Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for exploring job satisfaction in a business setting
Tips on Writing Review the study question, consider important factors, read related literature Conduct a literature review, explore factors related to the study, ensure thesis adds to existing knowledge
Development Process Evolves based on research question and may change as new insights emerge Depends on the research question and the need to map relationships or processes
Integration in a Study Works well in exploratory studies with a broad knowledge base Suitable for understanding results in the context of established theories
Flexibility Adapts to evolving insights during the study Allows for the creation of a framework that maps specific relationships or processes



Theoretical and conceptual frameworks are crucial to the success of any study project. Their roles and uses differ, even though they guide and inform the study process. A theoretical framework gives a broad view based on well-known ideas. It sets the scene for the study’s main discussion. On the other hand, a conceptual framework gives a more focused view by outlining the specific variables and how they relate to each other in the study. They make a study more reliable, clear, and in-depth, ensuring it’s based on current knowledge while adding new information.

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