Conceptual Framework

What is a conceptual framework?

Conceptual framework or theoretical framework is called the compilation, systematization and exposition of the fundamental concepts for the development of an investigation, whether in the scientific area or in the humanistic area. It is thus understood that the conceptual framework is a part of the research work or thesis.

The conceptual framework allows, on the one hand, to guide the researcher’s searches and identify the necessary methodology. On the other hand, it allows establishing a minimum consensus between the researcher and the reader regarding the language and concepts used.

As a general rule, the conceptual or theoretical framework appears discriminated in research papers as a chapter or section, and constitutes the starting point for the work. However, in some methodologies, the conceptual framework is not identified or discriminated, but is exposed as part of the introduction.

Functions of the conceptual framework

  • Guide the investigation.
  • Base and justify the questions that are formulated regarding the object of study.
  • Build criteria for the interpretation and understanding of the problem.
  • Identify gaps and/or errors in previous theories to prevent or resolve them.

Characteristics of a conceptual or theoretical framework

  • It must be delimited according to the object of investigation.
  • Part of the knowledge about the state of the issue or state of the art, that is, the handling of the pertinent antecedents.
  • It exposes in a related way the antecedents and the theories selected for its interpretation.
  • Has an analytical perspective.
  • It develops from the general to the particular.
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Elements of a conceptual framework

The structure of a conceptual or theoretical framework may vary depending on the nature of the research and the methodology. In general terms, some elements stand out. Let’s see.

  • Background of the topic to be treated;
  • Theoretical bases of departure for approaching the subject;
  • Legal bases (if applicable);
  • Historical framework (if applicable)
  • Research variables.

See also:

  • Parts of a thesis.
  • Theoretical framework.
  • 5 examples of theoretical framework.
  • Conceptual map.

How to make a conceptual framework

To develop a good conceptual framework in a rigorous academic or research paper, several essential steps must be followed.

  • Know the state of the art or state of the art, taking into account the following aspects:
    • Types of studies that have been done in the area;
    • Where and when have such studies been carried out;
    • What has been the subject of these studies;
    • What have been the method and design.
  • Identify, prioritize and synthesize the key concepts for research.
  • Write the conceptual framework from the general to the particular and use the precise technical language. Always refer to the source of the information, that is, the authors and the texts.

Example of conceptual or theoretical framework

For examplein a thesis on the construction of religious imaginaries in theater and cinema, the theoretical or conceptual framework contains the following sections that summarize roughly the structure and its content:


  • Representation and image
  • This is how the story began
  • The investiture of representation: the myth and its promoters
  • The representation of the divine in the Judeo-Christian tradition
  • after the evangelists
  • Representation in theater and cinema
  • Final considerations
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We will cite a fragment as an example of writing a conceptual framework:

The objective of the myth conveyed in its representation is only one: if the myth originates from the need to compensate and/or justify the emptiness or frustration that reality generates in the social group (MACHADO and PAGEAUX, 2001), the aesthetic representation of the myth implies the possibility of systematizing the answers to the fundamental questions of life; It embodies, therefore, the possibility of instituting meaning within the framework of a consensus, or better, it embodies the meaning because it gives order and coherence to the “founding story” that acquires, in itself, an aesthetic dimension. It is about understanding what this discourse about the world is –myth/knowledge– and what it means about the history of the group –myth/History– (MACHADO and PAGEAUX, 2001:103).

Source: Andrea Imaginary Bingre (2005): Auto da Compadecida by Ariano Suassuna and its film adaptation. Caracas: CEP-FHE-Central University of Venezuela.