Developing a conceptual framework

Before studying the application of conceptual framework, we need to first define it. It can be defined as a ‘visual’ presentation of key variables, factors or concepts and their relationship among each other which have been or have to be studied in the research either graphically or in some other narrative form (Miles and Huberman, 1994).

How to define conceptual framework

Conceptual Framework is like pre-planning wherein we define what the research will include. However, the position of conceptual framework within Qualitative and Quantitative Research varies. The table below explains the difference in position.

Conceptual framework

In case of quantitative research, the researcher defines the research problem and key variables which will be used to resolve the problem. However, in case of qualitative research inductive position is applicable wherein the researcher seeks to build up theory. In such a situation, existing theories can be misleading and therefore the conceptual framework emerges after the research is complete.

However, here I should point out that researchers generally have an idea of what will feature in the study which could be treated as a tentative framework which would give an idea, however can be changed over the period of time.

How to develop conceptual framework?

There are several inputs which are essential when working on a conceptual framework. The two main elements are;

  1. Experiential Knowledge: technical knowledge, research background and personal experience.
  2. Literature Review: related theory, related research and other theories and research related to the topic.

The key steps for the development of the conceptual framework are:

  1. Identify the key variables used in the subject area of the study.
  2. Draw out key variables within something you have already written about the subject area i.e. literature review.
  3. Perennial to the aim, segregate them as dependent and independent variables.
  4. Take one key variable and then brainstorm all the possible things related to the key variable(Dependent variable).
  5. After all the variables have been defined, focus on the number of relationships they can form with each other to determine the inter-relationships between all.
  6. The arrows used to identify the relationship between variables must be applied in the direction as to what impacts the other.
  7. Always keep in mind that the formation of conceptual framework directs the researcher to apply a suitable test for analysis.

It can be presented in the form of; flow diagrams, tree diagrams, mind maps or even shape based diagrams. Below are some examples  for better understanding:

Flow chart

Conceptual Framework

In this flow chart, it is evident that academic staff job satisfaction is associated with pay and growth resources, work-family conflict stressors, work relationship stressors, and work-role stressors. Therefore the dependent variable here is academic staff job satisfaction while the rest are independent variables. A suitable correlation or regression test can be applied knowing this representation.

Tree diagram


Similarly, in this tree diagram, it is well understood that customers behaviour changes with respect to various factors like experiences, values, lifestyle, or product’s expectations in terms of price, quality, information etc. Therefore this indicates that there are two possible areas for analyzing a customer’ s behaviour and thus two hypotheses can be constructed out of this. One related to consumer’s behaviour with respect to experiences, values, lifestyle etc while the other can be based on product’s expectation.

A conceptual framework is essential to bring focus on the content and also acts as a link between literature, methodology, and results.


  • Miles, M. B., & Huberman, M. A. (1994): “Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook” (2nd edition). Beverley Hills, Sage.
Understanding research

Priya Chetty

Partner at Project Guru
Priya is a master in business administration with majors in marketing and finance. She is fluent with data modelling, time series analysis, various regression models, forecasting and interpretation of the data. She has assisted data scientists, corporates, scholars in the field of finance, banking, economics and marketing.
27 thoughts on “Developing a conceptual framework”
  1. Avatar Anoud 3 years & 2 months ago

    im a business student and have to build a map and conceptual model before starting my phd thesis can you help me in this ?

    • Avatar Ekta Goel 11 months & 1 week ago

      Yes, surely we can help you.

  2. Avatar Shruti Datt 3 years & 2 months ago

    Dear Anoud,
    Yes, surely we can help you.

  3. Avatar noel 2 years & 4 months ago

    Am a business student doing masters, can you help me develop a conceptual framework for research? My topic is “use of social networking sites and its influence on employee performance” (Non-teaching staff in public universities) My objective are:
    1.To find out social networking sites used by the employees
    2.To assess the purposes social networking sites are used for
    3.To identify the influence of social networking sites on employee performance
    4.To find out if there are organizational policies put in place to control the use of social networking sites

    • Avatar Shruti Datt 2 years & 4 months ago

      Dear Noel,
      I would suggest that you conduct empirical review on the variables/factors are influenced by use of social networking sites on employee performance. These factors could be skills, knowledge, productivity, and motivation. These can be your independent variables and use of social networking sites can be your dependent variable.

      • Avatar charlene abarquez 1 year ago

        can you help me develop my conceptual framework i’m having a hard time doing it.It is all about The Lived Experience of Acolyte Students in Saint Paul University Dumaguete for the school year 2018-2019.
        which aims to know the influences in joining the acolyte,the benefits they can get,how did it it affect to their academic performance

  4. Avatar sher 2 years & 1 month ago

    hey, i need help establishing a conceptual frame work that fits with my research topic “Factors contribute to crime and violence in rural high schools”

  5. Avatar GIDEON 2 years ago

    Please how do i write a conceptual framework for the topic “Patients perception on lower limb prosthetic device”?, hwo wo determine the variables and write about it

    • Avatar William Shakespeare 1 year & 9 months ago

      For example, in the first phenomenon of climate change, temperature (independent variable) may influence sea level (dependent variable). Increased temperature will cause expansion of water in the sea. Thus, sea level rise on a global scale may occur. In the second phenomenon, i.e., crime and violence in the streets, the independent variable may be the number of law enforcers and the dependent variable is the number of robberies.

  6. Avatar glosh 1 year & 8 months ago

    how do i write a conceptual framework about ‘reasons for prevalence of domestic violence’
    some of my variables include government efforts for example through girl child education

  7. Avatar John 1 year & 6 months ago

    I am a PG student studying Development Practice. I need your assistance to develop a conceptual framework for my research? My topic is “effect of access to rural finance on growth and sustainability of rural micro and small scale enterprises”. My objectives are:
    1.To assess the effect of access to finance on the rural MSEs
    2. To examine the Financial Institutions’ terms and conditions and timelines of their loan processes
    3. To identify factors affecting the performances and capacities of the financial institutions
    4. To identify the factors affecting the growth and sustainability of the rural MSEs

  8. Avatar Yohanis 1 year & 6 months ago

    Hello I am an Msc student and I need your help about how to write a short proposal concerning willingness to pay for the conservation of natural forest

  9. Avatar Gideon 1 year ago

    Please how do I build a conceptual framework for the topic: Investigating Academic Learning Time on Practical Physical Education lessons.

  10. Avatar Gebregirgis Redae 1 year ago

    Dear Shruti Datt .Thank you for your sgaring of the material. I ma GIGI. I need your help how to describe the scope and limitations of thesis conceptually.

    kind regards,

  11. Avatar richelle mea 1 year & 5 months ago

    hallo , how do i write conceptual framework for the topic : problems encountered by the students in school ….? thanks

  12. Avatar Benjamin David Oyet 1 year & 4 months ago

    hello friends;
    im also in the verge of developing a conceptual framework for, data quality management and successful implementation of health system strengthening. can we go about the conceptual framework together? who has an input?

  13. Avatar Juderic 1 year & 4 months ago

    How can I develop conceptual framework for this thesis topic. Characterization of Bacterial Species and antimicrobial susceptibility pattern in infectious wounds.

    • Avatar Ekta Goel 11 months & 1 week ago

      We can surely assist you in making a conceptual framework on this topic but you will need to provide more info.

  14. Avatar Joshua 1 year & 3 months ago

    I am an undergraduate student working on my final year project,could you please help me develop a conceptual framework on causes of post-harvest losses in tea?

    • Avatar Ekta Goel 11 months & 1 week ago

      Yes, we can assist you in framing a conceptual framework on this topic.

  15. Avatar Babette Curson 1 year ago

    this site is my breathing in, rattling excellent design and perfect content material.

    • Avatar Ekta Goel 11 months & 1 week ago

      Thank you. We are glad that we are able to help you.

  16. Avatar Daniel 11 months & 2 weeks ago

    hallow iam a BSc student please help me build a conceptual framework for this topic “An assessment of how Agility can be used as a competitive tool in fast food outlets”

    • Avatar Ekta Goel 11 months & 1 week ago

      This article explains how to develop a conceptual framework. In reference to your subject, please provide us your data.

  17. Avatar kalpana 11 months & 1 week ago

    plss let me know how to write my conceptual frame work for my desertation assess knowledge on selfi syndrome on adolesence

    • Avatar Ekta Goel 11 months & 1 week ago

      Yes, we can assist you in framing a conceptual framework on this topic.

  18. Avatar mashair adam 1 month ago

    Dear Priya Chetty,
    I business management student. I need some help to develop my conceptual Framework. I have the key concepts, variables dependent and independent and the outcomes but I don’t know how to wite the relationship in an academic way and good flow.