Friday, March 4, 2016

Conceptual Frameworks in Research

One of the challenges that I have observed doctoral students facing is how to craft a conceptual framework to guide the research. I guess we should begin by talking about this: What exactly is a conceptual framework?

Perhaps the clearest definition comes from the classic Miles & Huberman (1994) who define it as a written or visual product that explains what is to be studied (factors, concepts, variables), and how these relate to one another.  (The classic text is now in its third edition, co-authored/updated by Saldana)

Maxwell (2013) expands that idea further, by indicating that it includes the ideas and beliefs that the researcher holds about what is being studied, whether those ideas are written down or merely assumptive. Read more from Maxwell in chapter 3 that is apparently freely available on the web from his book Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach"

My favorite resource in understanding conceptual frameworks and how they guide research is Ravitch and Riggan's (2012) "Reason and Rigor", where they demonstrate the use not just in that introductory chapter of a dissertation or section of an article, but more so that conceptual frameworks impact the entire study.

Professor Marcus Weaver-Hightower of the University of North Dakota has a useful youtube video that further explains how conceptual frameworks should interact with the researcher's entire design, using Ravitch and Riggan's work as a source.

I hope you find this useful as you design your research. Whether your work is qualitative or quantitative, it is important to be clear about the conceptual framework that guides the entire enterprise.