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Conceptual Framework in Qualitative Research

A conceptual framework may not be necessary for your thesis or dissertation but it is certainly important.

Don’t think that just because it isn’t included in the list of submittals, you don’t have to design a conceptual framework for your dissertation. A framework will provide a road map for your dissertation’s investigative process which will help you in all the aspects of your research. It is especially important for a qualitative research because it deals with subjective data and students have a habit of straying away from the topic.

But before we tell you more on conceptual framework in qualitative research, let us see what a conceptual framework really is?

A conceptual framework explains graphically, or in narrative form, the key factors, concepts or variables to be studied and the presumed relationship among them

When should you design a qualitative conceptual framework? 
You need a qualitative framework when

  • the research problem is an issue of theoretical or practical interest
  • the paradigm of the study covers philosophical assumptions about the nature of the world and how we understand it
  • The literature review covers a critical and evaluative review of the thoughts and experiences of others.

Here, conceptual framework develops as participants’ views and issues are gathered and analyzed. Normally qualitative work is described as starting from an inductive position, seeking to build up an assumption, with the theoretical framework being ‘emergent’, because existing theories might mislead. 

What inputs are needed to develop your conceptual framework?
Previous Knowledge

This includes previous knowledge of the student and the supervisor. Here, personal experience and technical knowledge especially play important role.

Literature Review

A collection of prior researches and studies play an essential role in guiding the researcher. The past theories can give an example of the methodologies and techniques used and the outcomes that were achieved through that. A literature review is one of the best sources to guide you along your research path and benefit in the framework of the study.

What is the process of the framework design?

  • Start with the key words in your research topic. Identify the key words used in the theme and write them on a plain sheet of paper
  • Then list things key things from each of the previous research combined through your literature review. Also list the method, technique used and outcome achieved
  • Now, based on the review above, select the methodology that you will adopt for your research and the technique that you will use
  • Lastly, state the outcome that you are presuming

Some ways through which you can design your framework are as follows

  • flow charts
  • tree diagrams
  • mind maps
  • soft systems

So, there you have all the information you need to develop your qualitative research conceptual framework.

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