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, be it in the scientific area or in the humanistic area. Thus it is 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 work 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.
  • Support and justify the questions that are asked 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 solve 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 question or state of the art, that is, the handling of the relevant background.
  • Relatively exposes the background and theories selected for interpretation.
  • It has an analytical perspective.
  • It develops from the general to the particular.

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 discussed;
  • Theoretical starting bases for approaching the topic;
  • Legal basis (if applicable);
  • Historical framework (if applicable)
  • Research variables.

See also:

  • Parts of a thesis.
  • Theoretical framework.
  • Concept map.

How to make a conceptual framework

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

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

Example of conceptual or theoretical framework

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


  • Representation and image
  • So the story began
  • The investiture of representation: myth and its promoters
  • The representation of the divine in the Judeo-Christian tradition
  • After the evangelists
  • Representation in theater and cinema
  • Final thoughts

We will quote a fragment as an example of 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), aesthetic representation The myth implies the possibility of systematizing the answers to the fundamental questions of life; Therefore, it embodies the possibility of instituting meaning within the framework of a consensus, or better, it embodies meaning by giving order and coherence to the “founding story” that acquires, in itself, an aesthetic dimension. It is about understanding what this discourse about the world –myth / knowledge– is and what it means about the group’s history –myth / History– (MACHADO and PAGEAUX, 2001: 103).

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


Leave a Comment