Conceptual framework - please help!!!


I'm doing my Masters dissertation at the moment and I really need some help! I'm aiming for a distinction as that is what all my other grades are and I'm applying to do my PhD. My supervisor said that to guarantee a distinction, using a conceptual framework would be the best way (obviously done well) but that so far I don't have one. I tried to get to the bottom of what this means and how I could improve my work but didn't really get anywhere.

Can anyone help me...what is a conceptual framework? How do I build that into my work?

I'm really nervous as I find out if I have an interview for my PhD soon and my supervisor said they might ask me about this in interview too but I don't have a clue!

Thanks in advance!


Hi Jennypenny!

It is good that you are aiming high for your Masters and it is definitely going to benefit you :) Conceptual framework varies across disciplines. For choosing Conceptual framework, I would say, after doing the initial web search (there is an ample amt of useful as well as confusing material on web) you need to read the PhD thesis or Master thesis closely related to your study. Searching past thread in this forum would also help you. Bear in mind that it is not an easy task to select the particular framework but it is very essential as it guides your whole research. Some approaches are stingy and goes well with only particular set of methods and therefore you need to be careful. However as it is for Masters thesis I would not go into too much detail. But if you are going to include particular framework then it is imperative to conceive the idea thoroughly. Some frameworks are the combination of various concepts. For example, in Sociology, if you are studying inequality - you would like to include Bourdieu's concept of Habitués, Marx's conflict theory as well as Freire''s banking concept.

To sum it up it largely depends on what is your discipline and what are you looking at. At this point in my opinion, the best deal is to find out what others have followed and taking up the similar framework that aligns with your central argument. I would also suggest to discuss this in detail with your Supervisor. As he has advised you already I think you are in better position.

Good Luck :)


Thanks siliverlining!

I'd looked online but as you say there's a lot of material about it but some of it is confusing/conflicting. The idea of using a conceptual framework is completely new to me and my supervisor wasn't starting from basics, if you know what I mean. There's so much work out there on my topic that it should be easy to find sources but it's just knowing exactly how to go about it. I'm doing my masters in town planning and my focus is on the challenges practitioners face when engaging communities. I'll have a look at past threads too.



Look at Elinor Ostrom. Co-production. Used in government/public engagement.

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Quote From wowzers:
Look at Elinor Ostrom. Co-production. Used in government/public engagement.

Are you Marxist?


I suggested it because I don't know how you could discuss planning, government and public engagement without including her. See 'Governing the Commons' etc and because her work on co-production has been taken on by government as means to improve public services in housing, health and most recently education. It's one of those that's gone from academic theorising to government catch phrase, much like 'community of Practice (Etienne Wenger), which might also be useful.


Thanks for the advice wowzers. This idea of a conceptual framework is totally new to me but it's something I need to get my head around very quickly!


Your conceptual framework will be how you frame and approach your your problem, design the tools, represent and analyse your data in seeking answers to your questions. E.g. Is it quantitative (numbers, statistics, graphs, you can quantify interview data also) or qualitative (narratives, stories, interviews, pictures). Is it reductionist (like a science experiment) or constructionist (that what you are viewing is socially derived/constructed). What are the assumptions and belief systems that go with those ways of thinking and working - you may come across epistemology and ontology but at this level you shouldn't need to word it around that I shouldn't think.
E.g. Obesity
(1). Quantitative reductionist approach. I think obesity is caused by a gene. I'll study 1000 patients at the hospital, weigh them over a period of time and test for a specific gene in the lab. I'll analyse the data as numbers and statistics of how many people with that gene are obese. I'll present my data as graphs and tables
(2) Qualitative constructionist approach.I think obesity is a social problem. I'll interview 30 people about their thoughts about obesity and how things happening in their life affect their eating. Half will be obese. half won't. I'll look at personal stories and analyse for general themes in those stories. I'll present the data as narrative quotes.

Good luck