Literature Review: Developing a framework


I am in the process of writing my Literature Review, and I have found some difficulty locating relevant literature.

A large body of work exists on the technical aspects e.g. How to structure an argument, how to use Academic databases like Web of Knowledge, the Sci Verse Hub etc.

A large body of work also goes through how to 'systematically review articles. This ranges from a Cochrane style review, through to more qualitative stances that do not see the need for a separate literature review.

What I need, and what seems to be missing is:

1. Any literature on how to combine literatures from two or more fields, in order to develop a framework.
2. Any resource that clearly outlines the difference between a Conceptual framework, Theoretical framework, and an Analytical framework.

I would be grateful for any suggestions on solving these issues. The first is my primary area of concern. I have looked at Hart, Seale, Silverman and the usual suspects for my area (Qualitative social sciences). I have also been on the usual Twitter PhD Forum and PhD Chat threads, and assorted academic blogs. I have discussed this with peers and my supervisor. I have even started looking through completed theses to plough the bibliographies. Still, there is nothing.

I have reviewed literature in the two disciplinary areas, and have themes that run through the review, but still I am at a loss here in developing a framework.


I can't help, but I am pushing your post back to the top in the hope that someone else can!


what exactly is ur research on?

r u trying to develop a framework? or r u trying to analyze the process of developing a framework?

it's kinda hard to find any literature on how to combine articles in developing a framework because the approach can vary too much.
still, i've found a practitioner's guide on the process of developing a framework based on system thinking, concept mapping and bayesian maths.

from my own experience, u can develop a framework using the following steps :

1. define clearly the purpose or goal of the framework
2. ascertain the main ideas required to enable the framework
3. develop a *sketch* ie rough outline on how the ideas might interact
4. find articles that ..
a) support the need of these ideas and how each would contribute to the purpose
b) justify the interaction between them and how they can work together in reaching the goal
c) captures a portion of ur initial sketch to understand the collective impact
5. refine ur sketch into a formal framework based on 4.
6. test the framework with a simple proof of concept to illustrate its usability

i think u can find the differences between conceptual, theoretical and analytical frameworks in textbooks for postgraduate research.
i've seen it before, though i cant recall which book precisely.

hope it helps. :)


Reenie, thanks for putting my post back to the top.

Pikirkool, I found a useful thread on Twitter: which had a link to useful article by Lesham & Trafford:

I read through the article you sent the link to, which I am very grateful for, but the framework is very different - I'm tying an existing theoretical field from human geography with a sociology of action. This means I set up the Lit. search based on the subject-matter, had the articles from that, put them into different categories. After assessing that there is massive gap in research on my area, I realised that I needed some form of conceptual entry that would not direct (over sensitise) my data collection and analysis (Grounded Theory).

Turning to a sociology of action, I found that key themes exist in both sets of literature. So my approach so far has been in a different order than yours. I have discussed the existing field of literature of the technology I am researching, I have defined the gap that exists in current research (and outline the historical reason why this gap exists) - I call this 'Part A'. On the other hand, I have reviewed literature on a sociology of action/social theory of social order (Bourdieu/de Certeau), outlining the ontic and epistemic assumptions I make. I cal this 'Part B'. I can see the themes that run-through both sets of literature. What I am struggling with is linking Part A to Part B. To do that, I wanted to develop a framework.

From various discussion online/offline, there seems to be a lack of literature on this, so I guess it will just be an intro, Part A, a bridge paragraph, Part B, a concluding paragraph!


When I made my later post I hadn't noticed that you were also trying to tackle a similar problem. I agree the Salford website article about the conceptual framework is helpful. It can be difficult to translate it to your exact situation though can't it. I think I have the reasons in my head why I chose the concepts I did and constructed the research in that way, but trying to make it into a framework when I am not totally familiar with what a framework should look like is hard.


the paper from salford explained the elements that are relevant to the construction of a framework. the practitioner's paper provided a process on how to build it.

now, a framework has to be built in stages. seldom do people get it right the first time.

as such, it would be best to start with a sketch. then, iteratively refine the informal sketch into something worthy for ur thesis.
using a concept map is a great way to do this. it allows u to see the relevant concepts and how they are related to one another.

let me demonstrate this point with a simple example.

build a conceptual framework on how people cooperate.

RELEVANT IDEAS? goal, actors, task, resources, time
actors must share the same goal.
actors divide task among each other.
actors use resources to complete task.
task depends on time. complex tasks take longer time. simple tasks require less.

RELEVANT IDEAS? goal, actors, task, resources, time.
LIMITATION OF PREVIOUS VERSION? coordination of task wasn't mentioned.
actors must share the same goal.
actors divide task among each other.
actors use resources to complete task.
task depends on time. complex tasks take longer time. simple tasks require less.

task must be coordinated between actors. certain tasks can be done in parallel, some must be done in sequence.
add 'coordination' to RELEVANT IDEAS.

(the process goes on from version V1.1 to VM.N until the conceptual framework is fortified enough for the thesis.)

i think building a framework is quite challenging to some people because they expect the structure to be sound initially.
that's gonna be tough. unless u have precognition. :)


Pikirkool: Thanks, that's a useful breakdown of the iterative process involved.

Nearlyfinished: I agree, it really is!

You guys have been really useful to get me started, but I just wanted to note, someone I follow (in thee RSS/Twitter kind of way, not the creepy-stalker kind). They are doing a step-by-step process of developing a Literature Review. So far they have done a Literature Search and sorting the Literature into a workable load. I am waiting until the Framework part!


WOW great blog by pat thomson! she's using verbal protocol analysis to accentuate her thought processes.

she's employing the bottom-up approach to develop the framework.
idea => literature review => framework

very impressive groundwork. her analysis is rather extensive.

still, i reckon it's gonna be time consuming. doing my phd part time, won't have the time to do it that way tho.

hope to see her come up with the framework soon!


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