How to make a conceptual framework for a thesis

Updated July 20, 2017

Graphically diagramming your topic or problem in your thesis is called a conceptual framework. A conceptual framework for a thesis acts as a visual outline to represent your concept or research idea -- the way you shape it together. This framework expands upon the research problem as it associates to pertinent literature research. Part of your conceptual framework offers a synopsis of your study's main points. The diagram shows the central factors influencing the relationship of the primary variables/elements or constructs -- and how all relate to your hypothesis. After reading your field's research literature you must show what theories explain and backup the relationship among variables/elements.

Explore the key variables/elements in regards to contextual factors and relationships related to your thesis.

Develop the research questions. For example: How do employee incentives affect employee motivation? What factors do employers and employees think cause a lack of communication?

Create a graphic diagram of the problem or topic that specifically defines the variables/elements precisely, including how they relate to each other. Variables/elements can be independent (presumed cause), dependent (presumed effect) and intervening (other variables/elements affecting the outcome of the independent variable/element). Show the association of those key variables/elements with the central factors that influence the variables/elements and the relationships. Draw these associations by connecting them with arrows.

Describe and graphically diagram the research questions' central ideas or constructs in how you approach the problem.

Discuss and illustrate graphically the key variables/elements related to the problem and conceptualised relationships among key variables/elements.

Identify the key contextual factors graphically in your diagram.

Depict in your diagram scheme graphically how existing research is relevant to your topic or problem.

Inspect that all of your research aligns consistently with the relationships, variables/elements and contextual factors you describe in the conceptual framework of your thesis. If you alter your conceptual framework, review and revise all the parts of the visual diagram as needed to align your design.

Backup the graphically illustrated discussion of your thesis with thorough and solid peer-reviewed references.

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