Theoretical vs. Conceptual Framework

Theoretical vs. Conceptual Framework

Generally speaking, theories used in academic research are a collection of ideas that can be used to explain things that happened in the past, to describe things that are happening right now, and to predict things that may happen in the future.

Theoretical Framework is a well known theory that can be used:

  • as a lens through which a researcher views the topic (qualitative study)
  • deductively; to test the theory in a specific circumstance (quantitative study)
  • inductively; as an emerging pattern (mixed methods)

In a quantitative study; theoretical framework is used to make the hypothesis or prediction of the outcome of the study. The purpose is to see if that theory “applies” in a specific situation and circumstance. The quantitative data will either further support the theory or it won’t.

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Picking a Dissertation Topic is like Choosing a Wedding Dress

Finding a dissertation topic is like choosing a wedding dress. For some, she knew all along what she wanted, and its the dress she sticks with. For others, she has a general idea of what she wants, but waits for the ah-ha moment of when trying on dresses. She looks tirelessly for the dress that matches what she had envisioned. She goes to every store, tries on every dress, and then one day, looks in the mirror and say, “YES! I found it!”

How picking a dissertation topic is like choosing a wedding dress.

Some have the dress picked out, but when she gets to the store, the dress is already taken by someone else. So crushed….she moves on and searches for another dress, but none seem to measure up to the “dream dress” she had hoped for (and she seems to always be bitter about that).

For others, nothing she tries on seems to be just right. So she keeps looking. She narrows it down to several dresses that would “work” but receives no gut response about it being “the one.”  Eventually, a dress is picked for one reason or another (cost, looks nice, mom likes its, easiest to alter…etc). Essentially, the dress works, and gets her down the isle wearing white.

While I won’t dissect the entire analogy for you (you are–after all– PhD students), I will say; do not wait for the ah-ha moment regarding your dissertation topic. It may never happen and you’ll still be ABD. Do the best with what interests you and what will allow you to finish. While I’m all about taking time to determine good fit for your dissertation topic, you need to get started in order to finish. Good luck!

Would love to hear how your “dress story” compares with how you find your dissertation topic!

~Dr. Darci