Difference Between Conceptual and Theoretical Framework

Conceptual vs Theoretical Framework

All those involved in conducting a research inevitably face the problem of choosing the right framework to proceed and to remain confined within it. There are both conceptual as well as theoretical frameworks that are equally popular. Though there are similarities, there are differences in approach and style that confuse many. This article attempts to find out these differences to enable students to finalize an approach that better suits their requirements.

Theoretical framework is based upon theories that have already been tested. These are theories that are the result of painstaking research conducted earlier by other investigators. Theoretical framework is broader in scope and dimension. It however involves broad generalizations that reflect relationship between things in a phenomenon. Conceptual framework differs from theoretical framework in that it provides the direction that is missing in theoretical framework. Also called research paradigm, conceptual framework makes things easier by delineating the input as well as output of the research project. One gets to know the variables that need to be tested in a conceptual framework.

Theoretical framework is like a treasure inside a room and you are given the key to the door. Afterwards, you are left on your own as to how you interpret and what you finally discover from the room. In sharp contrast, conceptual framework provides you with a readymade mold in which you pour all your data and it gives back the findings.

Both frameworks are popular and it ultimately boils down to personal preferences as well as aptitude to choose the framework for research. For those who are a bit more inquisitive and daring, theoretical framework is more suitable while those who need direction to conduct their research go for conceptual framework to base their research upon.