This article explains the Conceptual Framework, also called a Conceptual Model in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful problem solving and analytic tool.
What is a Conceptual Framework?
A Conceptual framework is a visual representation that helps to illustrate the expected relationship between cause and effect in a financial context. It is also called a Conceptual Model or research model. Different variables and the assumed relationships between those variables are included in the model and reflect the expectations.
A Conceptual Framework is a tool that is used before to a study. This makes a Conceptual Framework an analytical tool. It is used to make conceptual distinctions and bring together different ideas. Strong Conceptual Frameworks lead to actual realisation of the intended objective.
Origin of the Conceptual Framework
A Conceptual Framework originates in the financial reporting of accountancy. This is a default setting for practical problems to be tested objectively. Thus, in a Conceptual Framework, fundamental financial issues are dealt with, including ‘what useful features does the accounting need’, ‘which basic elements are we dealing with (assets, liabilities, equity, etc.)’ and ‘what variables are needed for the preparation of the financial statements’.
In a Conceptual Model, the relationships are clearly defined between the different variables and their relationship to each other. Typically, the model is prepared before actual research takes place.
In addition, the type of research determines whether it is wise and useful to work with a Conceptual Framework. In testing research, the use of a Conceptual Framework is customary. Based on hypotheses, a certain idea can be shown. The basis of testing research is to demonstrate the cause-effect relationship, which is also reflected in the Conceptual Framework. In testing research, one works with specific expectations about cause and effect relationships, which are displayed in the schematic model.
Nevertheless, the model is also suitable for exploratory research. This often consists of broadly defined concepts instead of specifically defined variables. In this type of research, the specific relationships are identified afterwards and the variables are directly measurable and formulated fairly concretely.
Conceptual Framework example and variables
In order to demonstrate the cause and effect relationship well, it is important to first chart the expectations within the Conceptual Framework and to divide the cause-effect relationship into variables. In this context, the variables are the characteristics that summarise the cause-and-effect relationship.
Suppose it is important for a fashion chain to run more sales through their online shop. A number of variables come together n the Conceptual Model: 20% more sales through the online shop, weekly Facebook promotions, the opportunity to get a 10% discount on the purchase within 24 hours after a visit and an improved appearance which allows you to see the clothes from various angles in the online shop.
In case of the cause-effect relationship, we now deal with two types of variables: the independent variables (Facebook promotion, 10% discount and improved appearance) and the dependent variable (20% more revenue). The latter dependent variable (result) is determined by the independent variables (causes). The characteristics can influence each other and be directly related to each other. If the online shop has improved its appearance, visitors will spend more time looking for clothes and they will undoubtedly also see the offer to get 10% off now, and via Facebook, visitors will be drawn to the online shop.
The only discussion that can arise is which unit can best be chosen to measure the variables. Also, conceptual questions arise, such as “what is meant by Facebook promotion”. To overcome this, it is suggested to make good and clear agreements in advance.
What does it look like?
In fact, the Conceptual Framework is a representation of a problem statement / research question. It also looks pretty simple. Once the independent and dependent variables have been determined, a Conceptual Framework can be started:
- Frameworks – The dependent and independent variables are drawn up in the frames.
- Arrows – the arrows between two concepts indicate that there is a causal link; where the arrow comes from influences where the arrow points to.
- Lines – where a relationship (correlation) between 2 variables is expected, but no connection, a line is used.
Conceptual Framework Advantages
Working with a Conceptual Model has various advantages. First, the user is “forced” to think carefully about the variables and give them precise descriptions. In addition, the guidelines help you to reach a final result. The standards that are determined in advance will be consistent with this framework, so that everyone who has the variables knows exactly what is expected.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Are you using a Conceptual Framework in research or problem solving? Can you apply the Conceptual Model in today’s modern business companies? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for problem analysis and researching?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Gartner, W. B. (1985). A conceptual framework for describing the phenomenon of new venture creation. Academy of management review, 10(4), 696-706.
- Seuring, S., & Müller, M. (2008). From a literature review to a conceptual framework for sustainable supply chain management. Journal of cleaner production, 16(15), 1699-1710.
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