Any rigorous investigation on a subject requires a systematization and structuring of some basic concepts. We should not only know what one wants to research, but it is necessary to know the hypotheses, methods and theories that already exist about the object of study . In this sense, the conceptual framework refers to a coherent order of all aspects that are part of an investigation.
Clarification of some concepts
When researching a subject with scientific criteria, it is necessary for the researcher to have a logical and rational strategy for what he is going to investigate. Any study must start from a general research framework and that fits within a given scientific theory, thus, every theory is, despite redundancy, a theoretical basis or a set of ideas related to each other in a coherent way.
Within this theoretical basis as a general idea, there is a path to follow, that is, a determined strategy and this path or strategy is the conceptual framework. In other words, the conceptual framework is the specific procedure of an investigation within a theoretical basis (in certain occasions the referential framework is used as a concept equivalent to the conceptual framework).
The path in an investigation and the role of the conceptual framework
Let’s imagine that a historian decides to study a period of his country’s recent history. The first thing to be done is to know the studies already carried out on the subject in question, to investigate what is important, as it can serve as guidance and bibliographic sources.
Next, the researcher must know the general theoretical bases that fit the chosen theme (the theoretical bases of an investigation must locate the object of study and establish a relationship between the theory and what is being studied). Finally, in the conceptual framework, the researcher establishes in an orderly manner the basic terms that guide his study (the concept of conceptual framework cannot be confused with an explanatory glossary).
It should be specified that a conceptual framework is usually recorded in an explanatory map or in a scheme where the main ideas are related to each other. In this way, we have a condensed view of the research itself and its essential elements.
The conceptual framework is a theoretical tool that allows the investigator to design his strategy in a joint and coherent way. At the same time, the conceptual framework transmitted in a scheme allows the observer to have a global conception of a subject.