# *Formulating a Conceptual Framework from Scientific Research

"Not every study is based on a theory or conceptual model, but every study has a framework."

(Polit & Hungler, 1999)

A framework can also assist researchers in determining the best technique and methodologies to use in their research endeavours. In technical terms, a research framework clearly displays the study plan's structure and assists the researcher in developing suitable research questions. It is a sketch or paradigm that depicts the issue to be investigated, the variables and background, and how they connect to or impact one another. The research framework is divided into two types: conceptual and theoretical.

**A conceptual framework is a researcher's idea of approaching the research topic.** This is evident in the theoretical framework of a much larger resolution scale. It describes your study's significant variables and how they are related. It also describes the entire study's input, procedure, and result. It will educate your readers about the findings of your investigation. The research paradigm is another name for the conceptual framework since it is created before gathering data and is frequently depicted visually. As a result, before you begin collecting data, you should create a conceptual framework by following the research flow and stages below.

**Research Flow and Stages Solutions **

Creating an outstanding conceptual framework can be completed by reporting it through thesis writing and oral defence as the last stages if the previous stages yield positive outcomes. Conversely, stages 3 to 8 must be rechecked for accuracy and objectivity. Below are the research flow and respective stages.

Research area conceptualisation

Establish the broad area of study interest.

Review the literature.

Ask fundamental questions.

Grasp what research has previously been done on this topic.

Contribute to it.

Research purpose and objectives identification

Identify the research purpose and objectives.

Problem definition

Define the problem statement.

Research design

Ensure your thesis contributes to and fills a knowledge gap.

Conceptual framework construction

Decide on a research topic.

Introduce and clarify the topic.

Construct the conceptual or research study.

Form the flow charts or mind maps.

Literature review

Conduct the literature review.

Analyse the link between the particular factors described in the literature.

Theoretical framework formulation

Identify variables.

Characterise and explain relationships.

Propose probable relationships between rising variables.

Formulate a theoretical framework.

Map out or depict the theoretical strands in some diagrammatic format.

Hypothesis formation

Form the hypotheses.

Data collection, analyses, and interpretation

Conduct deductively by referring back to the objectives, research questions or hypotheses.

Are research objectives achieved?

Are research questions answered? or

Are hypotheses substantiated?

Yes (Continue to the next stage.)

No (Reconsider stages 3 to 8)

Analyse results in refining and consolidating new and uncertain variables into observable constructs relevant to the research topic.

Thesis writing

Oral defence

**Fundamental Framework Elements**

Understanding what a variable means and the various types of variables is critical since a framework provides the conceptual foundation for further research. A sound framework identifies the significant variables in the context that are relevant to the problem statement. It objectively describes the relationships between these variables. The links between the independent, dependent, moderating, and mediating variables are highlighted if appropriate.

The elaboration of a framework's variables covers the questions of why or how we anticipate certain interactions to exist and the type and direction of the correlations among the variables of interest. A schematic illustration of the conceptual model given in the framework will also assist the reader in visualising the linkages of ideas. Any framework should include the following five fundamental elements.

**Variables**should be identified, explicitly stated, and defined.A

**discussion**should explain how the relationships among the variables exist and are connected to one another.This should be done for the major

**relationships**that are**hypothesised**to exist among the variables.The

**type**and**directional relationships**among the variables can be hypothesised based on past study findings.In that case, there should be an indicator in the discussion as to whether the relationships would be

**positive**or**negative**.There should be a clear

**explanation**for why these associations are**expected**to occur.Previous study

**findings**might be used to support the claims.The framework should be depicted

**schematically**so the reader can see and understand the postulated relationships.

**The Framework Variables**

Variables are any elements that can have different or varying values. Variables are classified into two types: **quantitative** and **qualitative**. **Exact (discrete)** or **changing (continuous)** values can be assigned to quantitative variables. Exam results, people's weight, and rope length are all examples of quantitative variables. Gender, ethnicity, and marital status are examples of qualitative variables. Variables are further classified into **dependent**,** independent**,** moderating**,** **and **mediating variables**.

**1. Dependent/Criterion Variable**

The dependent variable is the variable of **primary interest** to the researcher. The researcher's goal is to understand and describe the dependent variable, explain its variability, or predict it. In other words, the main variable is a viable factor for the investigation.

Through the analysis of the dependent variable (that is, finding what variables influence it), it is possible to find **answers** to the **problem**. For example, the manager of a company is interested to know the level of job satisfaction of employees in his company. Because satisfaction among employees can vary from very dissatisfied to very satisfied. thus job satisfaction is the main factor or interest to the manager; thus, it is the dependent variable.

**2. Independent/Predictor Variable**

An independent variable is one that **influences** the dependent variable in either a **positive** or a **negative** way. That is, when the independent variable is present, the dependent variable is also present. With a variable unit of increase in the independent variable, there is an increase in the dependent variable also. In other words, the variance depends on the independent variable that accounts for the dependent variable. The relationship between the independent (X) and dependent (Y) variables is illustrated in a schematic diagram as follows:

Why or how does X influence Y? This elucidates why or how an independent variable influences a dependent variable. The **total effect** is the relationship between X and Y, which is the **bivariate regression** or **Pearson correlation** between X and Y. For example, management may assume that a pleasant attitude toward work and adequate training can boost workers' productivity. The dependent variable in this scenario is production level, whereas the independent variables are attitude and training. This is because a pleasant attitude toward work and adequate training may undoubtedly impact workers' productivity levels.

**3. Moderating Variable**

A moderating variable is one that has a considerable **conditional impact** on the connection between the independent variable and the dependent variable. In other words, including a third variable (the moderating variable) alters the initial connection between the independent and dependent variables. The relationship between the dependent (Y), independent (X) and moderating (Z) variables is illustrated in a schematic diagram as follows:

The moderator, Z, alters the connection between X and Y. It impacts the **intensity** and **direction** of X and Y's connection. Thus, the influence of X on Y might vary depending on Z. The **moderator effect** is represented by the interaction term, which may be calculated by multiplying the independent variable by the moderator (X*Z). Use hierarchical multiple regression analysis to enter the two independent variables (X and Z) in Step 1, the interaction term in Step 2, and Y as the dependent variable.

**4. Mediating Variable**

A mediator mediates the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. The **indirect effect** happens when the independent variable affects a mediator, which causes the mediator to affect the dependent variable. The direct impact is the connection between the independent and dependent variables in the presence of a mediator. The **mediator effect** happens when there is a statistically significant indirect impact and the direct effect is less than the overall effect.

In the analysis, the **bivariate correlations** between X and Z and the **correlations** between Z and Y are highlighted. Hence, **multiple regression** is utilised to determine the **direct** and **indirect** effects, with X and Z as independent variables and Y as the dependent variable. An explanation of why the variables act as mediators should be provided.

A mediator is a plausible **explanation** while a moderator is an **influencer** to the extent of the effect of X on Y. In theory, the mediator is caused by the independent variable; conversely, no directional link is assumed between the independent variable and a moderator. Mediation analyses are used to explain relationships while moderation analyses are to understand what variables affect the strength and direction of a relationship. If there are any moderating variables, it explains how and what particular connections they would moderate.

**Knowledge Check**

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**References**

Chooi, C. Y. (2020). *Mediation versus moderation: What's the difference?* Psychdrop. https://psychdrop.com/2020/04/05/mediation-versus-moderation-whats-the-difference

Kor, L. K. & Teoh, S. H. (2009). *From literature review to developing a conceptual framework and to journal writing. *McGraw-Hill.

Zamalia Mahmud. (2008). *Handbook of research methodology: A simplified version.* University Publication Centre.