Dr Babak Taheri is an Associate Professor in Marketing and Programmes Director in MSc International Marketing Management pathways at Heriot-Watt University. He has extensive experience in quantitative studies including: scale development and scale validation, structural equation modelling (SEM), path analysis using partial least squares (PLS), experimental design and intervention, multiple regression, testing for mediation and moderation).


  1. Typically, bringing together concepts from various existing theories is generally associated with theory building, rather than theory testing. Basically, a conceptual framework explains narratively and/or graphically the main concepts and the hypothesised or proposed relationship among such concepts. As such, it is extremely important.
  2. The conceptual framework can fit in both quantitative and qualitative research. In a quantitative study, you really want to get down to variables because you want to measure things and do some quantitative work with them. In a qualitative study, you tend to stay within a conceptual level. However, you should carefully define some research terms including research problem, paradigm, aim and objectives and literature review at the beginning of your study. If you do a good job on these, then you will able to develop your conceptual framework.
  3. A quantitative conceptual framework assists our understanding of the causal or correlational patterns of interconnections across ideas, observations, concepts and other parts of experience. Basically, it is about how reality works. This allows you to make predictions about how A is related to B. This in turn will help you to make choices about behaviours or experiences on the basis of what you think those relationships are.
  4. In developing a conceptual framework, you should do a good critical literature review. Normally, there are three main parts of critical literature review including: ‘related theory’ (i.e. concepts and/or relationships that are used to characterise the world), ‘related research’ (i.e. how other researchers have tackled similar problems) and ‘other theory’ (i.e. lines of research and theory that not directly relevant used). This is the foundation of developing a conceptual framework.
  5. You should look at existing conceptual frameworks, however you should provide extra information to your readers about why your developed framework fits well in your study. Here, you take one key concept, idea or term at a time and brainstorm all the other things that might be linked and then go back and select (based on a good justification) those that seem most appropriate.
  6. You develop your conceptual framework because existing theory is insufficient for your study. Remember! Theories are purposely created and formulated, but never discovered; they can be tested but never proven. You may deduce theories and concepts for your conceptual framework.
  7. Developing a conceptual framework takes time and a number of iterations. However, please have patience and focus on the content and the inter-relationships between concepts/constructs.
  8. Normally, there are two main types of conceptual framework. Based on the nature of study, you may set out the stages through which an action moves from beginning to conclusion (i.e. answering the how question) or you can set out the variables and possible relationships between them in order to answer the why question. So, you should make a decision in beginning about your choice.
  9. There are two main potential limitations of any given conceptual framework. Your framework can be influenced by the experience and knowledge of the individual (i.e. initial bias). Your developed conceptual framework may result in some concepts being given prominence and others being ignored (i.e. ongoing bias). Therefore, you should revisit your conceptual framework several times during the study.
  10. The overall purpose of developing conceptual framework is to make research findings meaningful and generalisable. Now! Is your developed conceptual framework conveying this message?
READ  The ideal dissertation structure and word counts