Developing a conceptual framework is a three-step process that includes the extensive reading of previous research, the identification of the gaps in understanding left over from previous research, and the identification of biases that may limit the extent to which researchers recognize assumptions and interpret evidence in a given field. A conceptual framework allows researchers to understand the role of any proposed research project in advancing this understanding. Previous research informs the theories and methodologies that formulate future research studies.
Research questions are examined through a multidisciplinary lens of current theories, previous findings and multiple contexts of interpretation. Further, a conceptual framework takes into account not only academic essays, critiques and books but also any adaptations and spin-off projects that use original research as a source of inspiration. A conceptual framework must provide a clear picture of the issues from many angles in order to adequately capture the relevance and necessity of a given research project.
A well-conceived conceptual framework will allow a researcher to readily identify gaps that persist. In turn, these gaps will inform the formulation of questions and methodologies used in subsequent research efforts to adequately close those gaps in the current body of research.
A strong conceptual framework allows a researcher to identify biases from previous studies and to avoid those issues in subsequent research projects.