The research report: Theoretical and conceptual frameworks

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TO a senior student: you are assigned to submit a research paper as a final requirement for your major in a baccalaureate degree. Since your major is management, you choose to research on this topic. You begin to read journal articles on management and you discover that there are many topics on management that have been dealt with in the studies that you have come across. You will actually experience that the research process is not linear. You will need to go back and forth. Let’s use studies and research interchangeably in this discussion.

Deciding on a research topic. There are many instances which could inspire or trigger one to do a research on some topic. In one of your class sessions in Management, you may have learned that conflict could arise between the boss and subordinates when they have varying expectations of what the boss, on one hand, and the subordinates, on the other, should be doing. In fact, you have observed such situations in your personal life. Your cousin has been caught between his parents as to decisions he could make about his studies because his parents do not seem to have the same opinion on the extent of freedom your cousin has to decide about his career. You also noticed in your own student body organization, your officers sometimes argue with members about what officers can do without referring matters to members to which members do not always agree. In other words, the officers and members do not have a uniform understanding of the authority officers have or not have. You also noticed similar conflicts while you were doing your on-the-job-training. These incidents trigger your interest to study conflicts between those in authority and those who are under an authority.

Review of literature. You begin reading literature on roles. You come across role theory. You meet terms such as role occupants, role expectations, role conceptions, super-ordinate and subordinates, role partners, role alters, etc. You read further to be informed of the terminologies. You find that research on roles have been undertaken in various settings, in various organizations. As you continue reading on role theory, you find that research have been done about power and authority, organizational politics, mediating effects of informal organizations on conflict management, etc. You choose studies on the phenomenon of conflict between superordinate and subordinates. In organizing what you read, you are writing your review of literature.

Deciding on your research problem. As you read and re-read, you learn that conflict varies in “seriousness” within areas of management such as on budgets, staff training, teaching assignments, research funds allocation, sabbatical leaves, etc. You learn that “role occupant” refers to the role position being studied and that “role partners” refer to “the super-ordinate – the person immediately higher than the role occupant; that subordinates refer to those immediately under the role occupant’s authority.” In deciding to focus your research on department chairpersons, you will refer to them in your research as “role occupants.” You will begin to be informed by the studies you read that conflict arises when the role conception of role occupants does not match with the role expectations of role partners (that is, the College Dean as the super-ordinate and the faculty members as the subordinates). From this learning, you begin to develop a theory or you may come across a research on this theory: Conflict is a function of incongruity of role conception and role expectation of role partners. Adopting this theory, your research expands to specific questions, such as “in what areas of management would such incongruity be most significant, etc.” You have at last arrived at what you wish to research about role theory. In other words, your research problem is born! Note that it is as if you began a journey on management. Your reading of various articles led you to a maze of ideas. At the start, you asked yourself what did you know what research has been done about management? As you went along, you began to be more certain of the literature that you chose to read to a point that you kept to reading studies on conflicts arising from roles. Until at last you have come to a theory and a potential research question from which you can formulate more specific research questions pertaining to congruity of role conceptions with role expectations of role partners as topic of your research.


The theoretical framework. The research process is not linear. It’s a circular process. Having written the literature review from reliable sources, cull the “time-tested theories that embody the findings of numerous investigations on how phenomena occur” (e.g., how conflicts arise) to write the theoretical framework for your research.
<www.statisticssolutions.com/theoretical-framework/>. These are the “theories that were formulated in previous studies to explain, predict, and understand phenomena and, in many cases, to challenge and extend existing knowledge within the limits of critical bounding assumptions.” <https://college-college-life.knojicom/what-is-the-difference-betwe en -the-theoretical-framework-and-the-conceptual-framework/>
The conceptual framework. Your theoretical framework based on your review of the literature shows there are differing studies on the role theory. It is much broader in scope. You cannot manage to embrace the many variables and their relationships in your study.
So, you organize the conceptual framework from the theoretical framework to describe relationships among variables pertinent to your research. “A conceptual framework is your idea as a researcher on how you will explore the research problem you have decided to study.” While the theoretical framework “provides a general representation of relationships between things in a given phenomenon,” the conceptual framework, on the other hand, “embodies the specific direction” you will undertake in your research. “It also outlines the input, process and output of the whole investigation. The conceptual framework is also called the research paradigm.” <https://college-college-life.knoji.com/what-is-the-difference-between-the-theoretical-framework-and-the-conceptual-framework/> Students label the research paradigm as the “schematic diagram” of their research. (To be continued)

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature, general science and history.

She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Great Britain and Japan. She headed chartered institutions; was vice-president for academics and for external relations and internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro City). She is copy editor of several journals and professorial lecturer in Liceo’s Graduate Studies. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

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