Theoretical and conceptual frameworks play a very important part of modern-day scientific research. The use of these frameworks is so deeply engrained in every experienced researcher’s mind that using them becomes a subconscious action almost akin to instinct. They are among the unspoken rules behind every study. Conceptual and theoretical frameworks are used to structurize the research and are considered the stepping-stones for proper theory development. For these reasons, they are less concise and less formal than theories and address general concepts more so than particularities, as these particularities can be addressed in the research itself. This paper will reflect on the theoretical and conceptual frameworks, and tie these concepts to Myra Levine’s conservation theory, which is used as a framework for our current research.
Use of Theoretical Frameworks in Research
Lynne M. Connely, in her article titled “Use of Theoretical Frameworks in Research,” addresses the issue of how theories and theoretical frameworks are used to conduct research. In her study, she often uses Parker’s work called “Nurse Decision-Making,” to support her statements (Connelly, 2014). At the beginning of the article, a definition of a theoretical framework is given, along with an explanation of why having it is important to research.
However, the author argues that not every research should be based on a theory or a theoretical framework, especially in a quality study. She states that many qualities studies are conducted with an ambition to generate new theories rather than test existing ones (Connelly, 2014). The article does not make a difference between theoretical and conceptual frameworks, as the terms are used interchangeably as if they were synonyms. Discovering the differences between them is not the point of this work, as the text is more focused on explaining what theory is and that any research needs to provide a connection between the theory, the problem, and the research method (Connelly, 2014).
Use of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in qualitative research
Another author, Helen Elise Green, addresses the differences between theoretical and conceptual frameworks, as well as the reasons why these notions are used so interchangeably. She states that the reason for this is because no clear definitions are available to novice researchers, which in turn leads to confusion and misinterpretation of both. Since these definitions are considered “common knowledge” among senior researchers, textbooks, and articles rarely bother explaining the theoretical and conceptual frameworks used in a study (Green, 2014). Like in the previous article, Green states that not every research implements a theoretical or conceptual framework in its structure. It is always implicit, however. The article provides examples of frameworks being used in research to underpin the theory behind it and quotes numerous researches to show the disparity between the definitions for these frameworks (Green, 2014). Some authors state that due to the vagueness of both terms, their importance is questionable. The idea that Green pushes forward is that researches and articles should focus more on presenting the theoretical and conceptual frameworks used to promote understanding for those who are going to become researchers (Green, 2014).
1) Some studies explicitly state what theory helped guide the research, while some do not. The role of theory and theoretical framework in the research is not always clear. The theory is a set of concepts that are connected and are formulated into sentences and hypotheses to outline the relationship between different concepts. The theoretical framework, even when it is not explicitly mentioned, often helps guide the research. It is not always applicable to qualitative research, however, as that kind of research often seeks to generate theory rather than test it (Connelly, 2014).
2) The terms of theoretical and conceptual frameworks are often used interchangeably. This is due to a lack of attention and explanations given to both. While the use of such frameworks is not a requirement for qualitative research, most studies use it to underpin a theory. To provide novice researchers with knowledge and understanding of these concepts and avoid ambiguity, researches, and articles should focus more on the exposition of their frameworks (Green, 2014).
Myra Levin’s Conservation Theory in the Scope of this Study
My research is dedicated to pulse electromagnetic therapy on diabetic neuropathy patients. As it was stated in both articles reviewed in this section, a conceptual or theoretical framework is required to pin the underlying theory behind the research. When assembling the evidence and analyzing the problem, I referred to Myra Levin’s conservation theory as a framework to base my study upon. The reason for that is because I am familiar with the concept and believe it to be appropriate for the scope of this research.
One of the key concepts of Levin’s theoretical framework that this research is built upon is the concept of conservation of structural integrity. The concept itself promotes healing by helping restore the structure of the body and preventing physical breakdown (Myra Levine’s conservation theory, 2009). Electromagnetic pulse therapy has the purpose of restoring a patient’s bodily functions to normal by alleviating pain without any invasive procedures or drug involvement, thus adhering to this concept. Also, the scope of this research adheres to the conservation of energy concepts. Feeling pain greatly disturbs natural sleeping and rest patterns and causes fatigue.
The alleviation of pain would greatly contribute to restoring good sleep, thus balancing the input and output of energy and prevent fatigue. Other concepts, like conservation of personal and social integrity, are also present (Myra Levine’s conservation theory, 2009). They refer more to how the data for the research was obtained. It is of paramount importance that the methods of data collection do not violate any of these concepts and adhere to the four pillars of nursing. The data used for this research is collected from peer-reviewed journals and randomized control trials. These trials were conducted following nursing research practices, and thus are viable for use in this study.
Connelly, L. M. (2014). Use of theoretical frameworks in research. MEDSURG Nursing, 23(3), 187-188.
Green, H. E. (2014). Use of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in qualitative research. Nurse Researcher, 21(6), 34-38.