A conceptual framework gives direction to your research question/study. It tells the reader your own position on the problem you are planning to investigate.
Here are two examples from my own work in the Common World Childhoods Research Collective:
Theoretical Framework: We frame our research and networking activities within the common worlds (Latour, 2004) conceptual framework that we have extrapolated elsewhere (Common World Childhoods Research Collective, 2014; Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2012; Taylor, 2013; Taylor & Giugni, 2012). This framework resists the nature/culture divide and situates childhoods within entangled human and non-human, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and social and environmental issues and concerns. Common worlds differ from the idealized natural worlds usually associated with Romantic Euro-western traditions that typically separate or pit nature and childhood against the corrupting influences of human society (Louv, 2008). Common worlds are natural and social worlds, messy and imperfect more-than-human worlds. Drawing from the environmental humanities, feminist eco-philosophies, more-than-human geographies, new material feminisms, science and technology studies, and Indigenous worldviews (e.g., Battiste, 2014; Haraway, 2008; Whatmore, 2002; van Doreen, 2014), our common worlds framework conceives of childhood and pedagogy beyond the human-centric concerns of mid-20th century human development theory and into the contemporary ecological challenges and concerns of the 21st century. Two related conceptual reframings inform our research. First, we reframe childhood as collective, situated, and entangled within messy real world relations. Second, we reframe pedagogies around these relations, rather than around individual children’s needs and ‘child-centred’ learning, focusing instead on the ethics and politics of human entanglements in the world and learning how to inherit and respond to these colonialist and ecological legacies.
Humans and waste materials exist in entangled relationships and affect one another. Our third premise draws on the understanding that no matter exists outside of relentless relational and intra-active networks (Barad, 2007; Alaimo, 2010; Gille, 2010; Hird, 2012). Our lives are inextricably entangled with the materials that we call waste. We both contribute to the production of waste materials and are affected by their movements and transformations (Hird, 2013).
Entangled human/waste relations have ethical implications. The fourth premise draws directly from Hird’s (2013) waste research and ties all the premises together. Hird’s studies of the microbial underground of landfill sites show that most of the transformative action on waste materials takes place in what she calls the “inhuman domain” of “geo-bacteria liveliness” (2012: 457, 458), in which humans do not “ultimately manage or determine processes and outcomes” (2012, p. 458). These perspectives offer a direct challenge to human-centric thinking about waste as only our making and our problem to solve. They demand a new kind of environmental ethic. In Hird’s terms, we must learn to “consider ourselves as vulnerable to, and with, our environment as latecomers to life’s already long-established flourishing and failing within a volatile landscape” (2012: 464)