Conceptual Frameworks (or, Transitioning from Engineer to Social Scientist)

I recently experienced what I believe to be an “Aha!” moment in my research methods class. We had been moving right along in that class talking about research areas, topics, questions, etc., which all made sense to me. Then, all of the sudden, we started talking about models and conceptual frameworks. You would have thought I hit a brick wall. I felt as though I could not wrap my mind around conceptual frameworks. I thought it was so abstract that my linear, concrete, engineer mind just wasn’t capable of comprehending that concept. I thought about it, debated it with myself and others, analyzed it, read whatever I could find pertaining to it, analyzed it some more, but still felt like I was completely lost in my understanding of what it was. Then, one day, after talking to yet another of my classmates about it and then with Dr. Wang, I felt like I had a breakthrough. It felt as though the fog was beginning to lift and the conceptual framework was beginning to make sense. Now, two weeks later, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of it.

I believe my problem was that I was over-analyzing it and viewing it as a thing more than a concept. I was seeing it as a subsection of the research proposal report like an introduction, literature review, and conclusion. But the breakthrough I had was that it is not necessarily a delineated part of the report. It’s not necessarily a ‘thing’ that you do. It develops as you research the literature and find a way for your research to fit in. It’s the model I’m building my study on, how my study relates to it, and the questions I propose to answer. It’s a framework, yes, but not a physical one. It’s a CONCEPTUAL framework. (I know, duh!)

This was huge breakthrough for me. I see it as part of my transition from being a linear thinking engineer to a not-so-linear-and-sometimes-quite-curvy-thinking social scientist. See below for what I mean.