The term conceptual framework and theoretical framework are often and erroneously used interchangeably (Grant & Osanloo, 2014). A theoretical framework provides the theoretical assumptions for the larger context of a study, and is the foundation or ‘lens’ by which a study is developed. This framework helps to ground the research focus understudy within theoretical underpinnings and to frame the inquiry for data analysis and interpretation. The application of theory in traditional theoretical research is to understand, explain, and predict phenomena (Swanson, 2013).
Casanave, C.P.,& Li,Y.(2015). Novices’ struggles with conceptual and theoretical framing in writing dissertations and papers for publication.Publications,3(2),104-119.doi:10.3390/publications3020104
Grant, C., & Osanloo, A. (2014). Understanding, Selecting, and Integrating a Theoretical Framework in Dissertation Research: Creating the Blueprint for Your “House.” Administrative Issues Journal: Connecting Education, Practice, and Research, 4(2), 12–26
Swanson, R. (2013). Theory building in applied disciplines. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.