Original Research

Constructing conceptual frameworks in social science research

Gerrit van der Waldt
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 16, No 1 | a758 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v16i1.758 | © 2020 Gerrit van der Waldt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 September 2019 | Published: 26 February 2020

About the author(s)

Gerrit van der Waldt, Research Focus Area: Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Research in the social sciences is concerned with complex social behaviour, group dynamics and unique human settings. Researchers have different patterns of thought and modes of thinking. As such, they often use different words to explain phenomena, thereby causing conceptual confusion. This article explains how conceptual frameworks can help overcome such confusion by serving as visual organising tools and mental maps to direct and guide research. By using a descriptive approach, the article aims firstly to outline the necessity, purpose, nature and scope of conceptual frameworks in social science research and, secondly, to provide a ‘how-to’ guide on the design of such a framework by exploring a practical example. The results illustrate conclusively the significant contribution that conceptual frameworks can and should make in social science research.


concepts; constructs; conceptual framework; social sciences; theoretical framework; research; conceptualisation; literature review.


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