The Distinctions Between Theory, Theoretical Framework, and Conceptual Framework

Lara Varpio*, Elise Paradis, Sebastian Uijtdehaage, Meredith Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

236 Scopus citations

Abstract

Health professions education (HPE) researchers are regularly asked to articulate their use of theory, theoretical frameworks, and conceptual frameworks in their research. However, all too often, these words are used interchangeably or without a clear understanding of the differences between these concepts. Further problematizing this situation is the fact that theory, theoretical framework, and conceptual framework are terms that are used in different ways in different research approaches. In this article, the authors set out to clarify the meaning of these terms and to describe how they are used in 2 approaches to research commonly used in HPE: the objectivist deductive approach (from theory to data) and the subjectivist inductive approach (from data to theory). In addition to this, given that within subjectivist inductive research theory, theoretical framework, and conceptual framework can be used in different ways, they describe 3 uses that HPE researchers frequently rely on: fully inductive theory development, fully theory-informed inductive, and theory-informing inductive data analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-994
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Medicine
Volume95
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The Distinctions Between Theory, Theoretical Framework, and Conceptual Framework'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this