A thesis is a huge undertaking that requires you to have a strong idea of the subject matter. Outlines and notes are an important part of this process, but it is even more important that you have a clear sense about what the underlying connections between these ideas and notes are. These connections and the network that they form are your thesis' "operational framework," the elements that underlie how your ideas work together as a whole. The framework is the basis for all of your work, and importantly, you should be able to link everything back to the framework.
List of Variables
First and foremost, an operational framework involves a list of all of the variables and individual ideas at work in your thesis. For example, if you are writing about parent-child relationships and their influence on academic achievement, topics such as "parental attitudes," "parent's ideas of childhood," and "children's perception of parents" will be on your list. A good place to start identifying variables is through questions. What questions are you trying to answer through this study? Establish the questions you want to answer first, then identify all related elements. Once your questions are established, it is important to conduct a thorough review of the literature. What are other researchers saying about this topic?
Diagram of Connections
It is important that you are able to show a visual representation of how your ideas are connected together, within your framework. After you have a list of the variables involved in your thesis you will need to show the connections between them. Flow charts or diagrams are two possible ways of illustrating these connections. You will need to illustrate the connections through the literature review as well.
Section of Your Manuscript
After you have figured out the variables involved in your operational framework and how they are all related to each other, you will need to put all of this information into words. Depending on the length of your thesis, this section could be a few hundred or a few thousand words and you would use it to show your readers how the variables involved in your thesis work together. This section of your thesis works as a brief, but comprehensive guide to your subject that shows your expertise and demonstrates how you see your subject working. Because this section illustrates your understanding of your subject, it also allows your readers to better assess your own ideas and arguments.
As an outline of how the variables and/or ideas involved in your thesis work together, refer back to your operational framework throughout your thesis. For example, as you defend your arguments or conclusion, you should refer back to your operational framework to ground your case. You will also need to rely on your thorough review of the literature to support your argument or findings. Linking everything back to the literature and how it is all connected through the framework will help you create a solid, well-researched thesis.