Designing conceptual articles: four approaches

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  • Published: 09 March 2020
  • Volume 10 , pages 18–26, ( 2020 )

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conceptual research article

  • Elina Jaakkola   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-4654-7573 1  

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As a powerful means of theory building, conceptual articles are increasingly called for in marketing academia. However, researchers struggle to design and write non-empirical articles because of the lack of commonly accepted templates to guide their development. The aim of this paper is to highlight methodological considerations for conceptual papers: it is argued that such papers must be grounded in a clear research design, and that the choice of theories and their role in the analysis must be explicated and justified. The paper discusses four potential templates for conceptual papers – Theory Synthesis, Theory Adaptation, Typology, and Model – and their respective aims, approach for using theories, and contribution potential. Supported by illustrative examples, these templates codify some of the tacit knowledge that underpins the design of non-empirical papers and will be of use to anyone undertaking, supervising, or reviewing conceptual research.

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Introduction

The major academic journals in the field of marketing acknowledge the need for good conceptual papers that can “bridge existing theories in interesting ways, link work across disciplines, provide multi-level insights, and broaden the scope of our thinking” (Gilson and Goldberg 2015 , p. 128). Indeed, many of the most impactful marketing papers of recent decades are conceptual as this type of research enables theory building unrestricted by the demands of empirical generalization (e.g., Vargo and Lusch 2004 ). Authors crafting conceptual papers can find valuable advice on problematizing (Alvesson and Sandberg 2011 ), theorizing and theory building (Corley and Gioia 2011 ; Cornelissen 2017 ; Shepherd and Suddaby 2017 ), and the types of conceptual contribution that warrant publication (Corley and Gioia 2011 ; MacInnis 2011 ). However, a lack of commonly accepted templates or “recipes” for building the paper means that writing a conceptual piece can be a struggle (Cornelissen 2017 ). As a result, reviewers often face conceptual papers that offer little more than a descriptive literature review or interesting but disjointed ideas.

In empirical papers, the recipe typically is the research design that provides the paper structure and logic, guiding the process of developing new knowledge and offering conventions for reporting the key elements of the research (Flick 2018 , p. 102). The research design explains how the ingredients of the study were selected, acquired, and analyzed to effectively address the research problem, and reviewers can evaluate the robustness of this process by reference to established conventions in the existing literature. As conceptual papers generally do not fit the mold of empirical research, authors and reviewers lack any such recipe book, making the critical issue of analytical rigor more challenging.

This paper addresses issues of methodology and research design for conceptual papers. The discussion is built on previous “how to” guides to conceptual research, and on examples from high quality journals to identify and illustrate different options for conceptual research design. This paper discusses four templates—Theory Synthesis, Theory Adaptation, Typology, and Model—and explicates their aims, their approach to theory use, and their contribution potential. The paper does not focus on theory building itself but supports it, as analytical rigor is a prerequisite for high quality theorizing. Nor is the focus on literature reviews or meta-analyses; while these are important non-empirical forms of research, there are well articulated existing guidelines for such articles (see for example Webster and Watson 2002 ; Palmatier et al. 2018 ).

The ultimate goal of this paper is to direct scholarly attention to the importance of a systematic approach to developing a conceptual paper. Experienced editors and reviewers have noted that researchers sometimes underestimate how difficult it is to write a rigorous conceptual paper and consider this an easy route to publishing—an essay devoid of deeper scholarship (Hirschheim 2008 ). In reality, developing a cogent argument and building a supporting theoretical explanation requires tacit knowledge and skills that doctoral programs seldom teach (Yadav 2010 ; King and Lepak 2011 ). As Fulmer puts it, “in a theoretical paper the author is faced with a mixed blessing: greater freedom and page length within which to develop theory but also more editorial rope with which to hang him/herself” ( 2012 , p. 330).

The paper is organized as follows. The next section outlines key methodological requirements for conceptual studies. Four common types of research design are then identified and discussed with supporting examples. The article ends with conclusions and recommendations for marketing scholars undertaking, supervising, or reviewing conceptual research.

Conceptual papers: some methodological requirements

The term “research design” refers to decisions about how to achieve research goals, linking theories, questions, and goals to appropriate resources and methods (Flick 2018 , p. 102). In short, the research design is a plan for collecting and analyzing evidence that helps to answer the question posed (Ragin 1994 , p. 191). Like any design, the research design should improve usability ; a good research design is the optimal tool for addressing the research problem, and it communicates the logic of the study in a transparent way. In principle, any piece of research should be designed to deliver trustworthy answers to the question posed in a credible and justified manner.

An empirical research design typically involves decisions about the underlying theoretical framing of the study as well as issues of data collection and analysis (e.g. Miller and Salkind 2002 ). Imagine, for example, an empirical paper where the authors did not argue for their sampling criteria or choice of informants, or failed to define the measures used or to show how the results were derived from the data. It can be argued that conceptual papers entail similar considerations (Table 1 ), as the omission of equivalent elements would create similar confusion. In other words, a well-designed conceptual paper must explicitly justify and explicate decisions about key elements of the study. The following sections elaborate more specifically on designing and communicating these “methodological” aspects of conceptual papers.

Explicating and justifying the choice of theories and concepts

Empirical and conceptual papers ultimately share a common goal: to create new knowledge by building on carefully selected sources of information combined according to a set of norms. In the case of conceptual papers, arguments are not derived from data in the traditional sense but involve the assimilation and combination of evidence in the form of previously developed concepts and theories (Hirschheim 2008 ). In that sense, conceptual papers are not without empirical insights but rather build on theories and concepts that are developed and tested through empirical research.

In an empirical study, the researcher determines what data are needed to address the research questions and specifies sampling criteria and research instruments accordingly. In similar fashion, a conceptual paper should explain how and why the theories and concepts on which it is grounded were selected. In simple terms, there are two possible points of departure. The first option is to start from a focal phenomenon that is observable but not adequately addressed in the existing research. The authors may inductively identify differing conceptualizations of that phenomenon, and then argue that the aspect of interest is best addressed in terms of particular concepts or theories. That is, the choice of concepts is based on their fit to the focal phenomenon and their complementary value in conceptualizing it. One key issue here is how the researcher conceptualizes the empirical phenomenon; in selecting particular concepts and theories, the researcher is de facto making an argument about the conceptual ingredients of the empirical phenomenon in question.

A second and perhaps more common approach is to start from a focal theory by arguing that a particular concept, theory, or research domain is internally incoherent or incomplete in some important respect and then introducing other theories to bridge the observed gaps. In this case, the choice of theories or concepts is based on their ability to address the observed shortcoming in the existing literature, i.e. their supplementary value. This simplified account raises a critical underlying question: what is the value that each selected concept, literature stream, or theory brings to the study, and why are they selected in preference to something else?

Explicating the role of different theories and concepts in the analysis

Conceptual papers typically draw on multiple concepts, literature streams, and theories that play differing roles. It is difficult to imagine a (published) empirical paper where the reader could not distinguish empirical data from the literature review. In a conceptual paper, however, it is sometimes difficult to tell which theories provide the “data” and which are framing the analysis. In this regard, Lukka and Vinnari ( 2014 ) drew a useful distinction between domain theory and method theory. A domain theory is “a particular set of knowledge on a substantive topic area situated in a field or domain” (ibid, p. 1309)—that is, an area of study characterized by a particular set of constructs, theories, and assumptions (MacInnis 2011 ). A method theory, on the other hand, is “a meta-level conceptual system for studying the substantive issue(s) of the domain theory at hand” (Lukka and Vinnari 2014 , p. 1309). For example, Brodie et al. ( 2019 ) sought to advance engagement research (domain theory) by drawing new perspectives from service-dominant logic (method theory). The distinction is relative rather than absolute; whether a particular theory is domain or method theory depends on its role in the study in question (Lukka and Vinnari 2014 ). Indeed, a single study can accommodate multiple domain and method theories.

In a conceptual paper, one crucial function of the research design is to explicate the role of each element in the paper; failure to explain this is likely to render the logic of “generating findings” practically invisible to the reader. Defining the roles of different theories also helps to indicate the paper’s positioning, and how its contribution should be evaluated. Typically, the role of the method theory is to provide some new insight into the domain theory—for example, to expand, organize, or offer a new or alternative explanation of concepts and relationships. This means that contribution usually centers on the domain theory, not the method theory (Lukka and Vinnari 2014 ). For example, marketing scholars often use established theories such as resource-based theory, institutional theory, or practice theory as method theories, but any suitable framework (even from other disciplines) can play this role. Footnote 1

Making the chain of evidence visible and easy to grasp

Conceptual papers typically focus on proposing new relationships among constructs; the purpose is thus to develop logical and complete arguments about these associations rather than testing them empirically (Gilson and Goldberg 2015 ). The issue of how to develop logical arguments is hence pivotal. As well as arguing that concepts are linked, authors must provide a theoretical explanation for that link. As that explanation demonstrates the logic of connections between concepts, it is critical for theory building (King and Lepak 2011 ).

In attempting to analyze what constitutes a good argument, Hirschheim ( 2008 ) adopted a framework first advanced by the British philosopher Toulmin ( 1958 ), according to which an argument has three necessary components: claims, grounds, and warrants. Claims refer to the explicit statement or thesis that the reader is being asked to accept as true—the outcome of the research. Grounds are the evidence and reasoning used to support the claim and to persuade the reader. In a conceptual paper, this evidence is drawn from previous studies rather than from primary data. Finally, warrants are the underlying assumptions or presuppositions that link grounds to claims. Warrants are often beliefs implicitly accepted within the given research domain—for example the assumption that organizations strive to satisfy their customers. In a robust piece of research, claims should be substantiated by sufficient grounds, and should be of sufficient significance to make a worthwhile contribution to knowledge (Hirschheim 2008 ).

In practice, the chain of evidence in a conceptual paper is made visible to the reader by explicating the key steps in the argument. How is the studied phenomenon conceptualized? What are the study’s implicit assumptions, stemming from its theoretical underpinnings? Are the premises and axioms used to ground the arguments sufficiently explicit to enable another researcher to arrive at similar analytical conclusions? Conceptual clarity, parsimony, simplicity, and logical coherence are important qualities of any academic study but are arguably all the more critical when developing arguments without empirical data.

A paper’s structure is a strong determinant of how easy it is to follow the chain of argumentation. While there is no single best way to structure a conceptual paper, what successful papers have in common is a careful matching of form and structure to theoretical purpose of the paper (Fulmer 2012 ). The structure should therefore reflect both the aims of the research and the role of the various lenses deployed to achieve those aims—in other words, the structure highlights what the authors seek to explain. A clear structure also contributes to conceptual clarity by making the hierarchy of concepts and their elements intuitively available to the reader, eliminating any noise that might distort the underlying message. As Hirschheim ( 2008 ) noted, a clear structure ensures a place for everything—omitting nothing of importance—and puts everything in its place, avoiding redundancies.

Common types of research design in conceptual papers

In marked contrast to empirical research, there is no widely shared understanding of basic types of research design in respect to conceptual papers, with the exception of literature reviews and meta-analyses. To address this issue, the present study considers four such types: Theory Synthesis, Theory Adaptation, Typology , and Model (see Table 2 ). These types serve to clarify differences of methodological approach—that is, how the argument is structured and developed—rather than the types of conceptual contributions that are the main consideration of MacInnis ( 2011 ). The four types discussed here derive from an analysis of goal setting, structuring, and logic of argumentation in multiple articles published in high quality journals. It should be said that the list is not exhaustive, and other researchers would no doubt have formulated differing perspectives. Nevertheless, the presented scheme can inspire researchers to explore and explicate one’s approach to conceptual research, and perhaps to formulate an alternative approach. It should also be noted that the goals of a conceptual article can be as varied as in any other form of academic research. Table 2 identifies some possible or likely goals for each suggested type; these are not mutually exclusive and are often combined.

Theory synthesis

A theory synthesis paper seeks to achieve conceptual integration across multiple theories or literature streams. Such papers offer a new or enhanced view of a concept or phenomenon by linking previously unconnected or incompatible pieces in a novel way. Papers of this type contribute by summarizing and integrating extant knowledge of a concept or phenomenon. According to MacInnis ( 2011 ), summarizing helps researchers see the forest for the trees by encapsulating, digesting, and reducing what is known to a manageable whole. Integration enables researchers to see a concept or phenomenon in a new way by transforming previous findings and theory into a novel higher-order perspective that links phenomena previously considered distinct (MacInnis 2011 ). For example, a synthesis paper might chart a new or unstructured phenomenon that has previously been addressed in piecemeal fashion across diverse domains or disciplines. Such papers may also explore the conceptual underpinnings of an emerging theory or explain conflicting research findings by providing a more parsimonious explanation that pulls disparate elements into a more coherent whole.

This kind of systematization is especially helpful when research on a given topic is fragmented across different literatures, helping to identify and underscore commonalities that build coherence (Cropanzano 2009 ). For example, in their review of conceptualizations of customer experience across multiple literature fields, Becker and Jaakkola’s ( 2020 ) analysis of the compatibility of various elements and assumptions provided a new integrative view that could be generalized across settings and contexts. In more mature fields, synthesis can help to identify gaps in the extant research, which is often the goal of systematic literature reviews. However, gap spotting is seldom a sufficient source of contribution as the main aim of a conceptual paper should be to enhance existing theoretical understanding on the studied phenomenon or concept. The synthesis paper represents a form of theorizing that emphasizes narrative reasoning that seeks to unveil “big picture” patterns and connections rather than specific causal mechanisms (Delbridge and Fiss 2013 ).

Although there is sometimes a fine line between theory synthesis and literature review, there remains a clear distinction between the two. While a well-crafted literature review takes stock of the field and can provide valuable insights into its development, scope, or future prospects, it remains within the existing conceptual or theoretical boundaries, describing extant knowledge rather than looking beyond it. In the case of a conceptual paper, the literature review is a necessary tool but not the ultimate objective. Moreover, in a theory synthesis paper, the role of the literature review is to unravel the components of a concept or phenomenon and it must sometimes reduce or exclude incommensurable elements. A lack of elegance occurs when authors attempt to hammer together separate research ideas in a series of “minireviews” instead of attending to a single conceptual theme (Cropanzano 2009 ). For example, a literature review that seeks to integrate multiple research perspectives may instead merely summarize in separate chapters what each has to say about the concept. Typically, different research perspectives employ differing terms and structure, or categorize conceptual elements in distinct ways. Integration and synthesis requires that the researcher explicates and unravels the conceptual underpinnings and building blocks that different perspectives use to conceptualize a phenomenon, and the looks for common ground on which to build a new and enhanced conceptualization.

A theory synthesis paper may seek to increase understanding of a relatively narrow concept or empirical phenomenon. For example, Lemon and Verhoef ( 2016 ) summarized the conceptual background and extant conceptualizations of customer journeys to produce a new integrative view. They framed the journey phenomenon in terms of the consumer purchasing process and organized the extant research within this big picture. Similarly, arguing that the knowledge base of relationship marketing and business networks perspectives was unduly fragmented, Möller ( 2013 ) deployed a metatheoretical lens to construct an articulated theory map that accommodated various domain theories, leading to the development of two novel middle-range theories.

Ultimately, a theory synthesis paper can integrate an extensive set of theories and phenomena under a novel theoretical umbrella. One good example is Vargo and Lusch’s ( 2004 ) seminal article, which pulled together key ingredients from diverse fields such as market orientation, relationship marketing, network management, and value management into a novel integrative narrative to formulate the more parsimonious framework of service-dominant logic. In so doing, they drew on resource based theory, structuration theory, and institutional theory as method theories to organize and synthesize concepts and themes from middle-range literature fields (e.g., Vargo and Lusch 2004 , 2016 ). While extant research provided the basis for a novel framework, existing concepts were decomposed into such fine-grained ingredients that the resulting integration was a new theoretical view in its own right rather than a summary of existing concepts.

Theory adaptation

Papers that focus on theory adaptation seek to amend an existing theory by using other theories. While empirical research may gradually extend some element of theory within a given context, theory-based adaptation attempts a more immediate shift of perspective. Theory adaptation papers develop contribution by revising extant knowledge—that is, by introducing alternative frames of reference to propose a novel perspective on an extant conceptualization (MacInnis 2011 ). The point of departure for such papers, then, is the problematization of a particular theory or concept. For example, the authors might argue that certain empirical developments or insights from other streams of literature render an existing conceptualization insufficient or conflicted, and that some reconfiguration or shift of perspective or scope is needed to better align the concept or theory to its purpose or to reconcile certain inconsistencies. Typically, the researcher draws from another theory that is equipped to guide this shift. The contribution of this type of a paper is often positioned to the domain where the focal concept is situated.

The starting point for the theory adaptation paper is the theory or concept of interest (domain theory). Other theories are used as tools, or method theories (Lukka and Vinnari 2014 ) to provide an alternative frame of reference to adjust or expand its conceptual scope. One “method” of adaptation is to switch the level of analysis; for example, Alexander et al. ( 2018 ) provided new insights into the influence of institutions on customer engagement by shifting from a micro level analysis of customer relationships—the prevailing view in the field—to meso and macro level views, adapting Chandler and Vargo’s ( 2011 ) process of oscillating foci. Another option is to use an established theory to explore new aspects of the domain theory (Yadav 2010 ). As one example of this type of design, Brodie et al. ( 2019 ) argued for the practical and theoretical importance of expanding the scope of engagement research in two ways: from a focus on consumers to a broad range of actors, and from dyadic firm-customer relationships to networks. As well as justifying why a particular extension or change of focus is needed, a theory adaptation paper must also show that the selected method theory is the best available option. For example, Brodie et al. ( 2019 ) explained that they employed service-dominant logic to broaden the conceptual scope of engagement research because it offered a lens for understanding actor-to-actor interactions in networks. Similarly, Hillebrand et al. ( 2015 ) used multiplicity theory to revise existing perspectives on stakeholder marketing by viewing stakeholder networks as continuous rather than discrete. They argued that this provides a more accurate understanding of markets characterized by complex value exchange and dispersed control.

A typology paper classifies conceptual variants as distinct types. The aim is to develop a categorization that “explains the fuzzy nature of many subjects by logically and causally combining different constructs into a coherent and explanatory set of types” (Cornelissen 2017 ). A typology paper provides a more precise and nuanced understanding of a phenomenon or concept, pinpointing and justifying key dimensions that distinguish the variants.

Typology papers contribute through differentiation— distinguishing, dimensionalizing, or categorizing extant knowledge of the phenomenon, construct, or theory in question (MacInnis 2011 ). Typologies reduce complexity (Fiss 2011 ). They demonstrate how variants of an entity differ, and hence organize complex networks of concepts and relationships, and may help by recognizing their differing antecedents, manifestations, or effects (MacInnis 2011 ). Typologies also offer a multidimensional view of the target phenomenon by categorizing theoretical features or dimensions as distinct profiles that offer coordinates for empirical research (Cornelissen 2017 ). For example, the classic typologies elaborated by Mills and Margulies ( 1980 ) and Lovelock ( 1983 ) assigned services to categories reflecting different aspects of the relationship between customers and the service organization, facilitating prediction of organizational behavior and marketing action. These theory-based typologies have informed numerous empirical applications.

The starting point for a typology paper is typically recognition of an important but fragmented research domain characterized by differing manifestations of a concept or inconsistent findings regarding drivers or outcomes. The researcher accumulates knowledge of the focal topic and then organizes it to capture the variability of particular characteristics of the concept or phenomenon. For example, after exploring different approaches to service innovation, Helkkula et al. ( 2018 ) proposed a typology of four archetypes. They suggested that variance within the extant research could be explained by differences of theoretical perspective and argued that each type had distinct implications for value creation.

The dimensions of a typology can also be differentiated by applying another theory (i.e. methods theory) that provides a logical explanation of why differences exist and why they are relevant. For example, to examine the boundaries of resource integration, Dong and Sivakumar ( 2017 ) developed a typology of customer participation, using dimensions drawn from resource-based theory, to address the fundamental resource deployment questions of whether there is a choice in terms of who performs a task and what task is performed (Kozlenkova et al. 2014 ).

Snow and Ketchen Jr. ( 2014 ) argued that well-developed typologies are more than just classification systems; rather, a typology articulates relationships among constructs and facilitates testable predictions (cf. Doty and Glick 1994 ). In this way, a typology can propose multiple causal relationships in a given setting (Fiss 2011 ). While a typology paper enhances understanding of a phenomenon by delineating its key variants, it can be seen to differ from a synthesis or adaptation paper by virtue of its explanatory character. This is the typology’s raison d’etre; types always explain something, and the dimensions that distinguish types account for the different drivers, outcomes, or contingencies of particular variants of the phenomenon. By accommodating asymmetric causal relations, typologies facilitate the development of configurational arguments beyond simple correlations (Fiss 2011 ).

The model paper seeks to build a theoretical framework that predicts relationships between concepts. A conceptual model describes an entity and identifies issues that should be considered in its study: it can describe an event, an object, or a process, and explain how it works by disclosing antecedents, outcomes, and contingencies related to the focal construct (Meredith 1993 ; MacInnis 2011 ). This typically involves a form of theorizing that seeks to create a nomological network around the focal concept, employing a formal analytical approach to examine and detail the causal linkages and mechanisms at play (Delbridge and Fiss 2013 ). A model paper identifies previously unexplored connections between constructs, introduces new constructs, or explains why elements of a process lead to a particular outcome (Cornelissen 2017 ; Fulmer 2012 ).

The model paper contributes to extant knowledge by delineating an entity: its goal is “to detail, chart, describe, or depict an entity and its relationship to other entities” (MacInnis 2011 ). In a conceptual article, creative scope is unfettered by data-related limitations, allowing the researcher to explore and model emerging phenomena where few empirical data are available (Yadav 2010 ). The model paper typically contributes by providing a roadmap for understanding the entity in question by delineating the focal concept, how it changes, the processes by which it operates, or the moderating conditions that may affect it (MacInnis 2011 ).

A model paper typically begins from a focal phenomenon or construct that warrants further explanation. For example, Huang and Rust ( 2018 ) sought to explain the process and mechanism by which artificial intelligence (AI) will replace humans in service jobs. They employed literature that tackles key variables associated with the target phenomenon: service research illuminates the focal phenomenon, technology-enabled services, and research across multiple disciplines discusses the likely impact of AI on human labor. By synthesizing this literature pool, they identified four types of intelligence and then built a theory that could predict the impact of AI on human service labor. This involved a particular kind of formal reasoning, supported by research from multiple disciplines and real-world applications (Huang and Rust 2018 ). In other words, the authors use method theories and deductive reasoning to explain relationships between key variables, facilitated by theories in use (MacInnis 2011 ).

Model papers typically summarize arguments in the form of a figure that depicts the salient constructs and their relationships, or as a set of formal propositions that are logical statements derived from the conceptual framework (Meredith 1993 ). For example, Payne et al. ( 2017 ) used resource-based theory to develop a conceptual model of the antecedents and outcomes of customer value propositions. While figures and propositions of this kind help the reader by condensing the paper’s main message, Delbridge and Fiss ( 2013 ) noted that they are also a double-edged sword. At their best, propositions distill the essence of an argument into a parsimonious and precise form, but by virtue of this very ability, they also put a spotlight on the weaknesses in the argument chain. According to Cornelissen ( 2017 ), the researcher should therefore be clear about the “causal agent” in any proposed relationship between constructs when developing propositions—in other words, the trigger or force that drives a particular outcome or effect. Careful consideration and justification of the choice of theories and the manner in which they are integrated to produce the arguments is hence pivotal in sharpening and clarifying the argumentation to convince reviewers and readers.

Conclusions

This paper highlights the role of methodological considerations in conceptual papers by discussing alternative types of research design, in the hope of encouraging researchers to critically assess and develop conceptual papers accordingly. Authors of conceptual papers should readily answer the following questions: What is the logic of creating new knowledge? Why are particular information sources selected, and how are they analyzed? What role does each theory play? For reviewers, assessing conceptual papers can be difficult not least because the generally accepted and readily available guidelines for evaluating empirical research seldom apply directly to non-empirical work. By asking these questions, reviewers and supervisors can evaluate whether the research design of a paper or thesis is carefully crafted and clearly communicated to the reader.

The paper identifies four types of conceptual papers—Theory Synthesis, Theory Adaptation, Typology, and Model—and discusses their aims, methods of theory use, and potential contributions. Although this list is not exhaustive, these types offer basic templates for designing conceptual research and determining its intended contribution (cf. MacInnis 2011 ). Careful consideration of these alternative types can facilitate more conscious selection of approach and structure for a conceptual paper. Researchers can also consider opportunities for combining types. In many cases, mixing two types can be an attractive option. For example, after distinguishing types of service innovation in terms of their conceptual underpinnings, Helkkula et al. ( 2018 ) synthesized a novel conceptualization of service innovation that exploited the strengths of each type and mitigated their limitations. Typologies can also provide the basis for models, and synthesis can lead to theory adaptation.

This paper highlights the many alternative routes along which conceptual papers can advance extant knowledge. We should consider conceptual papers not just as a means to take stock, but to break new ground. Empirical research takes time to accumulate, and the scope for generalization is relatively narrow. In contrast, conceptual papers can strive to advance understanding of a concept or phenomenon in big leaps rather than incremental steps. To be taken seriously, any such leap must be grounded in thorough consideration and justification of an appropriate research design.

A discussion of how different theoretical lenses can be integrated is beyond the scope of this paper, but see for example Okhuysen and Bonardi ( 2011 ) and Gioia and Pitre ( 1990 ).

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Jaakkola, E. Designing conceptual articles: four approaches. AMS Rev 10 , 18–26 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13162-020-00161-0

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Conceptual Research: Definition, Framework, Example and Advantages

conceptual research

Conceptual Research: Definition

Conceptual research is defined as a methodology wherein research is conducted by observing and analyzing already present information on a given topic. Conceptual research doesn’t involve conducting any practical experiments. It is related to abstract concepts or ideas. Philosophers have long used conceptual research to develop new theories or interpret existing theories in a different light.

For example, Copernicus used conceptual research to come up with the concepts of stellar constellations based on his observations of the universe. Down the line, Galileo simplified Copernicus’s research by making his own conceptual observations which gave rise to more experimental research and confirmed the predictions made at that time.

The most famous example of conceptual research is Sir Issac Newton. He observed his surroundings to conceptualize and develop theories about gravitation and motion.

Einstein is widely known and appreciated for his work on conceptual research. Although his theories were based on conceptual observations, Einstein also proposed experiments to come up with theories to test the conceptual research.

Nowadays, conceptual research is used to answer business questions and solve real-world problems. Researchers use analytical research tools called conceptual frameworks to make conceptual distinctions and organize ideas required for research purposes.

Conceptual Research Framework

Conceptual research framework constitutes of a researcher’s combination of previous research and associated work and explains the occurring phenomenon. It systematically explains the actions needed in the course of the research study based on the knowledge obtained from other ongoing research and other researchers’ points of view on the subject matter.

Here is a stepwise guide on how to create the conceptual research framework:

01. Choose the topic for research

Before you start working on collecting any research material, you should have decided on your topic for research. It is important that the topic is selected beforehand and should be within your field of specialization.

02. Collect relevant literature

Once you have narrowed down a topic, it is time to collect relevant information about it. This is an important step, and much of your research is dependent on this particular step, as conceptual research is mostly based on information obtained from previous research. Here collecting relevant literature and information is the key to successfully completing research.

The material that you should preferably use is scientific journals , research papers published by well-known scientists , and similar material. There is a lot of information available on the internet and in public libraries as well. All the information that you find on the internet may not be relevant or true. So before you use the information, make sure you verify it.  

03. Identify specific variables

Identify the specific variables that are related to the research study you want to conduct. These variables can give your research a new scope and can also help you identify how these can be related to your research design . For example, consider hypothetically you want to conduct research about the occurrence of cancer in married women. Here the two variables that you will be concentrating on are married women and cancer.

While collecting relevant literature, you understand that the spread of cancer is more aggressive in married women who are beyond 40 years of age. Here there is a third variable which is age, and this is a relevant variable that can affect the end result of your research.  

04. Generate the framework

In this step, you start building the required framework using the mix of variables from the scientific articles and other relevant materials. The research problem statement in your research becomes the research framework. Your attempt to start answering the question becomes the basis of your research study. The study is carried out to reduce the knowledge gap and make available more relevant and correct information.

Example of Conceptual Research Framework

Thesis statement/ Purpose of research: Chronic exposure to sunlight can lead to precancerous (actinic keratosis), cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma), and even skin lesions (caused by loss of skin’s immune function) in women over 40 years of age.

The study claims that constant exposure to sunlight can cause the precancerous condition and can eventually lead to cancer and other skin abnormalities. Those affected by these experience symptoms like fatigue, fine or coarse wrinkles, discoloration of the skin, freckles, and a burning sensation in the more exposed areas.

Note that in this study, there are two variables associated- cancer and women over 40 years in the African subcontinent. But one is a dependent variable (women over 40 years, in the African subcontinent), and the other is an independent variable (cancer). Cumulative exposure to the sun till the age of 18 years can lead to symptoms similar to skin cancer. If this is not taken care of, there are chances that cancer can spread entirely.

Assuming that the other factors are constant during the research period, it will be possible to correlate the two variables and thus confirm that, indeed, chronic exposure to sunlight causes cancer in women over the age of 40 in the African subcontinent. Further, correlational research can verify this association further.

Advantages of Conceptual Research

1. Conceptual research mainly focuses on the concept of the research or the theory that explains a phenomenon. What causes the phenomenon, what are its building blocks, and so on? It’s research based on pen and paper.

2. This type of research heavily relies on previously conducted studies; no form of experiment is conducted, which saves time, effort, and resources. More relevant information can be generated by conducting conceptual research.

3. Conceptual research is considered the most convenient form of research. In this type of research, if the conceptual framework is ready, only relevant information and literature need to be sorted.

QuestionPro for Conceptual Research

QuestionPro offers readily available conceptual frameworks. These frameworks can be used to research consumer trust, customer satisfaction (CSAT) , product evaluations, etc. You can select from a wide range of templates question types, and examples curated by expert researchers.

We also help you decide which conceptual framework might be best suited for your specific situation.

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  • What is Conceptual Research? Definition, Framework, Pros & Cons

Olayemi Jemimah Aransiola

Introduction

Conducting research is an important part of human life and for centuries, identifying and evaluating a subject or topic to gain knowledge has been a constant practice. There are different classifications of research based on the approach, methodology, and purpose. 

One such classification is conceptual research, which focuses on exploring and developing abstract ideas or concepts. And in today’s article, we will discuss the definition of conceptual research, its purpose, and its significance in various fields.

What is Conceptual Research?

The process defined as conceptual research focuses on the exploration and development of abstract concepts or theories. It involves the study and analysis of existing concepts to refine or develop a conceptual framework. 

Theoretical research is also known as such because a theoretical approach is used to understand the world. Additionally, it is utilized by both academics and non-academics.

The purpose of conceptual research is to understand how people make sense of their environment, how they make decisions, and what influences them.

Conceptual research can take various forms, including descriptive, explanatory, exploratory, or theoretical research. The research can focus on a broad range of topics, such as cultural differences, political ideologies, social norms, philosophical concepts, and ethical principles. 

For example, a conceptual study can explore the concept of social justice, the impact of globalization on culture, or the implications of artificial intelligence on society.

It allows you to determine whether the results of your experiment are what you want them to be, and it helps to understand why things happened as they did. Through conceptual research, researchers can develop a theoretical framework that can guide future research and practice. 

Conceptual research can generate new insights and challenge existing assumptions or theories. It can contribute to the development of new ideas, theories, or concepts, which advance understanding. In philosophy, social sciences, and humanities, theoretical analysis and critical thinking are essential. Therefore, the use of conceptual research is common in these disciplines.

What is the Purpose of Conceptual Research?

The purpose of conceptual research is to provide a deeper understanding of complex concepts. It clarifies ambiguous terms or definitions and generates new insights or perspectives. These can guide future research and practice. Conceptual research serves as a basis for empirical research. It provides a theoretical framework for hypothesis testing and data analysis.

This is because one of the primary purposes of conceptual research is to develop a theoretical framework. In the paragraph below, we will discuss more on the conceptual research framework and how you can understand it. Another importance of conceptual research is that it helps to clarify vague concepts or terms. For example, in psychology, the concept of intelligence has been a topic of debate for decades. Researchers have used several definitions and measures of intelligence, that led to conflicting findings. 

However, through conceptual research, researchers can identify the underlying assumptions and theories that truly shape the concept of intelligence. This will allow them to develop a clearer and more concise definition of intelligence that can guide future research.

Furthermore, conceptual research also aims to generate new ideas or concepts that can contribute to the development of a more comprehensive understanding of social phenomena.

Understanding the Conceptual Research Framework

The framework for conceptual research is a set of steps that you can follow to ensure that your study meets all necessary requirements for scientific rigor. It is a way for researchers to organize their ideas about a topic and how that topic affects other topics. 

For example, studying people’s thoughts about time can involve a conceptual framework with five categories. These include past, present, future, money, and health. You can then use this framework as a guide to examine how people perceive time with respect to income or health.

What are the Methods of Conceptual Research?

Conceptual research relies on literature review, expert opinions, philosophical analysis, or critical thinking. It provides insights into abstract ideas or concepts. Empirical research collects and analyzes quantitative or qualitative data. Here are the four methods of conceptual research:

  • Literature Review:  The literature review is a primary conceptual research method. It involves a systematic search and analysis of existing literature. This is done on a particular subject to identify main concepts, theories, and research findings. It also helps in developing a conceptual framework, identifying research gaps, and generating new ideas. Various sources are used for conducting it, like books, academic journals, and online databases.
  • Theory Development: Theory development is a method of conceptual research that involves the construction or refinement of theories that explain a particular concept. To use this method, the researcher may use empirical data, expert opinions, or philosophical analysis. The aim of theory development is to provide a framework that can be used to guide future research or to inform practice.
  • Critical Analyses: Critical analyses also involve the evaluation of arguments, ideas, or concepts. The aim of critical analyses is to identify logical fallacies, inconsistencies, and biases in the reasoning. Critical analyses can help to generate new ideas or perspectives that challenge existing assumptions or theories.
  • Historical Research : Historical research is a method of conceptual research that involves the study of past events or phenomena to gain insights into the present or future. The researcher may use primary sources, such as diaries, letters, or newspapers. Alternatively, they can use secondary sources, such as historical texts or biographies, to study the past. The aim of historical research is to provide a context for understanding current or future events or phenomena.

Advantages of Conceptual Research

The advantages of conceptual research are:

  • This type of research allows exploring ideas freely without worrying about one study’s outcome.
  • It may bring new insights by asking questions beyond surveys and traditional methods.
  • It allows you to use more complex statistical models that are harder to do with simple experiments.
  • Another advantage of conceptual research is that it can be done without having to go through all the steps of a traditional survey.
  • Conceptual research helps to reach a goal/objective/ better than other types of research methods like survey research etc. It uses surveys or interviews to collect data from respondents. This is preferable to collecting data from objects or entities. Some cases may not allow the latter due to ethical issues.

Limitations of Conceptual Research

The limitations of conceptual research include:

  • Theoretical Gaps : Conceptual researchers may not be aware of all the relevant literature on their topic. They may also lack expertise in a particular field, which can lead them to misinterpret or misinterpret data from their own or other researchers’ studies. You won’t always find an answer when you conduct a conceptual investigation; instead, you may find that the answer comes from another source (e.g., a literature review).
  • Difficulties with Data Collection: Conceptual researchers often face difficulties collecting data because they do not have access to the same resources as other types of researchers (e.g., financial support).
  • Low Levels of Participation : Because conceptual research involves creating new knowledge through thoughtful analysis rather than empiricism, it often requires more time than other kinds of research.

Example of a Conceptual Research Framework

Thesis Statement/ Purpose of Research: 

The conceptual research project aims to develop a framework for understanding employee engagement. It also proposes interventions to improve employee engagement and organizational outcomes.

Based on this thesis statement, a possible conceptual research framework could involve reviewing existing literature on employee engagement.

It involves examining theories and models and analyzing factors that affect employee engagement. Factors include leadership, organizational culture, and job characteristics.

The framework can explore the effectiveness of different interventions. These include training programs, rewards, and employee involvement initiatives. The goal is to enhance organizational performance.

Ultimately, the framework can guide future research and practice. It can provide a theoretical foundation for understanding employee engagement.

In conclusion, conceptual research is a type of research that focuses on exploring and developing abstract ideas or concepts. The purpose of conceptual research is to provide a deeper understanding of complex concepts. It aims to clarify ambiguous terms or definitions. It also seeks to generate new insights or perspectives. These insights can help guide future research and practice.

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Conceptual Vs. Empirical Research: Which Is Better?

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Scientific research is often divided into two classes: conceptual research and empirical research. There used to be distinct ways of doing research and a researcher would proudly claim to be one or the other, praising his method and scorning the alternative. Today the distinction is not so clear.

What is Conceptual Research?

Conceptual research focuses on the concept or theory that explains or describes the phenomenon being studied. What causes disease? How can we describe the motions of the planets? What are the building blocks of matter? The conceptual researcher sits at his desk with pen in hand and tries to solve these problems by thinking about them. He does no experiments but may make use of observations by others, since this is the mass of data that he is trying to make sense of. Until fairly recently, conceptual research methodology was considered the most honorable form of research—it required using the brain, not the hands. Researchers such as the alchemists who did experiments were considered little better than blacksmiths—“filthy empiricists.”

What is Empirical Research?

For all of their lofty status, conceptual researchers regularly produced theories that were wrong. Aristotle taught that large cannonballs fell to earth faster than small ones, and many generations of professors repeated his teachings until Galileo proved them wrong. Galileo was an empiricist of the best sort, one who performed original experiments not merely to destroy old theories but to provide the basis for new theories. A reaction against the ivory tower theoreticians culminated in those who claimed to have no use for theory, arguing that empirical acquisition of knowledge was the only way to the truth. A pure empiricist would simply graph data and see if he got a straight line relation between variables. If so, he had a good “empirical” relationship that would make useful predictions. The theory behind the correlation was irrelevant.

Conceptual vs. Empirical Research

The Scientific Method: A Bit of Both

The modern scientific method is really a combination of empirical and conceptual research. Using known experimental data a scientist formulates a working hypothesis to explain some aspect of nature. He then performs new experiments designed to test predictions of the theory, to support it or disprove it. Einstein is often cited as an example of a conceptual researcher, but he based his theories on experimental observations and proposed experiments, real and thought, which would test his theories. On the other hand, Edison is often considered an empiricist, the “Edisonian method” being a by-word for trial and error. But Edison appreciated the work of theorists and hired some of the best. Random screening of myriad possibilities is still valuable: pharmaceutical companies looking for new drugs do this, sometimes with great success. Personally, I tend to be a semi-empiricist. In graduate school I used the Hammett linear free-energy relation (a semi-empirical equation) to gain insight into chemical transition states. So I don’t debate on “conceptual vs. empirical research.” There is a range of possibilities between both the forms, all of which have their uses.

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Excellent explanations in a simple language.

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Thanks for this article,really helpful university of zambia

Albert Einstein did theoretical work–he had no laboratory, Put simply, through new conceptual models, he re-interpreted the findings of others and expressed them mathematically.

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  • What is conceptual research: Definition & examples

What is conceptual research: Definition & examples

Defne Çobanoğlu

How did Newton figure out the gravity after seeing an apple fall from a tree? What kind of research did Nicolaus Copernicus conduct to figure out that the planets revolve around the sun and not vice versa? It is certain that they did not conduct practical experiments to figure this stuff out.

The type of research these two scientists do is called conceptual research. They basically observed their surroundings to conceptualize and develop theories about gravitation, motion, and astronomy. That is what some scientists and philosophers do to wrap their heads around existing concepts and new ideas. Now, let us see what exactly conceptual research is and other details.

  • What is conceptual research?

Conceptual research is a type of research that does not involve conducting any practical experiments . It is based on observing and analyzing already existing concepts and theories. The researcher can observe their surroundings and develop brand-new theories, or they can build on existing ones.

Conceptual research is widely used in the study of philosophy to develop new ideas. And this type of research is also used to answer business questions and organize ideas, or interpret existing theories differently.

Conceptual research definition

Conceptual research definition

  • Conceptual research frameworks

Even if the researcher is not conducting any experiments of their own, they should still work in a systematic manner, to be precise. And a conceptual research framework is built around existing literature and appropriate research studies that can explain the phenomenon. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a conceptual research framework:

The steps for a conceptual research framework

The steps for a conceptual research framework

1 - Define a topic for research:

The first step in creating your research framework is to choose the topic you will be working on. Most researchers define a topic in their area of expertise and go along with it.

2 - Collect relevant literature:

After deciding on the subject, the next and most important step is collecting relevant literature. As this type of research heavily relies on existing literature, it is important to find reliable sources. Successfully collecting relevant information is key to successfully completing this step. The reliable sources one can use are:

  • scientific journals
  • research papers (published by well-known scientists)
  • Public libraries
  • Online databases
  • Relevant books

3 - Identify specific variables:

In this step, identify specific variables that may affect your research. These variables may give your study a new scope and a new area to cover during your research. For example, let us say you want to conduct research about the occurrence of depression in teenage boys aged 14 to 19. Here, the two variables are teenage boys and depression.

During your research, you figure that substance abuse among teenage boys has a big effect on their mental wellbeings. Therefore, you add substance abuse as a relevant variable and be mindful of that when you are continuing your research. 

4 - Create the framework:

The final step is creating the framework after going through all the relevant data available. The research question in hand becomes the research framework

  • Conceptual research examples

When a researcher decides on the subject they want to explore, the next thing they should decide is what kind of methods they want to do. They can choose the experiments and surveys, but sometimes these methods are not possible for different reasons. And when they can not do practical experimenting, they can use existing literature and observation. Here are two examples where conceptual research can be used: 

  • Example 1 of conceptual research:

A researcher wants to explore the key factors that influence consumer behavior in the online shopping environment. That is their research question. Once the researcher decides on the subject, they can begin by reviewing the existing literature on consumer behavior and examining different theories and models of consumer behavior. 

Then, they can identify common themes or factors that have emerged. By understanding this phenomenon, the researcher can develop a conceptual framework.

  • Example 2 of conceptual research:

A group of researchers wants to see if there is any correlation between chemically dyeing your hair and the risk of cancer in women. They can start collecting data on women that had cancer and usage of hair dye. They can collect research papers on this particular subject. And they can create a conceptual framework with the information they collected and analyzed.

  • Advantages and disadvantages of conceptual research

There are multiple research types for researchers to get to the goal they want, and they all offer different advantages. It is up to the researchers to decide on the most suitable one for their study and go along with that. The conceptual study also has its positive and negative aspects one should have in mind. Now, let us go through the list of conceptual research advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages vs. disadvantages of conceptual research

Advantages vs. disadvantages of conceptual research

Advantages of conceptual research:

  • Requires fewer sources: This type of research does not involve any type of experiment. Therefore it saves money, energy, and manpower. It only involves theorizing and searching through existing literature. 
  • Generates new ideas:  Conceptual research can help generate new ideas and hypotheses. Researchers can use data collection to add on top of abstract ideas or concepts
  • Helps to identify patterns: Conceptual research can help identify patterns in complex concepts and help develop a conceptual analysis. This can lead to a better understanding of how different factors are related to each other.

Disadvantages of conceptual research:

  • Questionable reliability and validity: Conclusions drawn from literature reviews on conceptual research topics are less fact-based and may not essentially be considered dependable. Because they are not backed up by practical experimentation, they may have less credibility.
  • May be prone to subjectivity: Because it relies on abstract concepts, conceptual research may be influenced by personal biases and perspectives. Researchers should be mindful of this effect and act on it accordingly.
  • Can be time-consuming:  As conceptual research involves extensive research and analyses of relevant literature, it may take a longer time to finalize the study on hand. This can be challenging for researchers who are working within time constraints.
  • Conceptual research vs. empirical research

Conceptual research is about creating an idea after looking at existing data or adding on a theory after going through available literature. And the empirical research includes something different than the prior one. Empirical research involves research based on observation, experiments, and verifiable evidence .

The main difference between the two is the fact that empirical research involves doing experiments to develop a conceptual framework. Empirical research studies are observable and measurable as they are verifiable by observations or experience. In order to see if a study is empirical, you can ask yourself this question: Can I create this study and test these results myself?

The difference between conceptual research and empirical research

The difference between conceptual research and empirical research

  • Wrapping it up

Once you encounter a problem you want to solve but you are unable to do experiments, you can go with conceptual research. Instead of conducting experiments, you should find appropriate existing literature and analyze them thoroughly. Just then, you can create a conceptual framework.

And you can always use the help of a good online tool for your needs when doing research. The best tool for all your needs, from forms to surveys to questionnaires, is forms.app. forms.app is an online survey maker that offers more than 1000 ready-to-use templates and can be the help you need!

Defne is a content writer at forms.app. She is also a translator specializing in literary translation. Defne loves reading, writing, and translating professionally and as a hobby. Her expertise lies in survey research, research methodologies, content writing, and translation.

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  • Published: 14 May 2024

Fake News: a conceptual model for risk management

  • João Varela da Costa   ORCID: orcid.org/0009-0009-4534-7132 1 , 2 ,
  • Silvia Bogea Gomes 1 , 2 &
  • Miguel Mira da Silva 1 , 2  

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume  11 , Article number:  625 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

  • Business and management
  • Information systems and information technology

This article proposes a model based on a systematic literature review (SLR) that investigates the intersection of Fake News, Risk, and Risk Management. Employing Design Science Research as the primary methodology, it introduces a conceptual model to mitigate Fake News-related risks in specific communities. The model uses ArchiMate to depict a community as an organisational entity, exemplifying its practicality through a Fake News instance from the Central European Digital Media Observatory. The research undergoes rigorous evaluation using the Bunge-Wand-Weber Model, ensuring its consistency and value to the scientific community. This evaluation formalises the proposed conceptual model, offering a structured framework systematically mapping Fake News concepts to mitigate associated risks and disinformation. This study contributes to the Fake News management discourse, providing a practical risk management tool to counter the phenomenon.

Introduction

The swift rise of digitalisation has offered a transformative view to organisations and new technological advancements. It has also transformed our relationship with information and how we use and perceive technology to communicate. It is essential to remember that digitalisation has brought new and different digital risks to our communities and organisations. A common digital threat associated with digitisation is disinformation, which is the spread of false or misleading information online through the use of Fake News (FN). FN can be a medium for the dissemination of disinformation. It is crucial to understand that disinformation threatens the integrity of information, manipulating public opinion and the decision-making process Christodoulou & Iordanou ( 2021 ). Moreover, its false and misleading nature presents a genuine threat to societies, with its impact going beyond the spreading of disinformation, potentially eroding public trust, influencing critical decision-making, and affecting individual and organisational reputation Huber et al. ( 2021 ).

As an example of the harm and distress caused due to FN, we have the bombardment of disinformation produced with ideological interference in world political events over the past decade, with examples of its effects in critical political events such as Brexit in the UK, the 2016 US election of Donald J. Trump, years where FN hit its peak Yerlikaya & Aslan ( 2020 ). This example highlights how disinformation can rapidly spread, which means it can reach a larger audience, making it increasingly challenging to control and mitigate its impact.

A comprehensive systematic literature review (SLR) on fake news, digital risk, and risk management enabled us to map out the fake news concepts mentioned in the literature and their connections to digital risk. We were able to define fake news, identify its main concepts, and establish the relationships between them. In summary, the SLR seeks to demonstrate that FN is indeed an instantiation of digital risk and paved the way for studying its concepts and developing conceptual modelling here presented.

Given the vast terminology used to define FN, it was essential to present a conceptual model that used the concepts of FN in its multitude of different definitions to provide a metamodel that seeks to understand and decompose the concepts in a rich and diversified manner that reflects the diversity of definitions found in the literature. This article, therefore, aims to build a comprehensive conceptual model derived from the literature that provides clarity to stakeholders, mainly the law enforcement agencies that seek to mitigate the impact of FN in a community.

This research follows the methodology and guidelines of Design Science Research for Information Systems Hevner et al. ( 2010 ), where the conceptual model is the central artefact, and the community is modelled as an organisation using ArchiMate modelling language for enterprise architecture. Furthermore, this research seeks to demonstrate through an instance of FN present in the Central European Digital Media Observatory.(CEDMO) archive to fully understand the model applicability and resilience in a given community.

Research Background

This section comprises three integral parts: Risk, Fake News and the interplay between Digital Risk and Fake News.

The concept of risk has been thoroughly investigated, and the term has different definitions. Renn, O argues that the terms encapsulate different definitions that are not commonly accepted Renn ( 1998 ). The International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) defines risk as an uncertain consequence of an event or activity concerning something that humans value Renn ( 2009 ). This definition conflates with the Rosa ( 1998 ), Rosa ( 2003 ), where the authors state that risk is a situation or event where something of human value (including humans) is at stake, thus having an uncertain outcome. The ontological work Aven et al. ( 2011 ) also agrees that the two previous references express the same idea.

For this work, the authors adopted the definition provided by industry-standard 31 000 for risk management, which is more attainable, stating that risk is defined as the effect of uncertainty on objectives and goals.These uncertainties can arise from various sources, such as ambiguity in decision-making, economic conditions, technological advancements, and legal and regulatory changes. It is important to note that risk has three crucial components - the likelihood of a given event to occur, its consequences or impacts that derive from an event, and, lastly, the uncertainty encompassing these two factors Dali & Lajtha ( 2012 ).

Understanding these components is essential for making informed decisions in the context of risk management. The likelihood of an event signifies the probability of its occurrence, ranging from highly unlikely to almost certain. Consequences, on the other hand, can be of positive or negative outcomes that follow the materialisation of an event. These outcomes have an impact to an organisation and can span a spectrum, enveloping gains, and losses. An effective risk management strategy considers the potential financial implication and evaluates broader repercussions on reputation, operational efficiency, and strategic alignment.

It is worth mentioning that the concept of uncertainty interlinks the likelihood and consequences of an event, highlighting the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of risks. This uncertainty stems from the complexity of interrelated factors, the intricacies of cause-and-effect relationships, and the unpredictability of external influences. It is, therefore, evident that organisations must recognise that risk are not isolated incidents but rather interconnected elements that can trigger a chain of reactions. Consequently, embracing risk management as an ongoing strategy instead of one-time task allows organisations to adapt and respond to the evolving landscape of uncertainties continuously. It is possible to conclude that risk management has become pivotal aspect of modern organisations Dali & Lajtha ( 2012 ).

Furthermore, in the current degree of digitalisation, the ever presence of cyber risk poses a significant challenge to individuals, organisations, and critical infrastructures. The consequences of risk related incidents, has the potential to arouse cyber incidents with extensive and long-lasting impacts on critical infrastructure, emphasising the significance of proactive risk management measures Strupczewski ( 2021 ). The emergence of contemporary technological strides in digitalisation has ushered in novel prospects for business augmentation, process refinement, and heightened efficiencies. Concurrently, this paradigm shift has engendered a heightened susceptibility to the pernicious encroachments of cyber threats precipitated by the intricate interlinking of our intricate system architectures.

Emphasising this dynamic juncture, it becomes paramount to underscore the imperative of formulating an all-encompassing scheme that addresses preserving delicate information and fortifying digital ecosystems’ robustness. Considering the rapidly evolving cyber terrain, the delineation of a holistic approach assumes a pivotal role in mitigating risks and nurturing the resilience indispensable to the sustenance of digital domains Donaldson et al. ( 2015 ). Furthermore, it is imperative not to disregard the interconnected risk of disseminating false information, commonly called fake news. This phenomenon capitalises on technological advancements and interlinked systems to propagate deceptive narratives, misleading individuals. In light of the escalating sophistication and persistence of cyberattacks, comprehending the diverse dimensions of digital risk emerges as an indispensable consideration Singer & Friedman ( 2014 ).

The literature contains different terms that help solidify the definition of FN, which is the broader terminology of this work. Its spread intentionally or unintentionally has severe consequences, especially if widely believed and followed by individuals, and can potentially erode public trust in institutions or media. Effective dissemination is often granted through effecting spreading online with particular emphasis on social media. Generally speaking, state and private actors responsible for spreading disinformation have developed techniques to propagate falsehoods; such techniques may include using automatic bots that indulge in creating effective dissemination networks and infiltrating real social media accounts Aswad ( 2020 ).

When considering the scope of FN, it is fundamental to remember that it does not limit its action solely to social networks; on the contrary, it refers to false or counterfeit material reported in a newspaper, newscast or periodical. It is, therefore, possible to conclude that the spreading of false information takes different forms and uses different means of propagation Ferreira et al. ( 2020 ).

Another aspect to consider when talking about FN is the intention behind the actor responsible for the spreading of disinformation. Should the intention be to deliberately misinform the receptor then it can be classified as disinformation. On the other hand, if the intention to disinformed is null, and should it be the result of a mistake or error then it is defined as misinformation. Misinformation may also refer to information that is incomplete Huber et al. ( 2021 ). The intention is amplified by private interests seeking political or financial rewards, that micro-target vulnerable individuals as seeds to further spread misinformation Bastick ( 2021 ).

There are various definitions of disinformation, including the one provided by the European Commission in its 2018 Code of Practice on Disinformation. According to this definition, disinformation is any false or misleading information created, presented, and spread to make money or deceive the public. This type of information can harm individuals and society as a whole and may pose a threat to democratic political processes and public goods, such as the protection of citizens’ health, the environment, and security within the European Union, Comission ( 2018 ).

According to the United Nations Counter Disinformation Report, there is no clear definition of disinformation. The report states that this phenomenon reflects the new and rapidly evolving communications landscape and technologies that enable the dissemination of unprecedented content at exceptional speeds. This undermines the public trust in institutions and contributes to a polarised society, creating grounds for populism and authoritarianism, General Assembly ( 2022 ).

To fully grasp the phenomenon of FN, it is vital to comprehend its two most associated terminology of information: misinformation and disinformation. It is also essential to comprehend that FN is the broader concept encompassing both realities that can be considered news that provides financial gain or discredit someone. Secondly, they may be referred to as news with a factual context but are presented distorted; and lastly, news that people do not like is classified as FN. These three dimensions are essential, valid, and acceptable definitions Huber et al. ( 2021 ).

Digital Risk and Fake News

Technology is undoubtedly a double-edged sword, both an enabler and a potential catalyst for digit al risks. In an age where information spreads unprecedentedly, the rampant propagation of fake news and disinformation has become a significant concern. This trend calls for a paradigm shift in how organisations and communities approach risk management and resilience.

As enterprises adapt their strategies to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape, they must recognise the intricate connection between technology and disinformation. Developing robust risk management practices and protocols is no longer sufficient in cybersecurity and data breaches. Instead, organisations must broaden their perspective and include combating the menace of FN as an integral part of their risk mitigation efforts Kaidalova et al. ( 2018 ).This strategy includes introduction of new technology to detect patterns, FN in its different shapes and forms disinformation Truică & Apostol ( 2023 ). It may be hard to regulate and control the spread of fake news due to the decentralised nature of the internet, were information crosses borders and spreads quickly. FN, misinformation, and disinformation, of digital disinformation has caused a new wave of concern across communities, having severe consequences that range from political dispute, generating discursive struggles, mostly from hyper partisan outlets Soares & Recuero ( 2021 ).

Organisations must proactively implement comprehensive strategies to fortify their defences against the pervasive threat of FN. The first crucial step is identifying the sources and channels through which FN spreads. Employing advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques can aid in tracking the origins of false information and its dissemination patterns, enabling organisations to respond swiftly and effectively with the removal of accounts that actively spread disinformation is a step forward towards a more resilient online environment. It is important to remember that due to the decentralised nature of the internet this might be a very challenging task Ali et al. ( 2022 ).

The fusion of technology and the associated disinformation caused by FN requires a paradigm shift in risk management. As organisations grapple with complex challenges posed by disinformation it becomes imperative to develop strategies for the swift detection of disinformation and structure an appropriate response for a constructive mitigation of risk despite the hurdles presented by the decentralised nature of the internet, thus paving the way for a more discerning and secure digital future.

Literature Review

This section intends to present the identified concepts and illustrate them, present its definition and consequent reference in the extracted literature (see Table 1 ).

Research Design

This section will first introduce Enterprise Architecture and ArchiMate modelling language. Secondly, it will demonstrate how the identified concepts of FN identified in a previously developed SLR are represented in ArchiMate, illustrating its layer and consequent ArchiMate Concept. Lastly, this section will introduce the proposed conceptual model of FN.

Enterprise Architecture

Known as a strategic discipline focusing on designing and managing an organisation’s overall structure, processes, systems, and technology and making them align with a given organisation’s business goals and objectives - Enterprise Architecture, henceforth EA, aims at providing a holistic view for an organisation. A structured view lets stakeholders understand how different components and resources interact and support the organisation mission Lankhorst & Lankhorst ( 2009 ).

EA encompasses different important domains, this includes the business, data, application, and technology architectures. Furthermore, it also ensures that these domains are coherently integrated in a way that leads to organisational improvement, with special emphasis in the efficiency, agility, and decision-making process es within an organisation. A common adopted framework is TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) that provides a structured approach to develop and maintain and architecture Lankhorst & Lankhorst ( 2009 ).

Many organisations behave as enterprises, as enterprises can be considered a type of organisation Bogea Gomes et al. ( 2023 ). FN poses a significant threat to enterprises, undermining their reputation and credibility in the eyes of consumers. Businesses must navigate this landscape carefully, implementing robust fact-checking measures and transparent communication strategies to mitigate potential damage to their brand Petratos ( 2021 ).

ArchiMate is a widely used EA modelling language and notation standard developed by The Open Group, currently in its 3.0 specification. It is a systematic and consistent way to describe, analyse and visualise the different aspects of an enterprise Org ( 2019 ).

To fully recognise ArchiMate central value to enterprise modelling it is necessary to acknowledge its Full Framework, which includes the identification of different layers and aspects presented in the Fig. 1 below. It is important to refer that out of the layers that are illustrated below, only the motivational, the strategy and business layers were used to develop the proposed conceptual model.

figure 1

Source: Org ( 2019 ).

The common identified strength of ArchiMate modelling language, lies on the ability to represent complex relationships between various architectural elements, e.g., business processes, applications, data, and technological infrastructure Org ( 2019 ).

Mapping Fake News Concepts onto ArchiMate

The following section depicts a table with the concepts identified in the literature, the same concept representation in ArchiMate here with some being decomposed for the illustration of different perspectives surrounding the same concept. The last column of Table 2 presents a definition of each ArchiMate Concept in accordance with the Open Group Standard specification 3.0 Org, O( 2019 ). Also, Table 3 , presented below, illustrates the different ArchiMate relationships used in the conceptual model, which uses the same specification.

The ArchiMate modelling language was used to create the model, depicting the mitigation of the impact of FN in a community. The conceptual model aimed to model a community as an organisation, and thus, using ArchiMate was deemed appropriate to represent the concepts derived from the literature, their relationships, and notations. The colour scheme was used to differentiate between the ArchiMate language layers. In the text below, bold terms represent concepts and their relationships. Italicised terms represent ArchiMate elements.

Fake News , mapped here in the strategy layer as a Course of Action , represents the inner purpose of a malicious actor to spread disinformation, thus having a clear goal or plan for damaging the reputation of a third party, organisation or individual. A strategic plan is taken into action, prevailing a scenario of misinformation, where the main goal is to disseminate fabricated and misleading information.

Note that for each instance of FN, an associated Impact is illustrated in the motivation layer. On the other hand, an impact leads to an Outcome or end-result. The impact affects the perception of the truth, distortion of reality through disinformation campaigns, erosion of public trust, social division, economic effects, health risks, political manipulation, crisis response, disruption, media credibility damage and other potential regulatory factors Petratos ( 2021 ).

Another critical aspect of paramount representation in the conceptual model is Context , which is also present in the motivation layer. For each instance of FN, there is one or more associated contexts, characterised in ArchiMate as Meaning - referring to the significance or purpose associated with different elements of FN. Moreover, behind a context of disinformation, it personifies an Intention (also in the motivation layer) that illustrates the motive of the perpetrator or actor, represented in the ArchiMate concept of Driver - a condition that motivates the agent of disinformation to spread false information Huber et al. ( 2021 ).

The Agent is a decomposed concept, a decision made by the researchers in order to provide a clear understanding of the two different meanings of the concept - Fake News Agent refers to an actor or organisation responsible for plotting and deploying a disinformation campaign and spreading FN - present in the Motivation layer as a Stakeholder ; and the Affected Agent - illustrated in the business layer as a Business Role intent to epitomise the individual or organisation that is directly or indirectly affected by the impact of FN Huber et al. ( 2021 ); Yerlikaya & Aslan ( 2020 ).

The concept of Source is also present at the business layers as a Business Role , referring to the origin of FN. A decision was made to represent the source as a Business Role , rather than a Business Actor , as the source is a role that can be played by different individuals, not necessarily the same actor. Also related to the concept of Source is the Content originating from the different newscasts and outlets and social media present in the business layer as a Business Service , serving the Source with false information that feeds the spreading Lazar & Paun ( 2020 ); Yerlikaya & Aslan ( 2020 ).

A concept that stands out due to its importance is Verifiability , essentially referring to the investigation taken by Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA), fact-checkers, and journalists alike regarding the veracity of the news. This concept is represented in the business layer as a Business Process , as it is intended to represent a much-needed sequence of actions required to verify the information Huber et al. ( 2021 ).

Also, on the business layer is the concept of Medium , illustrating the means by which disinformation is spread, this could be done through many different forms (e.g., social media, news outlets, television, etc.). This concept is represented as a Business Interface , as it is a point of confluence and access trigging the source, associated with FN event, and broadly introducing the content of disinformation to the public.

Lastly, we have another decomposed concept in the business layer - Event . The concept was decomposed into two concepts - Fake News Event , illustrating the instantiation of FN represented in ArchiMate as Business Event denoting a state of change and a behavioural aspect that characterises FN, meaning an event that has a beginning and an end; and Type of Event referring to the category of FN represented as a Business Function an activity with a sole function of categorising FN.

Fake News Conceptual Model

Figure 2 below illustrates the proposed conceptual model, for details regarding its ArchiMate notation, definitions, and modelling justification decision please refer to the previous subsections.

figure 2

Fake News conceptual model following the ArchiMate specification notation as Org ( 2019 ).

Demonstration

This section presents a demonstration of the proposed model into a real instantiation of FN. Furthermore, it also presents the mapping instantiated concepts, and an instantiated conceptual model in ArchiMate.

Fake News Through and Instantiation

In order to find a credible instance of FN, the authors resorted to the Central European Digital Media Observatory (CEDMO) archive. CEDMO is a European independent and non-partisan multidisciplinary hub that identifies and researches FN activities across the continent. It works closely with fact-checkers from different member states having regional hubs in different regions that work closely to decrease the impact of disinformation, strengthen transparency, understand enhanced media, and rebuild trust in media Observatory ( 2023 ).

The chosen instance of FN is titled “BREAKING: COVID-19 Vaccine Can Cause Blindness". This was broadly propagated in social media with particular emphasis on spreading through X (formerly known as Twitter). The full post, dated the 5th of May 2023, suggested that scientific research demonstrated that COVID-19 vaccination was responsible for blindness. The post gain traction when an alternative health blogger Erin Elizabeth retweeted becoming one of the top spreaders of the anti-vaccine content online. The post was later considered by independent fact checkers as being of misleading nature as no evidence suggesting an association between the covid-19 vaccination blindness Goldhamer ( 2023 ).

Essentially, the post focused on the study findings to argue that vaccinations caused retinal vascular disease (RVO), thus demonstrating that vaccinated patients had significantly increased risk of RVO, nevertheless, and according to CEDMO consortium factcheckers, the post failed to mention there is not a strong correlation and clear link between vaccination and the referred eye problem. Thus, conclusions suggest that the evidence is not very strong, and moreover the RVO is also not a very common disease, making the post-affirmation unfunded and misleading Goldhamer ( 2023 ).

On making a swift reflection on the consequences and impact of this post, it is indeed possible to understand its significant effect on the online community. Like any other piece of misinformation, the problem is not solely on the actual post but on its societal consequences, and this is more true should we consider the high rate of sharing and retweeting contributing to an exacerbated effect of disinformation on a mass scale.

Mapping the Instantiation onto the SLR Concepts

Table 4 presented below serves as a visual representation of the relationships between the identified instantiated concepts of FN and the SLR Concepts in ArchiMate.

Table 4 presents the instantiated concepts of FN derived from the chosen event of FN previously presented in the above subsection. A single event of FN produces several instances that are of possible consideration for our model. It is essential to understand that this work solely seeks to model one instance. When reading the entire article presented in the CEDMO fact-checking repository, we quickly realised that different instances are suitable for modelling. The provided content was initially spread through X, re-shared by other users in the same social network and reproduced in other social media such as Facebook and Instagram. Later, it was also reproduced in the blog of an alternative health blogger - Erin Elizabeth and others Goldhamer ( 2023 ).

A decision was made amongst the authors to solely demonstrate in the bellow instantiated conceptual model the first instance, meaning the moment that the disinformation was first shared by Mario Nawfal on the social network X. Having this into consideration, the above table derived the instantiated concepts of FN presented on the left column on Table 4 . Please note that the instantiated concepts illustrated on the left column map with the concepts of the right column.

Instantiated Conceptual Model

This subsection explains the flow of disinformation. This characterisation is based on the intrinsic intention to fuel conspiracy theories Goldhamer ( 2023 ). The below paragraphs show the concepts in bold and the relationship between concepts are italicised . It also presents on Fig. 3 the instantiated conceptual model.

figure 3

Fake News Instantiated conceptual model following the ArchiMate specification notation as Org (2019).

The first instance of the spreading of disinformation to the general public regarding Covid- 19 vaccination, and its possible connection with blindness occurs in X, having been triggered by an individual, thus represented in the model as Individual: Source it Assigns a stakeholder known as Mario Nawfal an entrepreneur and alternative health advocate represented as a stakeholder as he directly benefits from the impact of this instantiation in society. The concept is illustrated as Mario Nawfal Alternative Health Advocate: Fake News Agent . The Impact Brings Risk to a community, illustrated as role Community: Affected Agent representing the different affected communities. The intention questions the judgments of the scientific community, introducing doubts regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and generating alarm. Cifuentes-Faura ( 2020 ); Vasconcellos-Silva & Castiel ( 2020 ).

A Fake News impact Characterised by its context, represented as Covid-19: Context and it is Instantiated by an event characterised and defined by the CEDMO and AFP factchecker as Covid-19 Vaccines Blindness: Fake News Event. The instantiation is then Spread through a the social network X a chosen Medium for propagation of FN, represented in the model by its instantiation X:Medium . The Medium is associated to a specific Content - Mario Nawfal Post, represented in the model as Mario Nawfal Post: Content that is then classified and defined as disinformation, illustrated as Disinformation: Type Event . Lastly, the source of FN Is Linked with the Intention to mislead the general public, represented as Mislead General Public:Intention .

This section elucidates the researchers’ systematic approach to evaluating the conceptual and instantiation models introduced in the previous section. The study embraced the Bunge-Wand-Weber Model (BWW model) for evaluation–a comprehensive framework for appraising a First Normal Form (1NF) conceptual model and its instantiation within a database system - an ontological approach for evaluation proposed by Fettke & Loos ( 2003 ). This approach offers a structured and rigorous methodology for assessing the quality and efficacy of a database schema in faithfully representing real-world information, ensuring a methodical and well-rounded evaluation process. We aim to adapt this methodology, initially designed for database assessment, to evaluate our models, leveraging its proven effectiveness for our research purposes.

The first step towards the application of this framework was the delineation of the following research questions (RQ):

RQ1 - Is there any instantiated concept that is not mapped onto a SLR concept in ArchiMate?

RQ2 - Is there any instantiated concept maps more than one SLR concept in ArchiMate?

RQ3 - Does each SLR concept in ArchiMate map onto each instantiated concept?

RQ4 - Does each SLR concept in ArchiMate maps onto one or more than instantiated concept?

The below Fig. 4 illustrates the four ontology deficiencies identified by the suggest ontological approach Fettke & Loos ( 2003 ) the interpretating whether the instantiated concepts are mapped onto the constructed conceptual model.

figure 4

Source: Fettke and Loos ( 2003 ).

The proposed RQs reflect and illustrate the ontological deficiencies identified by Fettke, P., Loos, P.(2023) Fettke & Loos ( 2003 ). To further assess and evaluate our model, the authors seek to answer the RQs by applying the BWW model framework designed to address three key aspects:

An intricate examination of the conceptual mapping found in Table 4 of this paper.

The identification and rectification of any constructive deficiencies in the proposed model.

The applications of the normalisation process onto the instantiated model.

To answer this RQ we firstly looked at both models presented in the Figs. 2 and 3 to assess if each of the concepts of the instantiation mapped onto one and only one SLR concepts in ArchiMate. As we previously demonstrated in the Table 4 , each of the instantiation concept maps onto one and only one SLR concept in ArchiMate.

We then decided to re-examine the FN instantiation description, focusing our analysis on CEDMO’s fact-check repository Goldhamer ( 2023 ). In particular, we delve deeper into “Disinformation" as a Type of Event, engaging in a thorough discussion regarding the classification of this concept, ultimately arriving at a consensus that “disinformation" indeed serves as the appropriate classification for the type of event. Other possible classifications include misleading information, which according to the developed SLR can happen intentionally or unintentionally and can occur in various forms, as information or communication presented leading people to form an incorrect understanding or conclusion.

The selective nature of the information presented by the fake news agent Mario Nawfal suggest the misusage of scientific information, with author taking advantage of information from a scientific paper to quote facts out of context and presenting it in a way that amplifies fear and uncertainty towards vaccines and general health care practices Goldhamer ( 2023 ). One can argue that the intention behind the spreading of fake news can differ from the one presented in the model (e.g., discredit of vaccination campaigns, reputational damage to the national health service, etc.), nevertheless the authors decided that the best way to represent a more generic intention and thus keep misleading the general public as the main intention behind the spreading of disinformation.

The represented models do not show associations between one instantiated concept and two or more SLR concepts in ArchiMate. In other words, there is no redundancy of concepts represented in our model, as each concept has a clear definition and differs from other represented concepts. It is essential to differentiate decomposed concepts that only represent one SLR concept. There are undoubtedly two concepts that were decomposed: Agent and Event.

There is indeed a difference between decomposition and redundancy. A decomposition happens because a concept holds more than one meaning in the literature (e.g., the concept of the agent is divided between the affected agent and the agent that spreads FN), whereas redundancy happens when there is a concept that represents the exact meaning of another. Having observed this reality, the authors decided to interpret the definition provided by the SLR ? and decomposed the concept to avoid misrepresenting the different meanings of the different concepts in the literature.

RQ3 -Is there any SLR concept in ArchiMate that does not map onto any instantiated concept?

The suggested problem patent in RQ3 is a problem of excess conceptual representation illustrated in Fig. 4 , where the instance would have less concepts than the ones patent in the conceptual model. To avoid this problem the authors supported their conceptual representation into a previously developed SLR. The idea was to have a solid definition of the concepts before defining the conceptual model, thus ensuring that for each concept correspond one instantiated concept.

Furthermore, it is important to understand that the identification of the instantiated concepts derived from pure interpretation of the description of the instantiation in its source patent CEDMO Repository Observatory ( 2023 ) and briefly summarise in the demonstration (section 5) of this paper.

In conclusion for each instantiation there is a SLR Concept that corresponds and therefore there is no isolated SLR concept in ArchiMate present in our model.

RQ4 - Is there any SLR concept in ArchiMate that maps onto more than one instantiated concept?

Each instantiated concept maps into only one SLR concept in ArchiMate in a one-to-one relationship. In practice, if we want to reduce redundancy and apply the BWW model according to Fettke & Loos ( 2003 ), we will first have to determine which instantiated concepts would require normalisation by creating an interdependent relationship between an instantiated concept and a derived one. In other words, we would have to look at the present model in Fig. 3 and first decide which instantiated concept we would like to normalise. Should we, for example, decide upon the x: medium instantiated concept, we would have to create another Business Interface and provide a composed relationship between concepts.

The suggested alteration would mean that we would have to add a composed relationship to the X: medium instantiated concept with, for example, X Post: medium. Note that the composition relationship would indicate that the post only exists if the X: medium concept exists, or in other words should X: medium cease to exist the X post: medium would also cease to exist.

Should we decide upon this normalisation, this relationship would only be a complement to the original model and would not necessarily add any extra value to the instantiated conceptual model; therefore, in order to ensure robustness, a decision was made to keep the model more straightforward and only represent the X: medium instantiated concept. In conclusion there was the possibility that two instantiated concepts would be associated with one SLR concept in ArchiMate, though to ensure having simpler model and a robust one a decision was made not to make alterations to the model.

This paper proposed a conceptual model to identify and analyse the risk associated with the impact of Fake News and Disinformation, which can cause reputational damage to individuals, organisations, and brands in the community Flostrand et al. ( 2020 ). It is, therefore, important to take steps to study the phenomenon of Fake News and invest in policies, techniques and frameworks that aid in mitigating the associated risk.

The risk of FN is also strongly related to the digital environment of a given community. The conceptual module here presented aims at aiding policymakers, legal enforcement agencies, and business organisations in providing a comprehensive framework that firstly contributes to the verification of the veracity of the information, provides a means to identify the agent (s) of disinformation and relates the context with the different mediums of propagation and spreading of the news.

The work presented here opted to use Design Science Research as a prime method to design a conceptual model, demonstrate through a credible instantiation and evaluate the proposed model using a credible framework. It is important to understand that this research work would only be possible due to the strong foundation of a developed systematic literature review that aimed at defining the terminology between the cross of - Fake News and Risk terminology.

Furthermore, this work demonstrates the conceptual model in ArchiMate utilising the case of “BREAKING: COVID-19 Vaccine Can Cause Blindness." Future work involves refining this conceptual model by employing other case studies to ensure a comprehensive perspective on FN risk management.

The results of this study are a practical conceptual model and a systematic mapping of the concepts of FN and the proposed instantiation. Moreover, the evaluation that followed the proposal indicated a solid and robust model, with the evaluation suggesting that common mistakes such as mapping incompleteness, redundancy, excess and overload are not present in the model. It is vital to notice the relevance of the design decisions contributing to this result.

An evident limitation of this research work is its reliability to the adopted SLR view and strategy and subsequent interpretation, so our results also depend on its accuracy. It would strongly benefit our research if we could have a Multivocal Literature Review that considers the academic literature and the grey literature present in online libraries.

Data availability

All data concerning the Systematic Literature Review may be provided by the authors upon request. The conceptual model was modelled in Archi Software Tool, all files can be made available upon request.

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Acknowledgements

This work has been partially supported by European Union’s HE research and innovation program FERMI under the grant agreement No. 101073980 and the Portuguese Technologies Institute - INOV - Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores Inovação.

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JVC conducted the research, conceived the ArchiMate model, conducted the demonstration and evaluation, and wrote the draft of the manuscript. SBG validated the ArchiMate Model and its instantiation.MMS coordinated the study, participated in the design of the research protocol, and oriented the evaluation process. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Varela da Costa, J., Bogea Gomes, S. & Mira da Silva, M. Fake News: a conceptual model for risk management. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 11 , 625 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-024-03096-0

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