I am not a researcher, but I am trying to learn the methods so I can apply them in my own fields.
In a variety of journals––notably economics, entrepreneurship, and design––I've noticed that the authors propose a "conceptual model". This model is the product of deep thinking and synthesis of prior work. Sometimes it is an incremental addition to an existing model, a recreation of it, or an entirely new way to describe a concept.
They are not often based on empirical data. This is probably because these fields have a lot of variables, and it would be very difficult to isolate things––which is especially troubling when trying to model a system.
What is this called? Is there a method behind this? I've tried reading a bit of epistemology to see if there's a method behind it, but this was unfruitful. It seems either the logical extension of prior work (logic) or it is the black-box description of certain phenomena, which is sufficient so long as it accurately describes the outputs (pragmatism).
In the first case, logic, how can we be sure it's moving in the right direction? Does each addition have to be small enough to be "self-evident"?
In the second case, pragmatism, how can we be certain that we're modelling it accurately without perfectly understanding the underlying mechanism? How are we sure there are not unknown consequences or interactions?
I'd love to be pointed in the right direction to learn more about this. This is mostly aimed at understanding how we can model systems.