Conceptual and theoretical frameworks are the major ingredients of social research. Conceptual or theoretical frameworks assist researchers in framing their studies and explaining social phenomenon. Many researchers have difficulties in applying and understanding the utility of conceptual or theoretical frameworks when conducting research. The purpose of this study was to investigate the application and understanding of conceptual and theoretical frameworks in open and distance education. Using content analysis, the researchers studied a total of 336 open and distance learning research articles from five core open and distance education journals. It was discovered that the use of one theory in a study is more prevalent. In most cases where more than one theory was used, the researchers referred to it as a theoretical framework. In some studies, they confused theoretical with conceptual frameworks. Some researchers regarded research frameworks, such as paradigms, as theoretical frameworks. Many studies did not explain the way in which conceptual and theoretical frameworks helped them to design their research. Furthermore, researchers did not demonstrate how and why a theory was more applicable to their studies than an alternative one. The study identified that there is a need for more clarification of these concepts when they are used by researchers.