The difference between a dissertation and doctoral capstone

May 30, 2023

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

If you’ve been researching doctoral degrees, you may notice that virtually all PhD programs require a dissertation, while some professional doctorates require a doctoral capstone or an alternative doctoral project.

So, what’s the difference between the two?

What do a dissertation and doctoral capstone have in common?

All doctoral programs help prepare students to contribute evidence-based practice in their field. Students learn to apply leadership principles and strategies that promote community support, diversity and individuality in the workplace, and the community.

Completing either a dissertation or a doctoral capstone requires intense preparation and a strong foundation in writing and critical thinking. Both culminate in a final document or project that demonstrates a broadened knowledge of relevant theory and practice. 

What are the main differences between a dissertation and a doctoral capstone? 

The Capella doctoral experience offers a good comparison of the two types of final project.

The Capella dissertation is a traditional five-chapter research document that you’ll develop as you work with a faculty mentor and dissertation committee members. It’s meant to be a work of high-quality academic research that contributes to your field of study.

The doctoral capstone can take many different forms depending on your program, your specialization or area of interest within your subject and other variables. Working with a faculty mentor and committee, you’ll complete a project that offers solutions or improvements to a real-world problem relevant to your field of study. 

Capella’s Dissertation and Doctoral Capstone Experience

Ready to explore the doctoral path that could work best for you? Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degree programs ranging from business and education to health care and technology.

Learn more about Capella’s online doctoral programs.

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