If you’ve been researching doctoral degrees, you may notice that virtually all PhD programs require a dissertation, while professional doctorates may require a doctoral project, much like Capella University’s Doctoral Capstone Experience.
While dissertations are fairly common, what is a doctoral capstone, and what’s the difference between the two?
Dissertation and Doctoral Capstone: Commonalities
All doctoral programs prepare students to apply research skills in the workplace and community.
Completing either a dissertation or a professional capstone requires intense preparation and a strong foundation in research. Both culminate in a final document that’s publication-ready and demonstrates academic rigor.
Learn more about the differences between a PhD and a professional doctorate.
Dissertation and Doctoral Capstone: Differences
The dissertation always results in the traditional five-chapter written document.
The doctoral capstone is presented in two parts:
- A deliverable, which could be a portfolio, a paper of publishable length, or a product such as a change management plan, policy manual, software, or curriculum.
- A final report, which describes the creation of the deliverable and the learning that supports it.
Additionally, the focus for each is different.
- A dissertation is an original contribution to the body of academic literature and theory in the field. It addresses a research problem, or a gap in existing research, that will contribute to the knowledge base of the discipline. At Capella, a PhD dissertation involves a quest for new knowledge that is intended to solve a real-world problem and be relevant to the field.
- A doctoral capstone is intended to extend or apply research to immediately deliver a solution to an issue within a real-world setting. That’s why, unlike the dissertation, the doctoral capstone deliverable can take on so many different forms. It may be the writing of software to solve a specific technical problem, or a curriculum designed to solve a specific educational problem.
Time Frame to Completion
Time frames vary in both types of projects, but in general, a dissertation can take anywhere from 1-2.5 years or more, while a doctoral capstone can take anywhere from 6 months to a year or more, depending on your program.
However, the reduced time frame doesn’t mean the capstone is less rigorous; it’s a different type of project, a different undertaking, but it will be as demanding as a dissertation.
Capella’s Dissertation and Doctoral Capstone Experience
Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degree programs ranging from business to education and health to technology. Learn more about Capella’s online doctoral programs.