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, much like Capella University’s Doctoral Capstone Experience.

So, 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 doctoral capstone requires intense preparation and a strong foundation in research, writing, and critical thinking. Both culminate in a final document or project that demonstrates academic rigor and readiness to lead in your chosen profession.

Learn more about the differences between a PhD and a professional doctorate

Dissertation and Doctoral Capstone—Differences

The Capella dissertation is 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 product, application, or curriculum.
  • A final report or presentation, 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 deliver a solution immediately 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.

Capella’s Dissertation and Doctoral Capstone Experience

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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.