Degree Without Dissertation

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.

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Tags: dissertation, doctoral, doctoral capstone

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Nebraska Methodist College is expanding its doctoral offerings once again, this time, with an education that focuses on, well, education.

The Doctor of Education is the first non-nursing doctorate offered by our college, and careful thought went into making this program stand out. Our commitment to excellence extends far beyond nursing, touching all facets of the healthcare experience, including the management and higher education levels.

This latest degree path, which takes place online, will allow students to put forth the guiding values of NMC (caring, excellence, holism, learning and respect) at the upper echelons of both academic and healthcare institutions. The Ed.D. in Education and Leadership in Healthcare provides an incredible opportunity for students in Nebraska and throughout the country to hone their skills and make an impact on patients, organizations and higher education institutions.

Here’s what makes this program stand out in a competitive field.

Ditching the Dissertation

Nebraska Methodist College has one thing that no other local Ed.D. offerings are able to claim: a practice doctorate Capstone.

Much debate has sprung up in academic circles about the value of a Capstone in relation to the Dissertation. Two years ago, the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) Consortium issued a statement that called for no less than a complete transformation of the Doctoral candidate’s culminative academic work. The Capstone acts as an exemplar of the student taking all that they’ve learned and demonstrating the impact of their knowledge with real, concrete results.

The Capstone takes the place of the lengthier and more research-intensive dissertation process, long the standard of the Doctoral degree. Our emphasis on the Capstone represents a modern approach to a candidate’s final demonstration of expertise in the subject matter, allowing students to apply theory to solve problems in a real-world practical setting.  All of this is accomplished without losing any of the academic rigor that one would expect of a Doctoral program.

Nebraska Methodist College will act as a leader in putting forth this new academic ideal, with students whose breadth of knowledge will encompass the most innovative practices in the modern world. The Capstone is a showcase of their work and the core knowledge they’ve gained through the academic process.

Education + Healthcare

The focus of our Doctor of Education is twofold: education on one side and healthcare on the other.

Graduates of the program will be able to transition to leadership positions in either realm. As both an affiliate of Methodist Health System and a higher education institution with a reputation for excellence that dates back 125 years, we are uniquely positioned to provide students with the expertise they’ll need to lead in both settings.

Healthcare and education are industries that are in the midst of upheaval unlike perhaps any others. For healthcare, it’s managing the organization-wide changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act and an aging population while successfully making the transition to a preventive healthcare model that emphasizes value over volume. With education, it’s coping with a mounting student debt dilemma, substantial shifts in financial aid and demographic patterns and ongoing accreditation considerations.

As a college whose sole focus lies in healthcare, we are able to prepare students to meet the demands of healthcare and education. Our faculty hail from healthcare backgrounds yet have been teaching in an academic setting for years.

We understand the management skills it takes to successfully run enterprises as wide-ranging and ever-evolving as healthcare and education. The Ed.D. program allows us to pass those skills on to the next generation of leaders, who will be ready to meet challenges that are only beginning to take shape.

Time To Evolve

Two years. That’s what it will take to complete the program. With just 24 months of full-time study, you’ll be able to add “Dr.” to your name.

We thought long and hard about how to make this program convenient for the modern professional without losing any of the scholarly edge that defines the Doctoral degree. Other programs require a longer time commitment, due in no small part to a dissertation process that has stymied even the best candidates.

We came to the conclusion that two years is the perfect amount of time to provide this education. It’s long enough to attain the ultimate expertise in a given subject matter while still creating a viable timeframe that won’t have you feeling like you’ll never be done with school.

What’s more, the online nature of the program allows for more flexibility than would be possible with an on-campus degree. While you still have assignments on a regular basis, you choose precisely when (and where) to complete them. So whether you want to earn your Doctorate in the wee hours of the morning after you’ve put your kids to bed or by sitting down each week at your local coffee shop, the online EdD program can fit your needs.

The Next Step Makes All The Difference

In creating the Ed.D. in Education & Leadership in Healthcare, we sought to make a program that offered an exceptional academic experience while still being flexible enough to accommodate the needs of the modern professional.

Earning your terminal degree will be a challenge, but we want to make sure that challenge comes from the pedigree of the coursework, not the unreasonable criteria of a dissertation, technological hurdles or the prospect of having to come to campus day in and day out.

The Ed.D. at Nebraska Methodist College is coming in Fall 2017. Be one of the first to take part.

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