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Dit Dissertation Definition

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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Title, declaration, abstract, acknowledgments, table of contents

  • Title Page
  • Declaration (page numbering starts here using Roman Letters)
  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Table of Figures
  • Table of Tables (Roman Letter page numbering ends here)

Chapter 1 - Introduction

This should be a short account of why you undertook the investigation, what the general state of knowledge was at the time you started. Why you asked the questions that your research/observations were expected to answer. It should state your research question and briefly introduce the research undertaken. A brief reader's guide to the dissertation should be included.

  • 1.1 Background
  • 1.2 Research Project/problem (define the research question here)
  • 1.3 Research Objectives
  • 1.4 Research Methodologies
  • 1.5 Scope and Limitations
  • 1.6 Document Outline

Chapters 2 - Literature review and related work

In some cases this might actually comprise the complete dissertation. It is essential that this should be a critical review in which the various papers are compared and in which you express your own opinion of the conclusions that may be drawn and to do your best to reconcile discrepant results in favour of one or other set. Provide a summary at the end of the sections or of the whole review. Remember that the content of this chapter must be relevant to the actual research carried out; it is not a "brain dump" of everything you have read. You must demonstrate analysis and synthesis of the literature. Also in some cases it may be necessary to divide the state-of-the-art into two separate chapters; one covering the application domain, and the other the technologies, or one describing the background/context of your research and one on the state-of-art for your specific issue.

Chapter 3 - Design and methodology

The general structure of the study should be described clearly. The comparisons that are going to be made, the controls and technical details etc. should be included if appropriate. This chapter might report on the design of a software-based solution or an experiment using existing datasets). Also the chapter includes the methodology/ies adopted for designing the solution and for evaluating it (eg. errors, performance measures, accuracy, ROC curves, t-tests, correlations etc.)

Chapter 4 - Implementation and results

Depending on the nature of the project, this chapter will describe the actual work carried out e.g. any experiment undertaken or system implementation.

Chapter 5 - Analysis, evaluation and discussion

In this chapter discuss your results in the light of what is already supposed to be known, show how they confirm or refute previous work, and state what you think is new in your own. Do not use this section for another review of the literature.

Chapter 6. Conclusion

This should be a short account of the results of your work, emphasising mainly what is new. There should be a close correlation between this chapter and chapter 1, in which you described the problem you were addressing. It is advisable to deal with the limitations of your research at this stage and to suggest here what further work might be done. This is the appropriate place to do a self-assessment of your research.

  • 6.1 Research Overview
  • 6.2 Problem Definition
  • 6.3 Design/Experimentation, Evaluation & Results
  • 6.4 Contributions and impact
  • 6.5 Future Work & recommendations

Bibliography (using APA6 Referencing style)

References should be consistently cited in the text. The references in the Reference List at the back of the dissertation should be listed in alphabetical order. The should also be complete so that the reader wanting to locate a particular reference has all the information necessary to do so (including page numbers, volume, issue).

References to the World Wide Web, Wikipedia and other blogs/social networks should be avoided. Information coming from Wikipedia and in general from the WEB cannot be considered trustworthy at all. Similarly information gathered from magazines, newspapers and other non-academic manuscripts cannot be considered always trustworthy.


These should contain supplementary material that is not necessary in order for the reader to follow the argument. For example, the text of a questionnaire, detailed UML diagrams, or a complete Software Requirement Specification should be places in an Appendix. It is not considered necessary to include code, but you may do so by inserting a disc or CD in a pocket at the back of the dissertation. If a major part of your work is concerned with the development of multimedia material that is difficult to demonstrate by means of static screen capture then it may be worth considering including a CD.


  • Never use first person (I, we, our)
  • In the introduction of each chapter cover the purpose of the chapter and give an overview of what it covers (expect for the introduction chapter)
  • At the end of each chapter summarise the main gist of the chapter itself and link it to the next chapter
  • Have a logical presentation of research, developments, findings and lead the reader in an integrated way to what you want to achieve
  • You can only claim to have an opinion if it is based on original research or an in-depth analysis, for instance, has been made of theory where different authors’ viewpoints are contrasted (commonalities and differences), and you make deductions based on that.

Formatting style (compulsory)

  • Make sure all Tables and Figures are numbered and centered with a caption and they should be numbered consecutively within a chapter e.g. Figure 1.2, Table 1.2
  • style for Chapter headings - Times New Roman 14, Upper Case, Bold, Numbered
  • style for chapter sub-headings - Times New Roman 13, Mixed Case, Bold, Numbered
  • style for sub-sub headings within a chapter - Times New Roman 12, Mixed Case, Numbered
  • Paper Size: A4 Paper
  • Font size for text: Times New Roman Size 12
  • Line Spacing: 1.5
  • All text have to be left & right justified
  • Left Margin should be 3.2cm, Right Margin should be 3cm, Top & Bottom Margins should be 2.5cm
  • Page numbering should be centred
  • APA6 Referencing to be used APA6 Referencing style
  • References to web sites should be included as footnotes and not included in the References/Bibliography (They are not scientific contributions).
  • tables and figures cannot span 2 pages.
  • chapters start in a new page
  • each figure and table has to have a caption
  • pages cannot be half empty because of a large figure or table cannot be placed in it. Place the large figure or table in a new page and refer it with a label within the text (eg. Figure x.y in page x depicts...)
  • each figure and table must be within left and right margins and must be fully readable

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