Dissertation Only Phd Programs Capella

When looking at the components of a PhD program, many of the parts may seem (on the surface, anyway) easy to understand: Coursework. Research. Dissertation.

But there are also requirements involving residencies. Garvey House, PhD, associate director of research for Capella University’s School of Business and Technology, walks through the process.


Different from Coursework

The residency portion of a PhD program occurs simultaneously with coursework. “Residencies prepare you for comprehensive examinations and the dissertation,” says House. Unlike coursework, residencies provide structure, training, and detailed feedback that allow students to develop research plans and identify the essential elements of the dissertation. They also provide foundational skills for the applied research and analysis that will be central to the process.

During residencies, students have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with their instructors. They can also meet with consultants from the school’s research and writing groups, as well as the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Students can gain many of the needed levels of approval for research topic and methodology through residencies. “In fact, residencies can enable the student to enter the writing phase of the dissertation needing only IRB approval,” says House.


Residency Structure and Content

How residencies are structured varies from school to school. In general, there is always an in-person component. Some universities will have weekly meetings, while others have more conference-like approaches. Many online universities, including Capella, provide weekend residencies, usually taking place Thursday through Sunday. Students may be asked to complete pre-work in preparation for the upcoming in-person session, and there could be post-residency coursework as well.

What will be covered in residencies will vary according to your program’s focus and requirements, but the following are examples of topics and skills covered:

  • Learn how to identify a research problem.
  • Examine and narrow down potential topic areas.
  • Develop a literature review.
  • Craft a well-formed research question.
  • Select the appropriate research methodology and design.
  • Develop a full research plan.


Residencies not only provide you with guidance during the development of your dissertation topic and research plans, they ensure you receive thorough feedback and several levels of necessary approvals. The proficiency gained will prepare you for both the comprehensive exams that follow and the heart of the PhD: the dissertation.


Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degrees in programs ranging from business to education and psychology to nursing. Learn more about Capella’s doctoral degree programs.

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Tags: doctoral, residency

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Enrolling in a doctoral program used to mean finding a brick-and-mortar university that offered your field of study and devoting yourself to being a full-time student at that location for at least 3-4 years.

But times have changed, and many institutions offer the opportunity to work toward a PhD not only part-time rather than full-time, but online rather than 100% face-to-face.

So how do online PhD programs compare to traditional ones?


Interaction Level With Faculty And Peers

You may think you’d have more personal contact at a traditional university, but the structure of online programs actually encourages a great deal of interaction.

“There may be even more interaction [online] than in a face-to-face program,” says Curtis Brant, PhD, associate VP of doctoral affairs at Capella University. “In a classroom, you may go a whole semester without talking one-on-one with your instructor—not so online, where you will be interacting with your faculty one-on-one multiple times each quarter, typically each week.”

In online doctoral programs, students may interact with faculty and peers several times a week, at all hours of the day, instead of in scheduled timeslots.


Types of Degrees Available

Brant notes that you will find the same degrees offered online as you will in more traditional programs. For instance, Capella offers PhD programs in Psychology, Business, Education, Counseling, and Criminal Justice.

No matter which learning format you choose, it is important to ensure that the institution is accredited.


Program Rigor

Accreditation helps ensure that the institution has made excellence in education a priority.

“Capella’s PhD programs are designed to align with professional outcomes in the respective area of study,” says Brant. “Appropriate research and ethical standards as well as level of rigor are carefully considered for the programs. Within a given program, you learn about and use the same theories and methodologies at both types of institutions. Although online programs can be more convenient for the student, the quality of work, research, and analysis is often comparable to a traditional university.”



The student-mentor relationship is a critical one in a PhD program. Although the official mentoring begins at Capella during dissertation writing, additional support is present right from the beginning.

“Most people only go through the PhD process once, so it’s new for everyone,” says Brant. “That’s why Capella provides resources and advisors from the beginning. The mentor will be there for the dissertation, but that won’t be the only time a student will have that kind of support.”



The similarities between online and traditional land-based PhD programs are seen in the process as well. In both scenarios, students will begin coursework, identify a problem to research, and get their research methodology approved.

In a traditional university, that means attending in-person classes. At Capella, that means taking online courses and attending three in-person dissertation-related residencies.

By the time coursework is finished, students will have already completed major sections of their dissertation work. Once coursework is completed, candidates will conduct research, use statistical tools to develop the dissertation, write (and rewrite!) the work, and be able to defend it to faculty.

Besides the mode of communication, traditional and online doctoral programs may be more similar than you would think.

Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degree programs ranging from business to education and nursing to psychology. Learn more about Capella’s online doctoral programs

* Disclaimer

Tags: doctoral, online learning

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