Doctoral Study Project vs. Dissertation

Discussion in 'Business and MBA degrees' started by SE Texas Prof, Jan 18, 2012.

  1. SE Texas Prof

    SE Texas Prof Member


    I was looking over various doctoral programs and I kept seeing this phrase "doctoral study project" in lieu of a dissertation. How does this work? Is this the more acceptable practice for degrees such as a DBA/DM and less so for the PhD?

    I'm looking for a doctoral degree that is somewhat applied, but allows me the opportunity to use my skills to publish. Teaching full time or in a tenure track is not necessarily my primary focus.

  2. Steve King

    Steve King Member

    Yes. In the US it is more common to see PhD programs require a dissertation (more commonly referred to as a thesis in countries like South Africa) while other research doctorates (e.g., DM, DBA, and DSc degrees) often choose to call their students' final research paper a "doctoral study project," "doctoral field project," or something like that. These are more applied research programs than PhD programs. Most of these doctoral projects follow the same five chapter format as traditional doctoral dissertations and many are published on UMI just like most dissertations. The difference in the name of the degree isn't as significant as the rigor of the individual program, when speculating about the quality of the research.

    Any program that adequately teaches research methods should give you the background you need to publish in your field. There is now a wide range of peer-reviewed journals that accept original research articles. These journals are not only more specialized, thus narrowing your competition, but they're also of varying quality, which allow people to submit articles to lower-tiered journals if their work isn't ready for publications like Nature or the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Understanding how to evaluate and conduct quality academic research is the hard part, in my opinion. Learning the style of academic journal writing comes with practice and can be learned outside the classroom through books like, Writing Your Academic Journal in Twelve Weeks, by Wendy Laura Belcher. Many applied doctoral programs, like Colorado Technical University, require publishable papers throughout the program.

    Which doctoral programs are you considering?
  3. SE Texas Prof

    SE Texas Prof Member

    I'm partial to the DBA programs at Capella (both in Operations/Supply Chain and Strategic Management) and the DBA-Management at Walden. I know the Walden program describes the dissertation in terms of being a "doctoral project". I was just wonder how someone might perceive this use of vocabulary.

  4. Steve King

    Steve King Member

    I'm willing to bet that in 99.9% of the time, no one you interact with will know if you completed a dissertation, thesis, or doctoral project. This includes potential employers. What the school calls your final project/paper will not matter. It's the quality of the work that counts, and even then, few people will look at your published dissertation/thesis/doctoral project. But, if you did a good job on your dissertation/project/whatever then you'll have something good to talk about when, or if, anyone asks you about your doctorate; plus, you'll feel more confident and maybe justifiably proud about what you've accomplished.

    I assume schools like Walden call their final paper a "doctoral project" so prospective students won't feel intimidated by the fear of having to write a (gasp) dissertation. The degree you earn (i.e., PhD, DBA, DM, etc.) and the school from which you graduated will matter far more than what the school called your final project.

    Since you're looking at two DBA programs, you're pretty much left to decide which school will best meet your needs. I have no experience with Walden or Capella, although I have friends who've graduated with doctorates from both schools. People on this board can provide good insights on their experiences at each school. Choosing the "right" program is a very personal decision. For example, costs can be more important than name recognition for some students, while opening the doors to a career in the academy is more important to others, costs be damned. The best program for you depends on your personal situation and how you hope to use your new degree in the future.

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