Academic journal article
By Day, Victor; Mensink, David; O'Sullivan, Michael
Journal of College Reading and Learning , Vol. 30, No. 2
Procrastination on academic work is a common problem for university students. Most students procrastinate on some academic tasks to some degree, and about a quarter of students report that they frequently procrastinate to a degree that causes them stress and/or lower academic performance (Ferrari, Johnson & McCown, 1995; Hill, Hill, Chalot & Barrall, 1978; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). Gallagher, Golin and Kelleher (1992) found that 52% of surveyed students indicated having a moderate to high need for help concerning procrastination, making it the most frequently cited personal concern for which they needed help. Procrastination is a pervasive problem at all levels of university study (Hill et al., 1978; Muszynski & Akamatsu, 1991) and occurs about equally in men and women (Ferrari et al., 1995; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984; McCown, Johnson & Petzel, 1989).
Early conceptualizations of and treatments for procrastination focused on study skills and behavioral self-control (Richards, 1975; Ziesat, Rosenthal & White, 1978). However, as indicated by Ferrari et al.'s (1995) meta-analysis of studies evaluating treatment effectiveness, procrastination treatment programs have achieved only marginal overall effectiveness. A cognitive-behavioral program focusing primarily on changing negative thoughts and feelings also achieved only modest overall effectiveness (Binder & Pychyl, 1999).
There is also a great mystery in procrastination research. That is, although many students indicate needing help for overcoming procrastination (Gallagher et al., 1992), and there are case descriptions of students whose performance has been hurt by procrastination (Burka & Yuen, 1983), analysis of the overall relationship of procrastination and academic performance have indicated usually either only very low negative correlations (Hill et al., 1978; Rothblum, Solomon & Murakami, 1986) or no correlation (Lay, 1986; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). This means that there must be a sizable proportion of students whose performance is good despite procrastination. Procrastination thus must be more complicated than just poor study habits or an effect of disruptive feelings.
It may be better to conceptualize and treat procrastination as a form of behavior that can have many different underlying processes. Various researchers have attempted to identify the patterns underlying procrastination. However, integration of their results is difficult because of the differences in methods and measures.
Solomon and Rothblum (1984) conducted a factor analysis of students' self-rated reasons for procrastination and identified two significant factors: fear of failure (which also included evaluation anxiety, perfectionism and low confidence) and task aversion. However, many procrastinators in their study were not well described by these factors. Ferrari (1992) analyzed severe procrastinators' responses to various questionnaires and identified two factors, one mainly involving evaluation anxiety and another characterized by a high focus on oneself and one's own thoughts.
McCown et al. (1989), analyzing the principal components of various personality and procrastination measures, identified three principal components similar to the three Eysenckian personality dimensions: neuroticism, extraversion and psychoticism (at a subclinical level, related to characteristics like relative preoccupation with one's inner world and relative unconcern with social expectations). McCown and Johnson (1991) subsequently found that the "neuroticism" component was the only one correlated with exam anxiety and low academic confidence, the "psychoticism" component was the only one correlated with course dissatisfaction (clarifying its similarity to both Solomon and Rothblum's and Ferrari's second factors), and the extraversion component correlated with spending time in social and impulsive activities as well as with confidence about exam preparation. …