The Procrastinating PhD student: A Latent Profile Analysis

Samuel Gross, Lukas Schulze-Vorberg, Miriam Hansen
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 19  •  2024  •  pp. 005

Little is known about procrastination in PhD students, as most research focuses on undergraduate students. While there have been several efforts to identify different types of academic procrastinators in undergraduates, no study has attempted to identify different procrastination types in PhD students. Additionally, most of the studies that found different procrastination types in undergraduates did not research how these types differ regarding procrastination antecedents, excluding important information about the characteristics of these types.

The present study addresses this problem by identifying different procrastination types of PhD students based on reasons for academic procrastination. Furthermore, more information about these types was gathered by analyzing differences in procrastination antecedents (depression, imposter self-concept, self-worth, mindfulness, self-efficacy, impulsivity, conscientiousness, neuroticism, emotion regulation, rumination).

A total of 401 German-speaking PhD students from over 100 fields were included in the analysis. An online questionnaire was used to collect data. First, we used a reason for academic procrastination questionnaire to run a latent profile analysis to identify different academic procrastinators. Second, we used multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to analyze differences between the types of academic procrastinators based on reasons for procrastination and antecedents of procrastination. More precisely, we used Tuckman’s procrastination scale, depressiveness in a non-clinical setting scale, imposter self-concept questionnaire, Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale, mindfulness attention and awareness scale, self-efficacy scale, impulsivity scale, big five inventory, emotion regulation questionnaire, and the response style questionnaire.

The present study provides a deeper insight into academic procrastination among PhD students. Additionally, the identification of procrastination types is based on a variety of reasons for academic procrastination rather than solely procrastination, which adds a new perspective. Validation of the found types helps gain a clearer insight into how these types differ from each other. In line with previous research with undergraduate students, we could show that the high procrastinating types also show significantly higher impulsivity, neuroticism, and rumination and significantly lower self-worth. Contrary to undergraduate students, we could not find any significant differences between the types with regard to emotion regulation. These findings contribute to a clearer picture of procrastinating PhD students and their challenges.

We identified six different procrastination types (moderate procrastinator type (n = 121), insecure type (n = 81), productive type (n = 79), externalizing type (n = 51), strong procrastinator type (n = 25), internalizing type (n = 38) based on the reasons for academic procrastination. The productive and externalizing types seem to be the most functional, and the strong procrastinator and internalizing types are the most dysfunctional. The latter showed significantly worse expressions of procrastination, depression, imposter self-concept, self-worth, mindfulness, self-efficacy, impulsivity, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and rumination. The moderate procrastinator and insecure types appear to fall somewhere between the high-functioning and low-functioning types in terms of analyzed procrastination antecedents.

Practitioners should use the reasons for academic procrastination questionnaire (FGAP-P) for assessment. PhD students who strongly agree to procrastinate due to study-related competencies, personality-related variables, beliefs, and task characteristics are the most at risk. Practitioners should be aware that these individuals are more likely to suffer from procrastination, depressive symptoms, negative self-view (imposter syndrome, low self-worth/self-efficacy), impulsivity, and rumination. Interventions that target the reduction of these symptoms should be recommended or applied by practitioners.

When utilizing latent profile analysis to explore procrastination types in PhD students concurrently, assessing procrastination antecedents associated with the PhD completion process is recommended. This simultaneous assessment is pivotal as it facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the different procrastination types, allowing for the identification of shared characteristics and distinctions among them. By adopting this approach, researchers can move beyond mere classification based solely on type membership and gain deeper insights into the nuances of procrastination types and behaviors.

The findings provide crucial insights for supervising and/or consulting PhD students. Having knowledge about different procrastination types in PhD students helps identify at-risk individuals. Using our findings, interventions could especially target these at-risk individuals, therefore reducing procrastination and enhancing well-being and productivity in PhD students.

Future research could use longitudinal research designs to assess the stability of procrastination types found over time using real-time data within an experience sampling methods framework. This could help to minimize biases and gain deeper insights not only about interindividual but also intraindividual differences. Furthermore, cross-cultural studies should be conducted to unveil similarities and differences between cultures regarding procrastination and procrastination types.

procrastination, PhD students, latent profile analysis
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