2012. Vol.3, No.1, 12-23
Published Online January 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Academic Procrastinators and Their Self-Regulation*
Seung Won Park, Rayne A. Sperling
Department of Educational and School Psychology and Special Education, The Pennsylvania State University,
University Park, USA
Received September 6th, 2011; revised October 13th, 2011; accepted November 15th, 2011
Previous procrastination research has provided considerable support for procrastination as a failure of
self-regulation. However, procrastination has rarely been examined in relation to models of self-regulated
learning. The purpose of this study was to understand the motives and reasons for academic procrastina-
tion from a self-regulated learning perspective. The current study employed a mixed-methods design in
which participants completed several survey instruments of academic procrastination, self-regulation, and
academic motivation and participated in semi-structured interviews. Findings indicated that academic
procrastination was related to poor self-regulatory skills and defensive behaviors including self-handica-
pping strategies. Only limited support for students’ demonstration of procrastination as an adaptive beha-
vior (or, active procrastination) was also indicated. Limitations and implications for future research are
Keywords: Academic Procrastination; Self-Regulation; Active Procrastination; Self-Handicapping
Procrastination has been commonly understood as a mala-
daptive behavior that impedes successful academic experiences.
As conventional wisdom suggests, procrastination is linked wi-
th various adverse academic behaviors such as missing or late
assignments, decreasing in task preparation time, and giving up
studying (Lay & Schouwenburg, 1993; Tice & Baumeister,
1997; van Eerde, 2003). There are extensive empirical findings
that support a highly negative relationship between procrastina-
tion and academic achievement (Beswick, Rothblum, & Mann,
1988; Tice & Baumeister, 1997; van Eerde, 2003; Wesley, 1994).
Existing research has been conducted mostly within a view of
procrastination as an irrational delay which involves an inten-
tion-action gap (Lay, 1994; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984; van
Eerde, 2003; van Hooft, Born, Taris, van der Flier, & Blonk,
2005). That is, procrastinators needlessly postpone the imple-
mentation of planned tasks. Steel (2007), for example, defined
procrastination as “voluntarily delaying an intended course of
action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay (p. 66)”.
Consistent with irrationality and intention-behavior discre-
pancy aspects of procrastinatory behavior, various studies im-
ply that academic procrastination is closely related to a failure
in self-regulation. Self-regulation refers to self-generated thou-
ghts, feelings, and behaviors that are oriented to the attainment
of personal goals (Zimmerman, 2000). Learners who are self-
regulated are proactive in their learning. Self-regulated learners
set their own goals and plan and use effective learning strate-
gies. These learners monitor and evaluate their performance
and adjust their strategies. They also display adaptive self-mo-
tivational beliefs such as high self-efficacy and mastery goal
orientation (Pintrich, 2000). On the other hand, learners with
poor self-regulation often fail to employ effective learning stra-
tegies and hold maladaptive motivational beliefs such as low
self-efficacy and performance goal orientations. It is also repo-
rted that poor self-regulators frequently experience fear of failu-
re and anxiety (Pintrich, 2000; Zimmerman, 2002). Such chara-
cteristics of poor self-regulated learners have been observed
among academic procrastinators.
First, procrastinators seem to have a deficit in regulating their
cognition. They do not use effective learning strategies and of-
ten lack metacognitive knowledge and skills (Howell & Watson,
2007; Wolters, 2003). McCown, Petzle, and Rupert (1987) re-
ported that procrastinators underestimated the amount of time
necessary to complete a task and failed to allot sufficient time.
Procrastinators also performed less effectively under high cog-
nitive work demands compared to low cognitive load condi-
tions, suggesting deficits in selection of effective cognitive stra-
tegies (Ferrari, 2001). In addition to cognitive deficiency in se-
lf-regulation, procrastinators also demonstrate lack of behavio-
ral regulation. For example, procrastinators have poor time ma-
nagement skills and engage in disorganization (Howell & Wat-
son, 2007; Lay, 1986; Lay & Schouwenburg, 1993; Steel, 2007).
This indicates that procrastinators have difficulties adopting or
maintaining a systematic and structured approach to studying.
In fact, many studies reported that procrastinators often fail to
follow their intentions and plans (Howell, Watson, Powell, &
Buro, 2006; Lay & Schouwenburg, 1993). Furthermore, pro-
crastinators seem to have motivational problems with regard to
self-regulation. For example, a number of studies indicated that
procrastination is inversely related to academic self-efficacy
(Ferrari, Parker, & Ware, 1992; Haycock, McCarthy, & Skay,
1998; Sirois, 2004; Steel, 2007; van Eerde, 2003). Others also
found that procrastinators tend to adopt performance goal orien-
tation, and experience higher levels of anxiety (Lay, 1994; Lay
& Schouwenburg, 1993; Steel, 2007; van Eerde, 2003; Wolters,
2004). In summary, academic procrastinators appear to be low
self-regulated learners.
*This study was conducted for a thesis work of the first author at the Penn-
sylvania State University.
Expanding a view of procrastination as self-regulation failure,
some researchers further proposed a self-handicapping strategy
as a major source of procrastination. That is, people may pro-
crastinate in order to provide an alternative reason for expected
failure, thereby protecting their self-worth (Covington, 1992;
Rhodewalt & Vohs, 2005). Some studies indicated favorable re-
sults to this idea. For example, Ferrari and Tice (2000) repo-
rted that procrastinators tend to delay their work only when
there was a threat of their low ability being revealed. Bui (2007)
also found a similar result. Additionally, several studies found a
significant positive relationship between avoidance goal orient-
tation and procrastination (Howell & Watson, 2007; Seo, 2009;
Wolters, 2004). Howell and Buro (2009), for example, reported
a mediation effect of mastery-avoidance goal orientation on a
positive relationship between an entity view of ability and pro-
crastination, which implies a self-protection motive of procras-
tination. In fact, a strong correlation between procrastination
and self-handicapping is commonly found in the literature (Fe-
rrari, 1991; Steel, 2007; van Eerde, 2003).
However, debate remains as to whether procrastination is in-
deed a self-handicapping strategy. While a positive relationship
between procrastination and fear of failure should be observed
to regard procrastination as a self-handicapping strategy (i.e.,
people who easily experience fear of failure or anxiety may en-
gage in procrastination so that they can avoid a situation in whi-
ch an expected failure would be attributed to their personal abi-
lity), the literature does not consistently support that procrasti-
nators experience fear of failure (e.g., Schouwenburg, 1995;
van Eerde, 2003). Further, Lay, Knish, and Zanatta’s (1992)
study implied possible differences between self-handicapping
and procrastination. According to their study, self-handicappers
did engage in procrastinatory behavior in order to protect their
self-worth just as they reduced their effort or practice time for
the same purpose. However, procrastinators did not engage in
self-handicapping behaviors other than procrastinatory behavior.
The researchers concluded that procrastination may serve a
different function from that of self-handicapping.
Although previous research suggests that procrastination is
associated with a failure of self-regulation, only few studies (e.g.,
Howell & Watson, 2007; Wolters, 2003) examined procrastina-
tion explicitly in relation to models of self-regulation. One of
the goals in the current study, therefore, is to provide additional
findings on procrastination from a self-regulated learning per-
spective. For this purpose, we specifically adopted the model of
self-regulation proposed by Pintrich (2000). We chose this pa-
rticular model of self-regulation because it encompasses re-
gulation in several different areas. According to Pintrich (2000),
self-regulated learning includes regulation of learners’ cogni-
tion, motivation, and behavior, guided and constrained by their
goals and the contextual features in the environment. Cognition,
motivation, and behavior represent different areas of regulation,
and different phases or processes of self-regulated learning are
involved within each area. As we discussed previously, pro-
crastination is a complex phenomenon that relates to various
aspects of human activity; thus, we considered such a compre-
hensive view of self-regulation (i.e., Pintrich’s model) the most
suitable conceptual approach for studying procrastination in
this investigation. Further, although other models of self-regu-
lation (e.g., Strack, 1999; Thayer & Lane, 2000; Vohs & Bau-
meister, 2004) may also inform procrastinating behaviors, our
study focused primarily on academic procrastination and Pin-
trich’s model is established within the academic self-regulation
research (e.g., Pintrich & de Groot, 1990; Schunk, 2005).
The study further explored other aspect of procrastination. In
contrast to a conventional view of procrastination as detriment-
tal, some researchers argue that procrastination can be benefi-
cial. In Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafon’s study (2007), college
students reported two beneficial aspects of procrastination. One
of them is cognitive efficiency. Students reported that working
within a tightly controlled time led to concentrated effort and
eliminated distractions. The second benefit of procrastination is
peak experience; that is, working in short intervals enhances
motivation, makes boring tasks more engaging and challenging,
and leads to a sustained state of “flow.” More interestingly,
students in Schraw and colleagues’ (2007) study reported that
they planned to procrastinate for such adaptive reasons.
In fact, Chu & Choi (2005) suggested that procrastination
could serve as self-regulatory processing. Chu and Choi found
that some people purposefully choose to put off tasks because
they believe procrastination contributes to their best performan-
ce. The study referred to such people who intentionally pro-
crastinate for adaptive purposes as active procrastinators. Ac-
cording to Chu and Choi’s study, active procrastinators used
time more purposively, had greater perception of time control,
showed higher self-efficacy, and used adaptive coping strate-
gies (e.g. task-oriented strategies) when compared to passive
procrastinators. Passive procrastinators are those who do not
deliberately procrastinate but end up delaying tasks, feeling o-
verwhelmed, and becoming pessimistic in their outlook as they
approach the deadline. These researchers believe, not only un-
planned delay, but also intentional delay should be considered
as procrastination.
The presence of active procrastinators generates serious con-
tradiction to previous research as active procrastination repre-
sents effective self-regulatory processing and does not involve
an intention-action gap. In fact, researchers recently noted that
procrastination must be distinguished from planned delay, ac-
knowledging that planned delay is a wise strategy rather than
irrational behavior (van Eerde, 2003; van Hooft et al., 2005).
This issue of intentional, or purposeful, delay is currently on
debate in the literature. The current study, therefore, was intere-
sted in examining students’ perspective on intentional delay and
active procrastination.
Accordingly, the current study addressed four research ques-
tions. First, what are the differences between high procrastina-
tors and low procrastinators regarding learning processes in di-
fferent components of self-regulation (e.g., cognition, motivat-
ion, and behavior)? Second, how does procrastination relate to
a self-handicapping behavior? Third, how do students define
procrastination? Do they consider intentional delay as procras-
tination? Lastly, do students purposefully “procrastinate” with
intent to academically perform better? For a more comprehend-
sive understanding of academic procrastination, this study em-
ployed a mixed methods approach. Most of the existing pro-
crastination research heavily relies on outcomes from survey
instruments. However, as existing research suggests, procrasti-
nation is an intra-individual process that may involve complex
underlying motivations. Assessing procrastinatory behavior wi-
th survey instruments alone likely constrains the understanding
of the complete nature of procrastination. Therefore, we con-
ducted individual and focus group interviews to complement
survey instruments that assess students’ procrastination and o-
ther elements of academic behaviors. The resulting data from
two different methods were triangulated allowing for in-depth
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 13
exploration of individual differences and intra-individual proce-
sses among procrastinators. Table 1 illustrates the correspond-
ing research methods selected to address the research questions.
Participants in this study were 41 undergraduate students
who were recruited from two sections of an introductory gene-
ral education course at a large Mid-Atlantic university. They
were typical college students whose ages ranged from 19 to 21.
More than half of the students were in their freshman and
sophomore years. About sixty percent of the participants were
female. We targeted the general education course because stu-
dents in this class represented various majors including ele-
mentary education, secondary education, communication diso-
rders, special education, human development and family studies,
kinesiology and rehabilitation services. Of the 41 students, 36
students participated in focus groups and 5 other participants
were individually interviewed. Each focus group consisted of
between 2 and 7 students. The size of these groups was deter-
mined by self-selected time slots. Students signed up for sessions
that best fit their schedules. This strategy allowed for heteroge-
neity of groups and the size of the groups, while varied, pro-
vided opportunities for all to participate (Gay, Mills, & Aira-
sian, 2009). All participants received extra credit points toward
their course grade for participation in the study.
Measures and Materials
We used six survey instruments to collect quantitative data
and a partially-structured interview protocol for additional, qua-
litative data.
The first instrument was the Generalized Self-Efficacy Scale
(GSES; Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995). Self-efficacy is com-
monly regarded as domain-specific (Bandura, 2006; Pajares,
1996). The GSES, in contrast, was designed to assess a broad
and global sense of personal confidence in one’s coping ability
across a wide range of demanding or novel situations (Schwar-
zer, Bäßler, Kwiatek, Schröder, & Zhang, 1997). As such, the
purpose of the instrument is not to measure self-efficacy for an
individual task. The scale is widely used and is reported to be
reliable, homogeneous, and unidimensional across 25 nations
(e.g., Canada, France, Korea, and India). Adequate internal con-
sistency reliability for the English version of the GSES has also
been reported, alpha = .87 (Scholz, Dona, Sud, & Schwarzer,
Table 1.
Relationship between research questions and research methods.
Research Questions Surveys and other
quantitative methodsInterviews
1. What are the differences between high
procrastinators and low procrastinators
regarding learning processes in different
components of self-regulation?
x x
2. How does procrastination relate to a
self-handicapping behavior? x x
3. How do students define procrastination
behavior? x
4. Do students purposefully procrastinate
with intent to academically perform better?x x
In addition to the GSES, students also completed the Motiva-
ted Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ; Pintrich,
Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1991). The MSLQ is the most
used self-report instrument developed to evaluate college stu-
dents’ motivational orientations and their use of different lea-
rning strategies. The MSLQ comprises 15 subscales with a total
of 81 items: Intrinsic goal orientation, Extrinsic goal orientation,
Task value, Control of learning beliefs, Self-efficacy, Test an-
xiety, Rehearsal, Elaboration, Organization, Critical thinking,
Metacognitive self-regulation, Time and study environment, E-
ffort regulation, Peer learning, and Help seeking. These subsca-
les are often administered as individual construct scales. Items
in the scales asked students to respond corresponding to their
behaviors in the specific class from which they were recruited.
Students rated each item on a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from
1 = Not at all true of me to 7 = Very true of me. In previous
research, Cronbach’s alphas for the Motivational Scales ranged
from .62 to .93 and for the Learning Strategies Scales from .52
to .80 (Pintrich et al., 1991). Pintrich et al. also reported that the
MSLQ has moderate predictive validity and reasonable factor
validity (p. 4).
The Procrastination Assessment Scale–Student (PASS; So-
lomon & Rothblum, 1994) was administered to assess students’
tendency to procrastinate. PASS is developed consistent with
the view of procrastination as an irrational, maladaptive delay
(Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). The PASS consists of 44 items
across two sections. The first part of the scale evaluates the pre-
valence of procrastination in six academic areas: writing a term
paper, studying for an exam, keeping up with reading assign-
ments, performing administrative tasks, attending meetings, and
performing school activities in general. Howell, Watson, Po-
well, and Buro (2006) reported an alpha coefficient of .75 for
the first part of the PASS.
The second half of the PASS presents a scenario of procras-
tination as writing a term paper and a list of 26 potential rea-
sons for procrastination on the task (e.g., “You had a hard time
knowing what to include and what not to include in your pa-
per”). For each of the reasons, students were asked to indicate
the extent to which it reflects why they procrastinated on a
five-point scale. In this study, we computed, for each item, the
percentage of participants who highly endorsed an item (i.e.,
marked 4 or 5) to examine which statements better represent
students’ reasons for procrastination.
Another instrument that administered was the Self-Handica-
pping Scale (SHS; Jones & Rhodewalt, 1982). Students rated
each item on a 6-point Likert-scale ranging from 0 = Disagree
very much to 5 = Agree very much. Example items include, “I
sometimes enjoy being mildly ill for a day or two because it
takes off the pressure.” and “I admit that I am tempted to ra-
tionalize when I dont live up to others expectations.” A single
item on the scale was omitted because it directly addressed
procrastination (i.e., “I tend to put things off until the last mo-
ment”). As we used this scale to address self-handicapping as
related to procrastination, we determined that inclusion of this
item would inflate relations between procrastination and self-han-
dicapping as measured by the SHS. Thus, we only used 24 ite-
ms for data analysis and possible scores ranged from 0 to 120.
Rhodewalt (1990) reported that the scale yielded acceptable
internal consistency (Cornbach’s alpha = .79) and stability (test-
retest reliability = .74) when administered in large group-testing
The 33-item Self-Worth Protection Scale (SWPS; Thompson
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
& Dinnel, 2003) was also used to measure the degree to which
students have tendencies to engage in defensive behaviors. A-
ccording to self-worth theory, some students underachieve only
when there is a threat that poor performance is expected to
reveal low ability; but, they try their best when there is no such
threat and poor performance can be attributed to a factor unre-
lated to ability (Covington, 1992). Students with such different
performances under high-versus-low evaluative situations are
referred to as self-worth protective, which the SWPS purports
to identify (Thompson & Dinnel, 2003). Students indicated the
degree to which they agreed with each statement in a 7-point
Likert-scale. A typical item is “I perform at my best when there
is little risk of failure.” Thompson and Dinnel reported internal
consistency of .89.
The final instrument used in this study was the Students’
Test Anxiety Scale (STAS; Sperling, Rectenwald, Park, & S-
loan, 2009). The STAS evaluates students’ experience of stress
about testing. The scale with a total of 28 items is divided into
two parts. The first part is comprised of 2 items that assess
students’ perception of test anxiety in relation to performance
(e.g., Test anxiety helps me to do better on exams). The re-
maining 26 items describe situational statements that may be
related to test anxiety, and respondents rate the frequency of
experiencing stress under each situation on a 5-point Likert-sca-
le. Example items include, “I feel stressed about how the test is
going to affect my grade and “I feel stressed when I have trou-
ble on the first problem or item”. The scale was reported as
reliable with Cronbach’s alpha of .91 (Sperling, et al., 2009).
In addition to the six survey measures, an interview protocol
was developed and refined based on data from a pilot study.
The pilot study was conducted in one semester prior to the cur-
rent study and tested an initial interview protocol. The inter-
view protocol used in the pilot study derived from a literature
review of motivation and self-regulation of procrastination. The
initial protocol consisted of open-ended questions encompass-
ing mainly three areas of interest: 1) definitional aspects of
procrastination, 2) the trait/state nature of procrastination, and 3)
the potential self-regulatory nature of procrastination. This pilot
protocol examined procrastinatory behavior in a broader con-
text including procrastination in daily life as well as academic
settings. The questions, thus, were asked regarding students’
procrastination behavior in different settings and characteristics
of different conditions in which they have procrastinated. Sam-
ple questions include the following: “When do you usually pro-
crastinate?”, “What kinds of task do you usually procrastinate
on?” and “Describe in detail a time you procrastinated on a task
or an activity that was not directly related to school course
work.” Participants for the pilot study were recruited from the
same courses as the current sample, but they did not overlap
with those in the current study. The format and procedure of the
interview were similar to ones in the current study. All inter-
views in the pilot study were audio-recorded and transcribed
The data from the pilot study indicated that students demon-
strated different procrastination tendencies in different contexts.
Students did not report consistent procrastinatory behaviors
between non-academic and academic settings. This directed the
current study to be explicit about its focus on academic pro-
crastination. Also, the pilot data suggested that students were
more willing to provide detailed description of the behavior
when they were prompted to share their experiences. Thus, the
new interview protocol eliminated questions about procrastina-
tion in different settings and instead added more questions re-
garding students’ motivations and cognitive processes while
procrastinating on academic tasks. Above all, the new proto-
col narrowed the focus of the study to the regulatory or motive-
tional nature of academic procrastination, which was the main
purpose of the present study.
The interview protocol for the current study was partially-
structured and was used primarily as a guide while the inter-
viewer modified the protocol and added additional questions
during the interview (Krathwohl, 1998). The interview ques-
tions were open-ended and designed to acquire in-depth des-
criptions of students’ academic and procrastinating behaviors.
The same protocol was used for both focus group and indivi-
dual interview sessions. All of the interviewees were first asked
to describe a recent time they had procrastinated on an aca-
demic task. This question was prepared to get participants in-
volved in the topic as they explained their own experiences.
The subsequent questions were developed to probe students’
perceptions of and various potential reasons for academic pro-
crastination. Sample questions were, “How much did you care
about the outcome or performance of your work (that you pro-
crastinated on)?” and “Why do you think you procrastinated on
this task?”
On the recruitment day, the researcher visited each class and
explained briefly to students the purpose and procedures of the
study. Students who wished to participate in the study volunta-
rily signed up for one of the interview sessions that included
focus group sessions and individual interview sessions. Focus
group interviews were designed as a mechanism to encourage
students to share their experiences and opinions about academic
procrastination and respond to each other thereby generating a
richer dataset regarding procrastination tendencies (Krueger,
1994). After signing up, students received a packet that con-
tained the six self-report questionnaires and a consent form.
They were asked to complete the packet at home and to bring it
back on the interview day. The six questionnaires include a to-
tal of 222 items and it took approximately 45 minutes - 60 mi-
nutes for students to complete. All students who came to the
interview sessions turned in the packet.
The interviews were conducted in a small-sized classroom.
Upon arrival, the survey packet and the consent document were
collected and the purposes of the study and the interview format
were briefly explained. In the consent document, students were
notified that they were free to end their participation at any time
or to decline to answer any questions without penalty. To as-
sure accurate data recording, students were asked to use num-
bers, which were designated on their survey packet, and to refer
to their number whenever they made comments during the in-
terview. All interview sessions were audio-recorded. Each in-
terview lasted approximately 40 minutes and all sessions were
completed within 2 weeks.
Results from Analyses of the Survey Data
The survey data were analyzed to examine differences between
high and low procrastinators with respect to their self-regulation
and motivation in academic settings. The sum scores of each
scale were used for data analyses. Descriptive statistics and reli-
ability coefficients for all scales are presented in Table 2.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 15
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Table 2.
Descriptive statistics for all variables.
Variable M SD α
PASS (12a) 33.85 7.25 .86
Self-Handicapping (24) 57.52 13.47 .77
STAS (28) 90.19 17.36 .91
Self-Worth Protective (33) 74.78 12.49 .80
Gen. Self-Efficacy (10) 31.34 4.55 .89
Intrinsic goal (4) 18.27 3.44 .64
Extrinsic goal (4) 21.29 3.60 .48
Task value (6) 32.28 4.97 .81
Cont. learning beliefs (4) 23.05 3.13 .60
Self-efficacy (8) 45.62 6.41 .93
Test anxiety (5) 19.16 6.06 .91
Rehearsal (4) 20.05 4.63 .74
Elaboration (6) 28.40 5.79 .75
Organization (4) 16.66 4.43 .51
Critical thinking (5) 19.18 5.28 .79
Meta. self-regulation (12) 54.30 10.61 .81
Time and study mgmt. (8) 41.04 8.39 .84
Effort regulation (4) 20.96 3.81 .71
Peer learning (3) 8.33 3.58 .61
Help seeking (4) 12.63 4.92 .70
Participants were classified as either high or low procrasti-
nators through a median split procedure. Participants whose
PASS score was greater than or equal to 33 (M = 38.55, SD =
6.38, n = 22) were classified as high procrastinators. Low pro-
crastinators were those whose PASS score was less than 33 (M
= 28.42, SD = 3.37, n =19). Mean scores of two groups in each
scale were compared to examine group differences in cognitive,
metacognitive, and motivational processes in academic per-
formance. Table 3 shows the results of independent sample t
tests on each scale.
The results were similar to findings reported in previous re-
search (e.g., Howell & Watson, 2007; Steele, 2007; Wolters,
2003). First, high procrastinators displayed a significantly hig-
her tendency to self-handicap (t = –4.697, df = 39, p < .001) and
to protect their self-worth (t = –2.453, df = 39, p = .019) when
compared with low procrastinators. High procrastinators also
reported significantly higher test anxiety on both STAS (t =
–2.334, df = 39, p = .025) and MSLQ (t = –2.628, df = 39, p
= .012) than low procrastinators. In addition, less reported use
of learning and regulatory strategies was observed among high
procrastinators including rehearsal (t = 2.443, df = 39, p = .019),
time and study environment management (t = 2.135, df = 39, p
= .039), and effort regulation (t = 3.966, df = 39, p < .001).
There was no significant difference in self-efficacy beliefs be-
tween the two groups.
Table 4 further reports the correlations among the examined
variables. The result was consistent with findings from the in-
dependent t tests. First, procrastination scores (i.e., PASS sco-
res) had positive relationships with self-handicapping scores
aThe number in parenthesis indicates the number of items in the scales.
Table 3.
Results of the analysis of group comparison.
(SD) t (df = 39) p Cohen’s d
SHS 61.50 (10.62) 46.37 (9.88) –4.697 <.000 1.475
STAS 90.09 (13.21) 78.58 (19.15) –2.334 .025 .699
SWPS 141.81 (23.18) 125.10 (19.94) –2.453 .019 .773
GSES 30.18 (5.01) 32.68 (3.62) 1.806 .079 .572
Intrinsic goal 17.82 (4.04) 18.79 (2.59) .899 .374 .285
Extrinsic goal 21.68 (3.76) 20.84 (3.45) –.740 .463 .232
Task value 31.91 (5.07) 32.71 (4.96) .510 .613 .159
Con. learn. beliefs 22.82 (3.20) 23.32 (3.11) .503 .618 .158
Self-efficacy 44.14 (7.06) 47.34 (5.23) 1.628 .112 .515
Test anxiety 21.32 (4.69) 16.66 (6.61) –2.628 .012 .813
Rehearsal 18.50 (4.36) 21.84 (4.37) 2.443 .019 .765
Elaboration 28.55 (5.00) 28.23 (6.73) –.168 .867 .054
Organization 16.59 (4.52) 16.74 (4.45) .104 .918 .033
Critical thinking 19.09 (5.73) 19.29 (4.85) .119 .906 .037
Meta. self-reg. 51.64 (10.68) 57.39 (9.91) 1.780 .083 .558
Time and study mgmt. 38.55 (8.90) 43.92 (6.89) 2.135 .039 .674
Effort regulation 19.09 (3.50) 23.13 (2.93) 3.966 <.000 1.25
Peer learning 8.23 (3.46) 8.45 (3.80) .194 .847 .060
Help seeking 12.73 (4.32) 12.53 (5.65) –.129 .898 .039
aMH indicates mean scores of the high procrastinator group. bML indicates mean scores of the low procrastinator group.
Table 4.
Pearson correlations among variables.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1011 12 131415 16 17 18 1920
1. PASS - .62** .29.33* –.42** –.35*.13–.25.07–.14.26–.32*–.03–.02–.20 –.33* –.48** –.62** –.03–.08
2. Self-Handicapping - .40**.42** .44**.41** .16 .14 .17 .17 .42** .50**.01 .09 .05 .26 .56**.57**.19 .03
3. Test Anxiety
Measure - .41**
.17 .05 .35* .15.17.14 .54**.04 .13.13.21 .04
.02 .08 .08 .14
4. Self-Worth
Protection -
.33* .16 .56* .07.24.04 .50**.01 .08 .12.09 .14 .09 .09 .10 .12
5. Gen.
Self-Efficacy - .55**.*.11 .23 .08.06.29 .29 .37* .20 .09 .07
6. Intrinsic goal - .11.42**. .30.32*.33* .42** .38* .32*.27.04
7. Extrinsic goal -.24.39*.23.32*.25 .10.24.26 .09 .20 .13 .18.18
8. Task value - .*.61**.18.49** .57** .46** .39*.25.26
9. Cont.
learn. beliefs - .51**.19.16 .01.06.19 .07
.05 .13 .19.31*
10. Self-efficacy -
.12 .30 .19.17.07 .13 .36* .26
11. Test anxiety - .04
.03 .18.12 .02 .08 .07.05 .08
12. Rehearsal - .23.32*.23 .51** .69** .59**.46**.30
13. Elaboration -.38*.48** .63** .37* .23 .39*.25
14. Organization - .07 .47** .27 .26 .26.00
15. Critical
thinking - .53** .25 .09 .27.18
16. Metacog.
self-regul. - .62** .45**.56**.36*
17. Time and
study mgmt. - .72**.36*.27
18. Effort reg. - .22.12
19. Peer learning -.66**
20. Help seeking -
*p < .05. **p < .01.
(p < .001) and self-worth protection scores (p < .05). PASS
scores were also negatively associated with metacognitive
strategies (p < .05) and some of the behavioral regulatory
strategies includeing time and study environment management
(p < .01) and effort regulation (p < .001). Different from the
result of the group comparison analysis, procrastination was not
associated with either the STAS or the MSLQ test anxiety scale.
However, one of the PASS subscales measuring procrastination
in studying for exams was positively correlated with scores on
STAS (r = .33, p < .05). Scores on PASS correlated negatively
with GSES scores (p < .01) but not with scores on the MSLQ
self-efficacy scale. Additionally, intrinsic goal orientation was
inversely related to PASS scores (p < .05). On the other hand,
procrastination scores did not correlate with extrinsic goal o-
In addition to the correlational analyses with the entire sam-
ple, separate interrelationships among the variables were calcu-
lated for each group. The most remarkable difference between
the two groups was that the high procrastinator group showed a
significant relationship between procrastination and self–handi-
capping (r = .55, p < .01). For the low procrastinator group,
procrastination did not correlate with any other variables in the
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 17
study. For the high procrastinator group, PASS was negatively
related to intrinsic value (r = –.46, p < .05), effort regulation (r
= –.55, p < .01), and time and study environment management
(r = –.44, p < .05). In addition, self-handicapping had a nega-
tive relationship with self-efficacy (r = –.48, p < .05), which
was not observed with the low procrastinators. However, high
procrastinators did not show any relationship between test an-
xiety and self-handicapping whereas such relationships were
found among low procrastinators with both of the test anxiety
scales (STAS: r = –.64, p < .01, MSLQ: r = –.46, p < .05). An-
other distinct difference between the two groups was also indi-
cated in the relationship between self-handicapping and learn-
ing strategies. For high procrastinators, self-handicapping was
negatively correlated with learning strategies; whereas, low
procrastinators showed rather a positive relationship. A similar
finding was reported with the interrelations between self-handi-
capping and task value: High procrastinators demonstrated a
negative relationship whereas low procrastinators displayed a
positive relationship.
Additionally, we examined students’ endorsement of reasons
for procrastination with the data from the second part of PASS.
We constructed frequency tables (see Table 5) for each item,
including the percentage of participants who highly endorsed
each item. Overall, a relatively higher rate of endorsement was
found with high procrastinators on every item compared to low
procrastinators. This implies that high procrastinators do indeed
engage more frequently in procrastination behavior than do low
Table 5.
The percentage of high and low procrastinators who highly endorsed
each item of PASS.
Variable M SD α
PASS (12a) 33.85 7.25 .86
Self-Handicapping (24) 57.52 13.47 .77
STAS (28) 90.19 17.36 .91
Self-Worth Protective (33) 74.78 12.49 .80
Gen. Self-Efficacy (10) 31.34 4.55 .89
Intrinsic goal (4) 18.27 3.44 .64
Extrinsic goal (4) 21.29 3.60 .48
Task value (6) 32.28 4.97 .81
Cont. learning beliefs (4) 23.05 3.13 .60
Self-efficacy (8) 45.62 6.41 .93
Test anxiety (5) 19.16 6.06 .91
Rehearsal (4) 20.05 4.63 .74
Elaboration (6) 28.40 5.79 .75
Organization (4) 16.66 4.43 .51
Critical thinking (5) 19.18 5.28 .79
Meta. self-regulation (12) 54.30 10.61 .81
Time and study mgmt. (8) 41.04 8.39 .84
Effort regulation (4) 20.96 3.81 .71
Peer learning (3) 8.33 3.58 .61
Help seeking (4) 12.63 4.92 .70
aThe number in parenthesis indicates the number of items in the scales.
Specifically, more than 85% of high procrastinators highly
endorsed the item, “You had too many other things to do,”
while 47% of low procrastinators endorsed the same item. Also,
the item, “You felt overwhelmed by the task,” was endorsed by
68% of high procrastinators compared with 42% of low pro-
crastinators. These two items represent difficulties in managing
time. In addition, high procrastinators had a stronger tendency
to report laziness (i.e., “You just felt too lazy to write a term
paper”) and lack of energy (i.e., “You didn’t have enough en-
ergy to begin the task”) as a reason for procrastination than low
procrastinators. Similarly, high procrastinators seemed to have
low tolerance as 41% of them highly endorsed an item, “You
felt it just takes too long to write a term paper,” as compared
with 10.5% of low procrastinators who highly endorsed the
Results from Analyses of the Student Interview Data
The interview data focused on exploration of underling mo-
tivational and cognitive processes of high and low procrastina-
tors in depth. We first checked whether students classified as
high or low procrastinators viewed themselves as procrastina-
tors. Interestingly, while most high procrastinator acknowle-
dged themselves as procrastinators, some of the low procrasti-
nators classified by the survey data considered themselves as
procrastinators. In the following section, high procrastinators
referred to those who regarded themselves as procrastinators (n
= 28) and low procrastinators are those who did not (n = 13) in
the interviews. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and
were analyzed focusing on students’ motivational and regula-
tory behaviors under academic settings. Themes were devel-
oped from these data using a memoing and coding process. The
two authors consulted in an iterative process to derive the codes.
The first author read the transcript and categorized statements
into different codes. The second author then reviewed the cod-
ing categories with the transcript. With the codes on which the-
re was no consensus, the two authors discussed their perspec-
tives and concerns. Multiple readings of the transcript were co-
mpleted for the coding categories to be further refined and ac-
curately reflective of participants’ descriptions. This iterative
peer review process was necessary to strengthen credibility and
validity of the research (Creswell & Plano-Clark, 2007; Gay,
Mills, & Airasian, 2009).
Four themes emerged from the interview data. These themes
include a lack of regulatory skills, working under pressure,
defensive behaviors, and active procrastination. Each of the
themes is explained below in greater detail.
A Lack of Regulatory Skills
High procrastinators frequently mentioned that they were
lazy. They noted that they were not good at following their
plans and intentions. High procrastinators responded that they
usually planned to work in advance but ended up doing their
work at the last minute. They appeared to get easily distracted
by other interesting activities and could not get themselves
motivated to work as they had planned. Of the 28 high procras-
tinators interviewed, 27 acknowledged that procrastination is
not a good behavior and showed an intention to decrease pro-
crastination because they believed that they would perform
better without procrastination. However, they seemed to con-
tinue to procrastinate. Six high procrastinators even believed
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
that they could not change their procrastinating behavior, re-
flecting an external locus of control. The following extracts
demonstrate lack of regulation of behavior:
“I am also distracted with my roommates. And that is another
reason why I delay doing work. There is always other stuff to
do that is much more fun.”
“Every time this happens to me, I say ‘Next time, I need to
change my habits.’ And then it comes around to me actually
doing it, I still always put it off.”
“But I don’t think that you can actually change. It is really
difficult too, because every single year, I am just like, okay this
year, I am going to do everything ahead, but it never happens.”
On the other hand, low procrastinators seemed to schedule
their work ahead of time taking into account other activities that
they would have to be involved in. Low procrastinators ensured
that they had enough time to complete a task and to carry out
their schedule as planned. Low procrastinators, in general, re-
flected good self-management of their behavior in the face of
distractions and a high commitment to accomplishing their goals.
Working under Pressure
In addition to differences in their regulatory behaviors, high
and low procrastinators showed different attitudes or feelings
about working under pressure. Of the 13 low procrastinators, 10
reported that they get stressed out when working under pressure,
which is why they like to plan out ahead of time and work on
an academic task in advance. However, 21 high procrastinators
reported that they either work better under pressure or feel con-
fident working under pressure. They indicated that they can
stay focused on a task better when there is only limited amount
of time to complete the task and that otherwise they would get
easily distracted.
Although the students reported such benefits of procrastina-
tion, they did not necessarily seem to indicate that they perfo-
rmed better after procrastination. Rather, procrastinators ackno-
wledged that they would do better quality work if they would
not procrastinate. Twenty-seven high procrastinators denied
that they procrastinate intentionally to work best under pressure,
and 4 of them also mentioned that they just got used to working
within a short period of time after a number of instances of
procrastination and thus felt comfortable working under pres-
sure. Students still reported experiencing stress or guilt during
procrastination and regarded procrastination as a bad habit. So-
me example extracts are:
“Yes. I think I am a procrastinator. But it works out because I
do some of my best work when I procrastinate.”
“I think I work a little bit better when there is more of a time
limit. …… I obviously try to work faster. No breaks. Get right
[done]. …. I would not say I necessarily perform better. If I get
myself focused earlier, then I would learn just as much as…”
Interestingly, one student pointed out that she or other people
talk about working best under pressure only to justify procras-
tination. She articulated, “I can pretend as if I procrastinate be-
cause I work better under pressure. … It motivates me to get
everything done. ... But, maybe, I am just trying to justify why I
procrastinate. Trying to look better.” She also said, “I don’t think
there is a benefit to procrastinate. I think that people just use pro-
crastination as an excuse to say doing better under pressure.”
Defensive Behavior
As the student’s comment on justifying procrastination im-
plies, high procrastinators seemed to engage in defensive, or
self-protective, behavior. Another example of defensive behav-
ior is provided by one of the focus group members who identi-
fied himself as a big procrastinator. He admitted that he set low
academic standards. Setting a low goal represents efforts to pro-
tect self-esteem from failing to achieve a higher goal. Admit-
ting a low academic standard itself could also be another justi-
fication of procrastination. He said, “To me, if you pass the cla-
ss, you kind of passed it and I am happy with it. I was capable
of passing it and that was what I was looking for. So I achieved
my goal.” Interestingly, he added that he would not recommend
procrastination to those who want to strive to achieve as best as
they can.
In relation to such defensive behaviors, some comments of
high procrastinators implied a self-handicapping strategy. For
example, one student, when asked how much she cared about
performance on a task she had procrastinated, commented, “I
actually care a lot about school work. That’s why I am a procra-
stinator.” This comment suggests that she kept delaying school
work as she was afraid of failure. In addition, another student
who said earlier that he set a low academic standard tended to
attribute his poor performance to procrastination. He repeated
that he did have the capability for better performance if he had
not procrastinated. His remarks implied that procrastination was
the only impediment to successful achievement. As he clarified:
“When I see my results, I get mad at myself, because I knew
it was a work that I was capable of doing and it was not over-
whelming. I would have received a better grade … So I do look
at that as slightly more motivation to do better next time be-
cause it gives me competence knowing that I am capable of
doing this work: it wasn’t an exam I would have failed if I did
try. It allows me to know that I am capable of doing the cou-
rsework and just makes me realize that I need to spend a little
bit of more time next time.”
Active Procrastination
While most high procrastinators reported that they did not
intentionally procrastinate, there was one student who claimed
procrastinating on purpose, reflecting active procrastination.
Whereas other procrastinators, according to her, usually say, “I
have to do this but …,” she rather chose to put things off and do
them at the last minute. She reported that she likes doing work
at the last minute and being under pressure. Similar to other
high procrastinators, she reported that she works better under
pressure. However, unlike other procrastinators, she said to
procrastinate intentionally so that she can focus and concentrate
better on a task within a limited amount of time. She expressed
strong confidence in working under pressure. She did not ap-
pear to feel anxious while procrastinating. She said it was be-
cause she knew that she can get it done on time. She had never
regretted procrastinating because she always ensured that she
had enough time to get things done, and she always received
satisfying results. She seemed to demonstrate a tendency to wo-
rk earlier on important tasks (e.g., assignments or tests in her
major classes) when compared with ones that she thought of as
less worthy for her success in life (e.g., tasks in her general
education courses). The following extracts are from her respon-
ses during the interview:
“I actually like doing things in the last minute. I do it on pur-
pose because I usually focus more on a task and I think that I
think better because since I do have a time limit … I like to be
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 19
under the pressure because I think better … I’d rather have a
time limit because then I focus more. If I study two or three da-
ys before, I will study one section I will go and eat I go focus
on something else. But when I do have a time limit, I am de-
voted to that particular task … because I know myself I am the
type of student no matter what, I will get things done despite
when I do it or how I do it, I know I will get things done.”
The purpose of the current study was to understand the na-
ture of academic procrastination in relation to self-regulation.
Specifically, the study focused on examining the underling mo-
tives for academic procrastination from a self-regulated learn-
ing perspective. The study employed a mixed methods approa-
ch using the existing surveys and interviews. Overall, the re-
sults indicated that high procrastinators demonstrated a lack of
self-regulation across the three areas of regulation, cognition,
motivation, and behavior proposed in the Pintrich’s (2000) mo-
del of self-regulation. This is consistent with the results repo-
rted in several recent studies that a low self-efficacy for self-
regulation was the strongest predictor of a procrastination ten-
dency (Klassen, Krawchuk, Lynch, & Rajani, 2008; Klassen,
Krawchuk, & Rajani, 2008; Klassen, et al., 2010). The study al-
so indicated evidence for self-handicapping aspects of procras-
First, procrastination represented failure in regulating their
behavior. Most procrastinators did not plan to procrastinate, but
tended to put off what they had planned and chose to engage in
other events. During the interview, many procrastinators indi-
cated that they happened to be involved in procrastination. One
student reported, for example, “I never plan to put stuff off, but
it always just happens. Like I will do it a week in advance, but I
never do. It just ends up.” Interestingly, most procrastinators
still recognized the viciousness of procrastination. Similar to
the interview data, both the group comparison and correlation
analyses indicated that high procrastinators were less able to
control their own efforts and to manage study time and envi-
ronment than low procrastinators. Further, most of the high pro-
crastinators highly endorsed a lack of time management, lazi-
ness, lack of energy, and low tolerance as reasons for procras-
tination. These findings certainly reflect an intention-action gap
(van Hooft et al., 2005), poor inhibition (Baumeister & Vohs,
2004), or low volition (Keller, 2010). That is, procrastinators
seem to have a deficit in enacting their intentions as reported in
the recent study by Owens, Bowman, and Dill (2008).
Procrastinators also seem to lack regulation of cognition and
motivation. High procrastinators were less likely to report use
of cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies than low pro-
crastinators. Low procrastinators especially demonstrated capa-
bility of planning, monitoring and evaluating their work. For
example, one student who regarded herself as a non-pro- cras-
tinator, reported that she designated time for each of her classes
in the beginning of the semester. If she did not find any task to
do for the designated time, she used it for another class. She
seemed to plan all the time of her days and kept good track of
her schedule. Further, there was some, but limited, evidence
that procrastinators hold maladaptive motivational beliefs. For
example, procrastinators were more likely to hold a low intrin-
sic value of task and low self-efficacy. In the group comparison
analysis, high procrastinators demonstrated higher test anxiety
on both of the measures (i.e., STAS and MSLQ) when com-
pared with low procrastinators. However, we did not find a
linear relationship between test anxiety and procrastination.
Additional evidence for lack of self-regulatory skills of pro-
crastinators was further provided with the separate correlation
analyses. While the low procrastinator group did not find any
significant relationship between procrastination and other varia-
bles, high procrastinators demonstrated a negative relationship
between procrastination and three motivational and regulatory
variables: intrinsic value, effort regulation, and time and study
environment management.
However, the apparent lack of self-regulation among procra-
stinators could be attributable to a self-protective or defensive
strategy. First of all, high procrastinators were significantly hig-
her on self-worth protective scores than low procrastinators. As
seen in past research, we found a strong positive correlation
between procrastination and self-handicapping as well. This re-
lationship was observed especially with high procrastinators.
Low procrastinators in fact did not show any significant rela-
tionship between procrastination and self-handicapping. This
result implies that high procrastinators are likely to engage in
procrastination as a means of self-handicapping.
During the interviews, students with a higher procrastination
tendency also reported engagement in several defensive beha-
viors. For example, one student during the interview kept asse-
rting that he was competent enough to perform better had he
not procrastinated. That is, he attributed his unsuccessful achie-
vement to his procrastination, protecting beliefs about his com-
petency. He also appeared to engage in other defensive or pro-
tective behaviors including setting low academic goals. In addi-
tion, many procrastinators reported they worked better under
pressure even though they acknowledged a negative impact of
procrastination on their academic achievement. Such a report is
somewhat contradictory. As one student admitted, this may in-
dicate that procrastinators defend their procrastinatory behavior
by pretending to work better under pressure.
Procrastinators’ higher test anxiety provides additional sup-
port for procrastination as a self-handicapping strategy. That is,
as previously discussed, people who experience greater anxiety
(or fear of failure) are more likely to attempt to avoid the situa-
tions in which their ability would be attributed to failure by
self-handicapping. In this case, self-handicapping behavior tak-
es a form of procrastination. In other words, self-handicapping,
or procrastination, is a coping, albeit defensive, strategy for stu-
dents who frequently suffer fear of failure. One interviewee in
this study indeed hinted that she procrastinated because of fear
of failure. In short, our findings suggest that procrastinators
may be concerned with protecting their self-worth and thus
their procrastinating behavior is likely used for defensive, self-
handicapping, purposes.
However, it is still unclear to conclude that procrastination
itself is a self-handicapping technique as suggested in previous
studies (Ferrari & Tice, 2000; Senecal et al., 1997). The find-
ings still indicated possible alternative motives for students’
academic procrastination. Work avoidance goal orientation could
be one of them. Five high procrastinators did not like to engage
in any burdensome work and tended to work first on easier and
more interesting tasks. They are more concerned with getting
work done than doing a quality job. For example, one student
who was identified as a high procrastinator reported during the
interview, “… I don’t really care how late I do it as long as it is
on time … (after) I get done, then I don’t care.” He also com-
mented that he put off studying Chemistry because Chemistry
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
is boring and requires a lot of complex work. Thus, as Lay et al.
(1992) suggested, some people may engage in procrastination
simply to avoid a task deemed aversive. It is also possible that
procrastination represents simple avoidance of pressure and an-
xiety that is associated with aversive tasks (Thompson & Din-
nel, 2007). Similar to this view, although not addressed in this
study, mastery avoidance goal is suggested as one possible
antecedent of procrastination in several studies as well (Howell
& Buro, 2009; Seo, 2009).
According to the interview data, 21 high procrastinators re-
ported that they work better under pressure. They said that they
stay on task and focus better as well as get themselves more
motivated to complete the task when there is only a limited
amount of time before a due date. These comments represent
beneficial aspects of procrastination that were identified in
Schraw et al.’s (2007) study (i.e., cognitive efficiency and peak
experience). In contrast to Schraw and et al.’s findings, with the
exception of one of the high procrastinators in the current study,
none of the subjects reported that they plan to (or intentionally)
procrastinate for such benefits. These comments indicate that
they are not active procrastinators. If they were active procras-
tinators who are successful self-regulators, they should have
demonstrated strong competence for achieving academic suc-
cess after procrastinating. However, high procrastinators rather
admitted that they would have achieved better if they have
spent more time on the task. For the current participants, work-
ing better under pressure did not necessarily mean better per-
formance, but rather referred to enhanced concentration. In
other words, after a considerable period of delay, procrastina-
tors had to get themselves to stay on a task to complete it on
time. Students may perceive such experience as a benefit of
procrastination. They may even come to believe that they work
better under pressure after a number of instances of procrastina-
tion. Or, procrastinators may pretend to work better under pre-
ssure in order to justify their ‘undesirable’ behavior. Overall, it
seems that ‘working better under pressure’ as reported by pro-
crastinators in this current study was somewhat different from
what was found in the previous studies. The claimed benefits of
procrastination by procrastinators in our study signified the
consequences of procrastination, instead of the motives for pro-
Contrary to a majority of procrastinators, there was one stu-
dent who reported that she deliberately chose to procrastinate to
work under pressure. She exhibited characteristics of active
procrastinators as described by Chu and Choi (2005). Like
other high procrastinators, she reported she concentrated better
on a task when under a limited amount of times. Unlike other
procrastinators, she did not view her procrastination as a bad
habit but rather as a purposeful strategy to work more efficien-
tly. She described procrastination as part of prioritizing process.
She appeared to have good control and use of time and enjoy
working under pressure. She expressed strong motivation and
confidence with last-minute tasks. She did not report any nega-
tive affection such as anxiety or guilt for procrastinating. With
regard to the first research question, this student did consider
herself a procrastinator whereas the other students did not per-
ceive intentional delay as procrastination.
However, when her reports in the survey instruments were
reviewed, the trend of her data appeared much like those of ty-
pical procrastinators. In fact, she was classified as a high pro-
crastinator based on PASS, which defined procrastination as an
irrational delay. PASS score was obtained based on the degree
to which they procrastinate on the task as well as the degree to
which procrastination on the task is problematic for them. Thus,
as regards dissimilar characteristics, active procrastinators
should score lower on PASS. This was not observed with our
student who claimed purposeful procrastination. This casts
doubt on reliability of the student’s report during the interview.
It might be possible that she exhibited a stronger form of defen-
sive, or self-protective, behavior that was observed among other
procrastinators. Therefore, it is unclear whether students pro-
crastinate as a regulatory strategy for effective performance.
Several limitations are noteworthy in examining the results
of the study. First, the small number of students participated in
this study. As the focus of the study was in-depth understanding
of the nature of academic procrastination, the mixed-methods
were used and the number of participants, hence, was constrai-
ned. The small sample size kept us from conducting more so-
phisticated statistical analysis and generalizing the results. Mo-
rever, the small sample may not have been sufficient to ade-
quately identify various motivational aspects of procrastination.
This may be one reason why the study found only few active
procrastinators. Second, the study used self-report data. Al-
though the current study collected two different types of data
(e.g., survey and interview), both were still obtained from parti-
cipants’ own accounts. As procrastination is especially related
to defensive behaviors, the students may not have provided a-
ccurate data. The third limitation lies in lack of domain-context
specificity. Students may engage in different motivational and
behavioral patterns across varying academic domains. The cur-
rent study, however, measured students’ self-regulation and pro-
crastination in a general, broad academic context. It would yie-
ld more reliable data if participants are asked to report their
behavioral tendencies in a specific context. The last limitation
is related to the observed discrepancy between the survey data
and the interview data in identifying the high vs. low procrasti-
nators. This disparity may have restricted the interpretation of
our findings. However, it should be noted that we used the me-
dian split procedure with the survey data as a way to examine
any relative differences in motivational and regulatory beha-
viors between students with high and low procrastination ten-
dencies. It was not our intention to accurately identify those
who were serious procrastinators. On the other hand, in the in-
terview, the students were asked to identify themselves as either
procrastinators or non-procrastinators. Even if a student was
classified as a low procrastinator based on the survey data, he
or she may have still regarded himself or herself as a procrasti-
nator. Thus, inconsistency between the survey data and the
interview data with regard to identification of procrastinators
should be expected.
In future research, it is recommended to examine procrasti-
nation differentiating those who plan to procrastinate and those
who do not. From our data, it was found that students perceived
themselves as procrastinators regardless of whether they had
planned to procrastinate or not. However, each of them may
represent two distinct groups engaging in different motivations.
Examination of procrastination without distinction between the-
se two types of delay, especially when the survey instrument is
used, would confound results and in turn fail to capture varying
motivations for procrastination. Future work, thus, should not
only determine whether planned delay is considered as procras-
tination but also should examine separately two different de-
Further exploration regarding the benefits of procrastination
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 21
is also necessary. Most procrastinators in the current study re-
ported to work better under pressure; nevertheless, they did not
seem to procrastinate for such benefits nor to achieve satisfac-
tory results. This finding is different from what was observed
by Schraw and his colleagues (2007) where procrastinators
reported that they procrastinated for adaptive reasons and de-
monstrated a high level of satisfaction and achievement. One
possibility for the varying finding may be different samples.
Participants in Schraw and others’ study were successful pro-
crastinators who reported to plan to procrastinate, whereas most
students in the current study did not procrastinate intentionally.
This again points out the importance of distinction between
planned and unplanned procrastination. In addition, while clai-
ming benefits of procrastination, procrastinators in the current
study still acknowledged the advantages of working in advance
over that of working at the last minute. This is somewhat con-
tradictory. Additional research is needed to further explore whe-
ther procrastination can be truly beneficial to students’ learning.
In conclusion, the present study indicated that students may
engage in academic procrastination for various reasons. Some
students procrastinate as they fail to self-regulate their own lea-
rning. They demonstrated the similar motivational and beha-
vioral patterns of those who are not self-regulated. In addition,
defensive, or self-handicapping motivation for procrastination
was reported. The adaptive function of procrastination was also
noted; however, further studies are necessary. Finally the cur-
rent study contributed to in-depth examination of students’ own
perception on academic procrastination. Future research should
uncover the multiple reasons for academic procrastination and
study which reasons correlate to procrastination under different
learning circumstances. This work will enable the development
of a process model or a theory of academic procrastination. A-
dditional research, must too, include measures of observed be-
havior and assess the degree to which students can adequately
report their procrastination tendencies.
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