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Patterns of Student Writing Across Time: The Dynamic Temporal Relationships Between Anxiety and Procrastination

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Procrastination has a long association with anxiety, struggle, and emotional turmoil, to the point where modern researchers rarely questions the existence of an association between the two. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that while anxiety reliably predicts self-reports of procrastination, its predictive ability decreases or vanishes when measures of behavioral procrastination (also called delay) are used instead. This paradox, if true, has wide ranging implications for the study of procrastination, but few researchers thus far have subjected it to critical examination. Through a series of five chapters this research addresses the question of the depressed correlations between anxiety and delay. The first chapter traces the roots of the paradox to the early division of procrastination research between the two fields of clinical psychology and behavioral psychology. The second chapter uses meta-analysis to examine the relationship between anxiety and delay as well as the relationship between anxiety and self-reported procrastination, contrasting the two to determine if researchers are correct in concluding that the relationship between anxiety and delay is absent. The third chapter suggests that the depressed correlation between anxiety and delay may be due to poor operationalization of delay, and demonstrates a high-resolution alternative measure of student writing using revision data collected via Google Docs, a popular online word processor. The fourth chapter uses Google Docs revision data to examine the relationship between anxiety and delay. The fifth chapter reviews the evidence of the first four, synthesizing them and offering insights and suggestions for future research. Ultimately, the study finds evidence for a small relationship between anxiety and delay, though its magnitude is sufficiently small that it justifies further inquiry into the reasons for the depressed relationship. The analyses of the Google Docs revision data is that the reason for the depressed correlations is that anxiety, though prompting procrastinators to delay, also prompts non-procrastinators to work earlier. The two relationships cancel out across a classroom of students, giving the illusion of a depressed correlation between anxiety and delay. The conclusion discusses the implications of these findings and the methods used to uncover them.

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