This project aimed to understand why a disproportionately high number of PhD students—between 40 and 60%—withdraw from their academic program without completing it.

The results and their interpretation make it possible to conclude that anxiety, perfectionism and procrastination are key factors to understanding motivation and perseverance at the doctoral level. They are also modifiable.

It therefore seems appropriate for PhD students to recognize how the factors are linked and how they impact their motivation, their sense of personal efficacy and, ultimately, their perseverance. It is also important for doctoral advisors to recognize the signs of anxiety, perfectionism and procrastination in students and openly discuss their effects with their students. Advisors can contribute to students’ perseverance by creating strong relationships with them. The university can also help reduce anxiety, perfectionism and procrastination in PhD students by recognizing the characteristics and challenges inherent to doctoral studies. For instance, an institution may develop a specific service offer targeting the three themes for PhD students, their advisors and other members of the academic community who collaborate with doctoral students.

The main solution to foster well-being, motivation and perseverance at the PhD level is based on awareness-building of the negative impacts of anxiety, perfectionism and procrastination among PhD student and advisors.

By helping to improve student persistence, this project could increase the number of completed doctoral dissertations and thus provide a unique contribution to the advancement of knowledge in a range of fields and enhance innovation and scientific development in Québec.

Main researcher
Geneviève Belleville, Université Laval


Research report


Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: August 2021