According to a 2008 report prepared by the Council of Graduate Schools’ Ph.D. Completion Project, 57% of PhD students complete their degrees. Though this high drop out rate is not wholly attributable to writing blocks and procrastination, there is research that indicates that these issues play a part.
Many students who have previously done well in educational settings that provided greater support, guidance and structure, are significantly challenged to produce written work in doctoral programs where there are either no deadlines or very long-term deadlines. Different skills and work habits are needed, and a struggling student is lucky if they find themselves aligned with an advisor who has the interest, time or talent to do a good job with this kind of mentoring.
Without that kind of assistance, the daunting challenges of a Ph.D. program may result in a “thesis stasis” condition where anxiety, overwhelm and resentments block forward progress on the dissertation. Financial pressures, negative self judgments and dislike for one’s program are elements that may also contribute to a student’s decision to cut their losses and quit.