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Constructive Avoidance Behavior

Back in the 1980s two graduate students* at Brigham Young University coined the phrase “Constructive Avoidance Behavior.” This is the time in the semester where many of our students practice Constructive Avoidance Behavior.

A classic scenario is a student who, facing a long day researching a topic for a paper, chooses to clean the oven, or chooses to match socks, or some other mundane yet productive task rather than work on the larger project they know they must complete by the end of finals week. The mind rationalizes the procrastination of a research paper by arguing that other productive work, i.e. kitchen cleaning, must be done. Cleaning is a constructive, necessary and respectable use of time and therefore it justifies the avoidance of work on the long-term intellectual task the student has been dealing with for weeks or months. The student can rationalize that constructive work is not the same as goofing off. It is a more valuable use of time than avoiding work by going skiing, watching a movie, or playing computer games. One could even argue that the act of performing constructive work allows the mind to relax and it is possible that the student’s paper may benefit from new ideas that arise during the meditative state produced by working on a mundane task.

We hope that is true, but here in the library we have a suggestion to make. If you are a student who is dreading the last few days of school and is scrambling to finish a paper we can help. If you need scholarly sources for your work just walk up to any Help Desk in the library and ask for information on your topic. We all want to help you get a better grade.

If you have been avoiding leaving the house to work on your paper and you now realized that you are too shabby to be seen in public, we can still help. Click on http://guides.lib.byu.edu/browse.php and select the subject guide for the topic of your paper. One of our great team of librarians has probably studied the subject you are working on and they have a special web page with resources that will help you out.

If you have been so busy cleaning the oven, the bathroom and doing laundry that you have nothing to wear because all your clothes are in the dryer and you are too tired to even search for a subject guide, relax, it is okay. We can still help. Click here and you will go to http://ask.lib.byu.edu/, the library’s knowledge base. The knowledge base holds the answers to questions students before you asked. Now is a good time to remember that you are not the first student to take a tough class and you will not be the first, or last, student to ask the library questions so you can boost your grades.

If you have a friend at BYU who needs help fast, you can tell because their bathroom is sparkling and their paper is nowhere to be seen, send them this link: http://lib.byu.edu/researchrescue/, this page has all the links they’ll need to get started.



*In the end the graduate students completed their scholarly tasks. One, Dr. Rebecca Casper teaches at BYU Idaho, the other Margaret Layton is an English instructor at Utah Valley University.