Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services


Counselor Education and Supervision

Committee Director

Nina W. Brown

Committee Member

Corrin Richels

Committee Member

Alan Schwitzer


The purpose of this study was to investigate if the use of Pennebaker's short-term expressive writing intervention would have a positive effect on the academic performance of a group of third semester underperforming freshmen. This is a relatively brief and simple intervention pioneered by J. W. Pennebaker (1997) who conducted numerous studies using the procedure. Most of the research has involved having subjects write about traumatic, stressful or emotional events for 15–20 minutes (the maximum) over 3–5 days. In contrast, the studies by Wilson (2006) and Cohen et al (2006) used self-affirmations for writing. For this study self-affirmation directions were given to the experimental group, and the control group was instructed to write about their goals and objectives for the future. Both the experimental and control groups was instructed to write for 15 minutes each day for three days.

Results of the short-term expressive writing intervention were investigated using a variety of measures and instruments. Academic performance was measured by obtaining records of the participant's overall GPA and midterm grades. For the purposes of this study, the physical health complaints of participants were measured by scores on the Pennebaker Inventory of Limbic Languidness (PILL). Furthermore, psychological well-being was measured by subscale scores on The Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist-Revised (MAACL-R). The Adjective Checklist (ACL) assessed personality characteristics. College adjustment was measured by subscales on The College Adjustment Test (CAT) and scores on the College Activities and Behavior Questionnaire (CABQ). Participates were third semester underperforming freshmen students participating in the University College Academic Success Program. Participants were recruited using the sections of the University 110 classes. The participants (N=122) were assigned to the experimental group (n=23), the control group (n=24), and the non-writing group (n=75) based on what section they were enrolled in. Discussion of the results and how they relate to the literature are included. Implications of the investigation and recommendations for future research are also included.


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