Date of Award

Fall 11-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Walter Buboltz


College is a time of increased risk for developing psychological distress, poor sleep, and poor academic motivation. Additionally, many students who need mental health services fail to engage in treatment due to perceived barriers. As a result, it is important to find creative ways to reach this group. Research has shown that emotional expression, as well as engaging in written and verbal expression, can be associated with physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits. Specifically, years of research indicate that emotional expression through journaling is highly effective with the college population. Additionally, most college students own a cell phone, typically spending an average of 8 to 10 hours a day using them, and one of the most common activities performed is communication via short message service (SMS), or text messaging. Research also indicates that hand-written and typed writing formats of expression are comparable. However, it appears that prior research has not examined the effects of journaling using the modality of SMS among college students. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to determine whether SMS text-based journaling would benefit college students’ psychological distress, sleep, and learning motivation, above and beyond the effects of traditional journaling, and whether resilience or hardiness would act as control variables in the relationship between the intervention and the outcome variables. Data were collected from 126 college students attending a public university in the South. Participants were randomly assigned to four conditions: a traditional journal entry group, a daily SMS text-based journal entry group, a bi-weekly SMS text-based journal entry group, and a control condition. Prior to engaging in the intervention, participants were instructed to complete a baseline survey, which included informed consent; a demographic questionnaire; and measures of psychological distress, sleep quality, learning motivation, resilience, and hardiness. Participants in experimental groups reflected on positive experiences in varying written modalities, while participants in the control group were informed that they would not actively participate in the intervention. Participants engaged in one of these interventions for four weeks. After the four-week intervention, all participants completed a survey immediately and six weeks later, which included the same baseline measures along with some questions concerning the specific intervention assigned. The results of a repeated measures multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA) indicated there were only significant differences between pre-intervention and post-intervention psychological distress and learning motivation, with no significant group differences for psychological distress and significant group differences between the traditional journal group and the bi-weekly SMS text-based group for learning motivation. Additionally, results of the repeated measures multiple analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) indicated that participants in the traditional journaling group scored significantly higher than the bi-weekly SMS textbased journaling group on learning motivation over time when controlling for resilience, and when controlling for hardiness.