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The Power of Positivity: Positive Expressive Writing and Wellbeing (Ref: SF20/PSY/SMITH)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Expressive writing paradigms, which involve writing about emotive topics, have been shown to benefit psychological and physical health. The best established of these writing paradigms is Written Emotional Disclosure, which involves writing about deeply negative emotional or traumatic events. However, a range of other expressive writing activities, which involve writing about positive emotional experiences, have been proposed. These activities can include such tasks as recalling and writing about the best experiences of one’s life, gratitude writing/journaling (where an individual writes about aspects of their life or relationships which they are particularly grateful for) or written benefit finding (where an individual writes about the positive consequences of an adverse situation or event). To varying degrees, it has been suggested that these writing paradigms can enhance various aspects of psychological and physical wellbeing.

The aim of this PhD programme will be to ascertain the conditions under which positive expressive writing paradigms benefit psychological and physical health. Mode of delivery (pen-and-paper versus online), intervention duration and individual differences will be investigated as potential moderators. There will be consideration of the efficacy of positive expressive writing in groups who may benefit from low intensity psychological intervention, such as professional caregivers. The project will involve both quantitative and qualitative methods, and the candidate will also be required to conduct a systematic review. The candidate will maintain a commitment to upholding open science practices, including preregistration of all empirical studies conducted as part of the PhD programme.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g., SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: Open
Start Date: October 2020 or March 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Please direct enquiries to Dr Michael Smith ()

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at View Website . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs.


Allen, S., Wetherell, M., & Smith, M. A. (in press). Online writing about positive life experiences reduces depression and perceived stress reactivity in socially inhibited individuals. Psychiatry Research

Smith, M. A., Thompson, A., Hall, L. J., Allen, S. F., & Wetherell, M. A. (2018). The physical and psychological health benefits of positive emotional writing: Investigating the moderating role of Type D (distressed) personality. British Journal of Health Psychology, 23, 857-871.

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