Doctoral Research

The Hidden Labyrinth of the Clinical Examination

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And so the penny drops.

One reason why the Doctoral journey (please indulge the metaphor for now) is such a transformative experience is not so much that more and more knowledge is piled on top of what we already know, it is rather that what we know, or rather what we thought we knew is suddenly up for grabs. It is no longer what we thought it was. It is transformed. And so are we.

For Mike, a medic with years of experience and expertise, a particular view of what happens in the process of clinical examination was transformed. He finds that what he thought was going on is not what was happening at all.  A technical-rational process of objective examination, checking symptoms against a definitive list of underlying causes – is opened up as subjective, an opaque weighing up of hunches and inclinations against evaluative criteria that are never made explicit because they are never acknowledged.

It strikes me that the distinct ways of framing the clinical examination echoes an ongoing argument that has been waging throughout the social sciences for some time.

What counts as evidence and how to we evaluate our statements about the world? 

There are three basic positions on the issue of evaluative criteria: foundational, quasi-foundational and non-foundational

Foundationalists […] who contend that research is research,quantitative or qualitative. All research should conform to a set of shared criteria (e.g. internal, external validity, credibility, transferability, confirmablity, transparency, warrantability.

Quasi-foundationalists contend that a set of criteria, or guiding framework unique to qualitative research need to be developed.These criteria may include terms like reflexivity, theoretical grounding, iconic, paralogic, rhizomatic and voluptuous validity.

In contrast, non-foundationalists stress the importance of understanding, versus prediction. They conceptualize inquiry within a moral frame, implementing an ethic rooted in the concepts of care, love, and kindness

(Denzin, 2009: 42 – 43)


Denzin, N. K. (2009). The elephant in the living room: or extending the conversation about the politics of evidence. Qualitative research, (2), 139-160.


Who’s afraid of the big bad Goth?

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This research seeks to address the historical background of the Gothic “anti-movement” and its associated subculture in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in the decade of the 1980s. Focussing primarily on the era of social control and political enforcement imposed by the erstwhile GDR through the “Stasi” (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit – Ministry for State Security), the contexts of both state culture and disaffected Gothic or “Grufti” subculture will be examined. The links that abide between the United Kingdom’s original Darkwave Gothic scene and the GDR’s “Grufti” scene will be explored, and the impact of these connections will be examined.

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These are a few images of John Nicholls Doctoral Symposium presentation. For one and a half hours I was amused, appalled, surprised and compelled to ’embrace the other’.  Who would have thought that a regime could possibly enshrine the absurdity of black clothes and poor taste in music  🙂 as evidence of sedition – so dangerous that it attracts a prison sentence and requires constant, careful and covert monitoring

This was not in Medieval Britain, but Modern Europe – GDR East German State in the 1980s. I wonder if the German citizenry appreciate how hard2015-06-05 15.13.08                                                                                            the psychopaths who dominated the state security regime  worked to protect them from the Goth.

Once by Alice Walker

Green lawn
a picket fence
flowers –
My friend smiles
she had heard
that Southern
were drab

Looking up I see
a strong arm
the Law
Someone in America
is being
(from me)