Thesis Psychosis

Last week, I had an inexplicable skin rash. Despite my usual belief in human body’s self-healing system, I went to the health centre. If I had ever been envied by female friends of mine at all, that must have been for my skin, I must proudly confess. So, I thought I should do something about it immediately. As expected, it was just one of those things. The nurse I consulted told me that it had come for no good reason and would go away just like that. On my way home, I couldn’t help reflecting what doing a PhD had done to me. Was it a physical manifestation of thesis psychosis?

When I was waiting for my turn in the centre, to be honest, I was slightly worried that the rash would cool down before I saw a nurse. I know it might sound crazy, but for the moment I thought I would appear hypochondriac unless the rash was there to back up my story. Just like your computer works perfectly fine as if nothing has ever happened once a repairman arrives. I am sure I am not alone for this kind of experience.

The passing thought then reminded me of the CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software) Networking Project Users Seminar I attended in June 2005 at the University of Surrey. It was very useful to listen to the presenters’ empirical experiences and challenges they had to face in using software like Atlas.ti for their research. That said, I was most interested in a research project titled “Communication in consultations for coughs and colds” by Dr Julia Bailey for its topic itself. Her project discussed how coughing was used by patients as a form of non-verbal communication, with a focus on ways in which patients’ and doctors’ constructions of illness may conflict. To put it in simpler words of mine, I had an impression from her video clips of consultations that coughing was rather a non-verbalised appeal by patients when they disagreed with what their doctors’ said. My hypothesis is that patients do not want to be ill but at the same time do not want others including doctors to underestimate what they are going through.

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