Ponterotto, Joseph G. 2006. “Brief Note on the Origins, Evolution, and Meaning of the Qualitative Research Concept ‘Thick Description.’ The Qualitative Report 11(3): 538-549.
1) What, exactly, is thick description? 2) Where does it come from? 3) What are examples of “good” thick description? 4) How do we apply TD to non-ethnographic studies?
Is formally introduced by Geertz in The Interpretation of Culture, but is credited to Gilbert Ryle, a philosopher, as a means to describe intellectual work and intentionality in behavior. Understanding context, scope, present and future intentions of behavior. (Ex. Golf)
Denzin (1989) expands: “A thick description … does more than record what a person is doing. It goes beyond mere fact and surface appearances. It presents detail, context, emotion, and the webs of social relationships that join persons to one another. Thick description evokes emotionality and self-feelings. It inserts history into experience. It establishes the significance of an experience, or the sequence of events, for the person or persons in question. In thick description, the voices, feelings, actions, and meanings of interacting individuals are heard” (Denzin, 1989, p. 83). This is the expansion of thick description past anthropological canon and into many disciplines, including sociology.
“recording the circumstances, meanings, intentions, strategies, motivations, and so on that characterize a particular episode” (Schwandt 2001, 255); “builds up a clear picture of the individuals and groups in the context of their culture and the setting of the individuals and groups in the context of their culture and the setting in which they live” (Holloway 1997, 154). … more than just detail— an ascription of meaning, intent, evolution of, and context, but can be done in many ways (for more information on these, see Denzin 1989*)
Without thick description, lack of credibility and resonance in research product – loss of integrity in eyes of research community, research participants, wider readers of work.
Biographical, historical, situational, relational, and interactional.
Can be applied to other non-ethnographic studies, in how samples are described in terms of demographics or historical contexts, situations; detailed description of research tools and procedures (length of interview, location, reactions of participant, etc.); use of long-quotes from participants to illuminate results and discussions.
Denzin, N.K. 1989. Interpretative Interactionism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Holloway, I. 1997. Basic Concepts for Qualitative Research. London: Blackwell Science.
Schwandt, T.A. 2001. Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry, 2e. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.