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Thick Description

By: Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz | Edited by: Paul Atkinson, Sara Delamont, Alexandru Cernat, Joseph W. Sakshaug & Richard A. Williams Published: 2019 | Length:   5 | DOI: |
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Thick description describes a primary characteristic of good ethnography: a sufficiently complex description to permit a reader (or occasionally, viewer) to move beyond the presentation of individual details to true understanding. It is typically opposed to “thin” description—also called “mere” or “quick” description—which limits the amount of detail, providing only superficial knowledge or a summary. Given that ethnography is intended to be the result of long-term participant observation, it makes sense that the published results should convey rich meaning, far beyond what any “brief stop by a tourist” could reveal. Thick description typically takes a semiotic approach, emphasizing how people construct and convey meaning through signs and symbols, both for themselves and others. Clearly, any word or behavior conveys more to long-term community members than ...

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