Test Your Knowledge on Thick Description



9 Questions

What is thick description?

Who popularized the concept of thick description?

What does Geertz's thick description approach emphasize?

What is the purpose of thick description?

In which disciplines has thick description been used?

What is the interpretive turn?

What is the importance of thick description in understanding culture?

What is Geertz's method of descriptive ethnography credited with?

What is a criticism of thick description?


Description of Human Social Action:

  • Thick description is a method of describing human social action that interprets the context of physical behaviors and subjective meanings provided by actors to aid understanding by outsiders.
  • The term was introduced by Gilbert Ryle, but the concept was popularized by anthropologist Clifford Geertz in his book, The Interpretation of Cultures, in 1973.
  • Geertz's thick description approach emphasizes analysis and integration of observations, and understanding culture as semiotic, with signs and deeper meaning.
  • Thick description aims to pick out critical structures, establish codes, and showcase the totality of a situation to aid in overall understanding of findings.
  • Thick description has been used in various disciplines, including anthropology, literary criticism, and sociology.
  • Geertz's approach brings about its own difficulties, as studying communities via large-scale anthropological interpret will bring about discrepancies in understanding.
  • Geertz emphasizes the importance of speaking to rather than speaking for the subjects of ethnographic research and recognizing that cultural analysis is never complete.
  • Geertz's influence is connected with "a massive cultural shift" in the social sciences referred to as the interpretive turn, which shifted from structural approaches as an interpretive lens, towards meaning.
  • Thick description approach has become increasingly recognized as a method of symbolic anthropology, enlisted as a working antidote to overly technocratic, mechanistic means of understanding cultures, organizations, and historical settings.
  • Geertz's method of descriptive ethnography is credited with resuscitating field research from an endeavor of ongoing objectification to a more immediate undertaking, where participant observation embeds the researcher in the enactment of the settings being reported.
  • Some theorists have pushed back on thick description, skeptical about its ability to somehow interpret meaning by compiling large amounts of data and questioned how this data was supposed to provide the totality of a society naturally.
  • Thick description is important in understanding culture as a system of meaning and highlights the importance of contextual and textual information in understanding reality, language, and culture.


How well do you understand human social action? Test your knowledge with our quiz on Thick Description! Discover the meaning behind this method of describing human social action, its origins, and its application in various disciplines. Challenge yourself to answer questions on the critical structures, codes, and totality of situations. Learn about the difficulties and criticisms of this approach, as well as its importance in understanding culture as a system of meaning. Take the quiz now and see how much you know about thick description!

Ready to take the quiz?

Start Quiz