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- McCloskey, Deirdre (1988). "Thick and Thin Methodologies in the History of Economic Thought". In: The Popperian Legacy in Economics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 245-57.
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- Hall, Edward (1976). Beyond Culture. New York: Doubleday. [^]
- Douglas, Mary (1975). Implicit Meanings: Essays in Anthropology. Routledge. [^]
- Pirsig, Robert (1974). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. William Morrow & Co. [^]
- Geertz, Clifford (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books. [^]
- Ryle, Gilbert (1949). The Concept of Mind. University Of Chicago Press. [^]
- Richards, I. A. (1936). The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Oxford University Press. [^]
- Korzybski, Alfred (1933). Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. 5th ed., Institute of General Semantics, 1994. [^]
- Magritte, René (1933). The Human Condition (La condition humaine). National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. [^]
- Magritte, René (1929). The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California. [^]
- Malinowski, Bronislaw (1923). "The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages." Supplement to: Ogden & Richards (1923), pp. 296-336. [^]
- Ogden, C. K. & I. A. Richards (1923). The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. [^]
- Geertz, Clifford (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books. [^] "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture," pp. 3-30.
In this essay, he explains that he adopted the term "thick description" from philosopher Gilbert Ryle. Ryle pointed out that if someone winks at us without a context, we don't know what it means. It might mean the person is attracted to us, that they are trying to communicate secretly, that they understand what you mean, or anything. As the context changes, the meaning of the wink changes.
Geertz argues that all human behaviour is like this. He therefore distinguishes between a thin description, which (to extend our example) describes only the wink itself, and a thick description, which explains the context of the practices and discourse within a society. According to Geertz, the task of the anthropologist is to give thick descriptions.
In anthropology and other fields, a thick description of a human behaviour is one that explains not just the behaviour, but its context as well, such that the behaviour becomes meaningful to an outsider.