Policy Sciences

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 63–77 | Cite as

Policy making through thick and thin: Thick description as a methodology for communications and democracy

  • W. B. Thompson


This paper proposes the use of anthropologist Clifford Geertz's‘thick description’ as a methodology for communications policymaking. Ethnographies employing thick description give voice to the concernsof ordinary citizens. They also help make policy more accessible, enhancingprospects for meaningful public participation in policy making and, thus,democracy. This is of particular concern in policy making involvingcommunications technology because of the relationship between communicationsand democracy. A literature review found no instances of authors explicitlyemploying thick description in communications policy making research, althoughjournalists, authors and others have employed the methods of thick descriptionwhile investigating such areas as the environment, automobile safety, andbusiness. Concerns regarding thick description in policy making, as with mostqualitative research, relate to its time-consuming nature and questionsregarding its validity.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. B. Thompson
    • 1
  1. 1.College of CommunicationsPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkU.S.A

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