Thick description is a term coined by anthropologist Clifford Geertz, and it refers to a method of interpreting and understanding cultural practices by providing rich and detailed observations of social interactions and meanings. The idea is that by closely analyzing the context, symbols, and meanings behind a social action or behavior, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of the cultural practices and beliefs of the community being studied. Thick description involves going beyond surface-level observations and instead delving into the underlying social and cultural meanings that inform people's actions and behaviors.
In the context of an online community, thick description could be used to understand the social dynamics, norms, and practices of the community. For example, a researcher could analyze the language and tone used in forum posts to gain insights into the cultural attitudes and beliefs of the community. By providing rich and detailed observations of online interactions, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of the social and cultural meanings that inform the behaviors of the community.