Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publication to the Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation. Permission is granted to distribute this article for nonprofit, educational purposes if it is copied in its entirety and the journal is credited. Volume 12, Number 10, August 2007 ISSN 1531-7714
The Delphi Technique: Making Sense Of Consensus
Chia-Chien Hsu, The Ohio State University & Brian A. Sandford, Oklahoma State University The Delphi technique is a widely used and accepted method for gathering data from respondents within their domain of expertise. The technique is designed as a group communication process which aims to achieve a convergence of opinion on a specific real-world issue. The Delphi process has been used in various fields of study such as program planning, needs assessment, policy determination, and resource utilization to develop a full range of alternatives, explore or expose underlying assumptions, as well as correlate judgments on a topic spanning a wide range of disciplines. The Delphi technique is well suited as a method for consensus-building by using a series of questionnaires delivered using multiple iterations to collect data from a panel of selected subjects. Subject selection, time frames for conducting and completing a study, the possibility of low response rates, and unintentionally guiding feedback from the respondent group are areas which should be considered when designing and implementing a Delphi study. The Delphi technique, mainly developed by Dalkey and Helmer (1963) at the Rand Corporation in the 1950s, is a widely used and accepted method for achieving convergence of opinion concerning real-world knowledge solicited from experts within certain topic areas. Predicated on the rationale that, “two heads are better than one, or...n heads are better than one” (Dalkey, 1972, p. 15), the Delphi technique is designed as a group communication process that aims at conducting detailed examinations and discussions of a specific issue for the purpose of goal setting, policy investigation, or predicting the occurrence of future events (Ulschak, 1983; Turoff & Hiltz, 1996; Ludwig, 1997). Common surveys try to identify “what is,” whereas the Delphi technique attempts to address “what could/should be” (Miller, 2006). In the literature, Delphi has been applied in various fields such as program planning, needs assessment, policy determination, and resource utilization. Delbecq, Van de Ven, and Gustafson (1975) specifically indicate that the Delphi technique can be used for achieving the following objectives: 1. To determine or develop a range of possible program alternatives; 2. To explore or expose underlying assumptions or information leading to different judgments; 3. To seek out information which may generate a consensus on the part of the respondent group; 4. To correlate informed judgments on a topic spanning a wide range of disciplines, and; 5. To educate the respondent group as to the diverse and interrelated aspects of the topic (p. 11). CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DELPHI TECHNIQUE The Delphi technique is well suited as a means and method for consensus-building by using a series of questionnaires to collect data from a panel of selected subjects (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963; Dalkey, 1969; Linstone & Turoff, 1975; Lindeman, 1981; Martino, 1983; Young & Jamieson, 2001). Delphi, in contrast to other data gathering and analysis techniques, employs multiple iterations designed to
Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, Vol 12, No 10 Hsu & Sandford, Delphi Technique develop a consensus of opinion concerning a specific topic. Ludwig (1994) indicates: Iterations refer to the feedback process. The process was viewed as a series of rounds; in each round every participant worked through a questionnaire which was returned to the researcher who collected, edited, and returned to every participant a statement of the position of...