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Delphi Panels, Second face to face group discussions where participants voiced individual opinions and arrived. at a collective conclusion were often less accurate than the opinions of individuals when averaged. without discussion Dalkey Helmer 1963 Scholars and students of group dynamics know that. dominant individuals can control the conversation and in that way eventually the outcomes The. one who speaks out loud and often can prevail over the group even though that individual may. not be the most knowledgeable Fischer 1978 When one combines that with the pressure for. conformity that often exists within a group characterized as groupthink by Janis 1982 it is no. wonder this difference in accuracy resulted Neither would have affected an average without dis. cussion outcome Fischer 1978, Dalkey and Helmer s method and approach provided a foundation for what has since become. known as futures research Von der Gracht 2008 By using subject matter experts in an anon. ymous environment and bypassing those weaknesses found in meetings and conferences re. searchers have been able to accurately forecast the development of a number of things that have. since become components of everyday life Among these were oral contraceptives organ trans. plants synthetic proteins ultralight materials and the economic desalinization of sea water. Amant 1970 And while a manned landing on Mars was not considered feasible in 1970 called. a miss by Amant NASA has a very different viewpoint today. The Delphi design falls under the general category of consensus development techniques. which in turn are under the general grouping of action research approaches Vernon 2009 Con. sensus techniques are typically applicable when there is limited evidence or when the existing. evidence is contradictory in the specific topic of interest Delphi itself is uniquely applicable in. areas where there is little prior research or where advantage could be realized in the collective. subjective judgment of experts Hejblum et al 2008 It has also been applied in large complex. problems plagued with uncertainty and in situations where causation can t be established Yang. Zeng Zhang 2012, Delphi is predominantly qualitative in nature but it can have a quantitative component depending. on the specific application As such its primary characteristics match those of interpretivism Ex. amples of qualitative only and partially quantitative strategies are presented later in this paper. The Delphi Panel Process,Design Overview, The basic design involves assembling groups of experts without concern for geography and who. then reply to a number of rounds involving response to a specific question or questions through. e mail Linstone Turoff 2002 After each round participants receive feedback of the group. response which typically takes the form of points of agreement listed in order of most to least. often mentioned, Historically speaking the Delphi method falls into one of three versions which differ by their.
purpose A Policy Delphi is used when there is a need to devise a strategy to address a specific. problem a Classical Delphi is used to forecast the future and a Decision Making Delphi is. used to achieve better decision making While these design versions may differ in purpose the. execution of the design can take many different forms irrespective of the purpose Different ver. sions may execute the exact same or very different designs depending on the specific study ob. jective as will also be discussed later in this paper. The rounds process repeats itself with the goal of reducing the range of responses until consen. sus is achieved Linstone Turoff 2002 With each repetition specific responses would re. ceive increasing or decreasing mention eventually being pared down to an outcome acceptable to. all It is worthwhile noting at this point that consensus does not mean 100 agreement as it. might be extremely difficult to get groups of individuals representing different constituencies. with varying viewpoints and priorities to reach unanimity Delphi consensus typically ranges. from 55 to 100 agreement with 70 considered the standard Vernon 2009 Dalkey and. Helmer found that early responses exhibited wide ranges of alternatives but were quickly dis. tilled after very few iterations Fischer 1978,Role of the Researcher. The role of the researcher is twofold the first is that of planner and later that of facilitator as. opposed to instrument in the case of more traditional qualitative designs In carefully designed. and executed panels the risk of researcher bias are minimal if not nil as the researcher s primary. task is that of planner coordinator recorder and the back and forth communication between re. searcher and panel members provides for internal process auditing One should note that con. tributor appears nowhere in the responsibilities of a Delphi researcher. In planning a Delphi study the principal tasks include identifying the discipline number and. content of groups and establishing the method and procedures of communication Given the evo. lution of communication technology in recent years it is perhaps hard to imagine a Delphi study. being conducted through the mail using written or typed documents but there may be occasions. when this might be necessary Most if not all Delphi dissertation studies will be conducted using. e mail and in certain very rare circumstances if feasible panel members might be brought to. gether at the end to finalize the study outcomes Melynk Lummus Vokurka Bursm and Sandor. 2009 convened a Delphi panel consisting of supply chain managers and leading figures in sup. ply chain research with the objective to identify and prioritize the key issues and challenges fac. ing the discipline as it transitioned from a tactical business practice with focus on cost and deliv. ery to one more strategic in nature where it became a point of differentiation from competitors. The panel established the priority list and later were invited to come together to discuss and ex. tend the findings Practically speaking however it s highly doubtful that a doctoral candidate. will have the personal resources to bring together panel members for a face to face session Such. events are typically associated with professional and corporate organizations. The first area of consideration in planning a Delphi panel includes identifying the disciplines to. be invited to participate in the panel The concept of stakeholder in the study s purpose is particu. larly relevant here Researchers should ask themselves which groups have a professional interest. in achieving the study purpose The answer provides indication of those groups who should. make up the panel Studies involving student classroom behavior for example might include. groups of teachers parents and behavioral specialists as participants Studies involving airport. designs would include community planners engineers architects airport operations experts and. aviation personnel among others And finally a current study under supervision by the author. has convened a panel of educators managers and behavioral specialists to identify the soft. skills necessary for Millennials those born after 1980 to succeed in the 21st Century workplace. and to determine how best to incorporate those skills in college courses and curricula. Who qualifies as an expert invited to participate is of critical importance In the Melynk et al. study 2009 publication in scholarly journals provided a minimum qualification threshold for. researcher participation on the panel Generally speaking participant invitation criteria should. include those measurable characteristics that each participant group would acknowledge as those. defining expertise while still attempting to recruit a broad range of individual perspectives within. those criteria If the participant group were to consist of college faculty for example one might. establish an academic rank e g Associate Professor or above having achieved tenure or a min. imum time on faculty criterion and select faculty meeting that threshold while representing dif. ferent academic disciplines Researchers must ignore the appeal of becoming an arbiter of who. Delphi Panels, participates Studies where the researcher claims to be the primary judge of relevant participant. experience invite skewed outcomes, It s also important to avoid the temptation to select members of a group who are representative. of the discipline involved Choosing a representative sample is something typically sought out in. quantitative studies so the results can accurately portray the total population Representation is. not a quality actively pursued in Delphi studies expertise is There is no intent to extrapolate. panel outcomes to any larger group or to predict what another panel might conclude The objec. tive is to include individuals who can speak knowledgeably from the position of the group to. which they belong Generally speaking the more diverse the perspectives of potential panel. members the broader the number and type of alternatives the panel will produce and consider. Finally a researcher planning a Delphi study using international participants should require flu. ency in the language chosen for the panel, In the researcher s role as facilitator the task is essentially one of controlling the debate The very. nature of panel selection wherein a broad range of perspectives is purposely sought when taken. together with the anonymity provided by the process leads to and perhaps even encourages indi. vidual panel members to present opinions that might be considered extreme As long as the facili. tator avoids being opinionated and functions in a non judgmental manner these outliers can. receive a level of attention equivalent to the more popular opinions although they might never. achieve consensus The benefit of the Delphi design lies in finding those areas where the panel. finds consensus and even the most extreme position expressed might trigger other panel mem. bers to alter their positions to some degree or give rise to alternatives not previously considered. The Basic Design, As noted above the basic design involves assembling groups of experts who are geographically.
remote and who then reply to a number of rounds involving response to a specific question or. questions through e mail Linstone Turoff 2002 There is no standard or typical number of. groups that would constitute the panel although two or three groups are those most often seen in. the literature The number of groups necessary for participation should be based on those stake. holder groups most directly affected by the topic of the study For example Gjoligaj 2014 em. ployed a Delphi panel to establish a sports club team in some countries management program. at an Albanian university for her Management Education program dissertation She convened a. panel of educators sports club team managers and government officials and asked them to list. the competencies that should be developed in the management program and then to rank them. from the most to the least important After three rounds the panel had agreed on 11 competencies. to be integrated into the university program ranging from leadership the most frequently listed. to facility management the least often listed The educator club team manager and government. official groups had a direct and significant stake in the quality of the study outcome and in the. eventual outcome of the university program once developed One might think that athletes pre. sumably had an interest in only the best educated team managers but they were not direct. stakeholders in the education process nor were they concerned with every aspect of sports. club team management, The size of the overall panel is another consideration There is no standard when it comes to panel. size neither has it ever been established what constitutes a large or small panel Akins Tolson. and Cole 2005 noted that panels have been conducted with just about any size They also noted. that panels of less than 10 are rare as are panels over 1 000 Typical panels seem to fall in the 10. to 100 member range and consist of either two or three expert groups again depending on stake. holder interest Researchers should be attentive to balancing membership across expert groups as. much as possible Even with geographically diverse and anonymous participation one particular. expert group could still dominate the process to some degree if it were significantly larger than. the others, As with any dissertation research effort the design process begins with a problem statement and. in the flow typically associated with a dissertation this leads to the purpose statement which in. turn generates the research question s It is from the research question that the researcher is not. only able to establish the appropriateness of the Delphi panel design over other alternatives but. also to design the panel structure and establish the composition and criteria for membership The. research question itself can also provide the starting point for panel deliberations. Key Panel Design Characteristics, There are two design characteristics that are critical to all Delphi panels irrespective of topic or. approach and are inviolate and irreducible and they are anonymity and feedback Without both. any presumed Delphi design is flawed The designers of the method sought to encourage debate. that was independent of individual personality and influence of professional reputation The de. signers also wanted to ensure all contributions received equal weight at least at the start and only. through panel debate might any individual contribution be modified or eliminated. The first characteristic critical to the execution of the design is participant anonymity Yousuf. 2007 Recalling that averaging opinions of individuals collected separately was often more accu. rate than opinions reached through face to face discussion and noting that dominant participants. and groupthink limited the effectiveness of the face to face group keeping panel members isolat. ed from each other allows each individual freedom of expression without outside pressure or in. fluence Use of the web and conducting panel business by e mail through the research. er facilitator is particularly effective and is essentially required to maintain this privacy and con. fidentiality All panel members should communicate individually with the researcher The re. searcher needs to exert extreme care in ensuring that communication with each panel member is. maintained on that individual basis It is even possible that two individuals sharing an office. could be members of a Delphi Panel but be unaware of the other s participation. The second design characteristic critical to executing all Delphi panels is feedback Panel deliber. ations begin with one or more questions for individual members to consider The results of the. initial question s are collected and consolidated by the researcher facilitator and then returned to. panel members in a series of iterations called rounds until consensus is reached In each itera. tion panel members are asked to review the outcome of the previous round and either agree with. that outcome or recommend changes along with their rationale in making those changes Without. the ongoing feedback embedded in the round procedures the process is more akin to generic in. quiry than the consolidated opinion of experts The various ways in which iterations might be. implemented are discussed later in this paper,Panel Membership. Selecting individuals who meet expertise qualifications for panel membership is critical and can. not be overstressed It is well worth noting that it is the respective disciplines of the panel mem. bers that determine what those qualifications are and not the researcher It is probably not neces. sary to recruit a recent Nobel laureate in medicine for a study on identifying the ideal treatment. sequence for a specific type of cancer for example but it would be appropriate to seek out oncol. ogists who regularly treat that type as well as medical researchers seeking a cure for the condi. tion as prospective members of the panel Years in specific practice and holding specific certifica. Delphi Panels, tions or credentials are examples a researcher might use in choosing panel members Panel mem.
bership criteria should be measurable and identifiable but not subject to researcher judgment. Selection of expert participants can also bring with it the potential for bias in that the individuals. selected for the panel can bring with them positions known to the researcher Hasson Keeney. and McKenna 2000 make a case for seeking impartiality in recruiting panel members but this. might not always be possible as experts bring with them their own preconceptions It can be. avoided in many ways however one of which was employed in the supply chain panel reported. earlier in this piece Melynk et al 2009 In that case the researchers were identified through. their scholarly publications and the practitioners through contact with professional societies Pre. sumably no panel member who ultimately participated was known personally to the researchers. before the study commenced As in interview research the ideal would be to establish qualifica. tion criteria for participant selection and then apply those criteria in recruiting panel members. Seidman s 2006 Phase 1 suggests a process by which interview candidates in any qualitative. study are qualified for study participation and is conceivably applicable to Delphi panel recruit. ment To preclude risk of bias any known relationship including casual acquaintance between. researcher and potential panel members should be an exclusionary criterion Murphy et al 1998. Each group participating in the panel could also have different criteria that determined if an indi. vidual was an expert in their respective field It s perhaps intuitive that Delphi panels that include. different disciplines would look to each of those disciplines for the expert threshold That said no. matter what the topic or problem any given panel could be asked to address there are certain cri. teria that apply to membership on all Delphi Panels Akins et al 2005. Potential participants should express interest in the topic and a willingness to participate through. to project completion Interest can be determined in any of a number of ways through an aca. demic publication record via membership in a professional society working group dedicated to. the topic through networking websites like LinkedIn or simply by contacting potential panel. members and inquiring Interest in the topic can of itself generate willingness but it alone is not. sufficient It is worthy of note that despite interest and willingness panels have reported member. participation varied from round to round Rupprecht Birner Gruber Mulder 2011. Potential participants should have time available to dedicate to panel activities Depending on the. problem topic the panel is asked to addressed activities can be very time consuming Williams. Webb 1994 As a general rule the larger the panel overall the higher number of groups com. prising the panel or the more complex the topic the panel is asked to address will individually or. collectively demand greater amounts of time on the part of panel members While it is doubtful. that a researcher could reasonably approximate the time commitment required of panel members. ensuring that prospective panel members are made aware of participation expectations as part of. the recruitment process can reduce attrition later. Written communication, Ability of potential panel members to communicate in writing is critical In a world where com. munication is increasingly conducted through sound bite technology e g Instant Message. Facebook Twitter or in formal presentations using PowerPoint as opposed to issuing formal re. ports it is important that panel members be able to articulate their written positions clearly and. succinctly In a typical second or subsequent round when panel members receive the previous. panel generated list of alternatives and are asked to respond with any changes along with their. rationale the ability of a participant to articulate his or her reasoning becomes critical Eliciting a. that makes sense response from other panel members is highly dependent on the persuasiveness. of the logic expressed an individual s written argument. In the case of an international panel it s also important that members be fluent at least reasona. bly so in the language identified for panel activities That language can be the one native lan. guage most prevalent among panel members or one based on a specific requirement for a lan. guage in which panel members shared fluency In the Gjoligaj 2015 study Albanian was the. most common native language but English was the panel s official language due to intent to. present publish in English That panel members possessed English fluency was a participation. Typical Delphi Designs, Throughout the literature researchers will often see designs listed as either Delphi or Modi. fied Delphi Delphi called Conventional Delphi herein is defined the process wherein panel. experts initiate the alternatives in response to the researcher s question s Modified Delphi indi. cates the process whereby the initial alternatives in response to the researcher s questions are. carefully selected before being provided to the panel Custer Scarcella Stewart 1999. The Delphi method can be applied in contexts that exhibit varying mixtures of quantitative and. qualitative techniques The format presented to the panel together with the technique used to de. termine its outcomes are what determine a particular panel s design Following are some exam. Conventional Delphi Designs, Conventional Delphi designs employ a group communications process targeted at achieving con. sensus through a series of questionnaires presented to an expert panel in multiple iterations Hsu. Sandford 2007 The researcher facilitator asks the questions and records consolidates and. transmits panel responses for each iteration until consensus is achieved Looking at application of. Delphi in a hypothetical example followed by summaries of two actual studies can provide per. spective on the range of possibilities in using this design. Hypothetically speaking suppose a researcher sought to convene a panel consisting of high. school guidance counselors college admissions officers and college faculty to address the re. search question In order of priority which are the five most important factors college admis. sions officers should consider in the admissions decision The process would begin with the re. searcher asking the question in order to solicit as many opinions as possible based on panelists. own experience and expertise Panel members would be given a reasonable amount of time to. consider the question and respond After collecting all responses the researcher facilitator would. then tabulate the results and generate a list of factors based both on how often a factor appeared. on the submissions and where it appeared on each list in order to provide the panel an overall. indication of their collective judgment This could be done by assigning inverted point values to. each factor on each list The most important factor listed would be awarded 5 points and the 5th. factor would receive 1 point Point totals for all factors listed would be combined in descending. order of point totals, How the subsequent rounds would be executed can exhibit some variations usually depending on. the complexity of the question s asked In the admissions example the initial list without the. point totals would be circulated for round 2 to the panel and members asked to review com. ment and revise the list if warranted or to approve as is this is rare In those cases where a panel. member revised the list that member would be asked to provide a rationale for the change The. researcher would consolidate the responses including areas where changes were recommended. and explained and circulate this round 2 list to the entire panel for round 3 asking the same. Delphi Panels, questions review comment revise or approve Any subsequent rounds would continue to refine.
the list of factors until consensus was achieved although in most cases this third round typically. achieves the 70 agreement necessary for consensus Vernon 2009. In another example the researcher might ask panel members to classify the factors according to. the impact they might have on admission An individual factor might be listed as critical mean. ing failure to meet a minimum standard would be grounds for denial of admission Another factor. might be listed as desirable meaning that failure to meet a minimum standard would not of it. self cause a denial of admission but failure to meet standards in more than one category might. result in denial Subsequent rounds might seek agreement on the critical factors and only if the. resulting list failed to identify the initially asked five most important factors would the desira. ble factors be considered, Rivera 2013 convened a panel of 31 allied health professionals physical therapists occupation. al therapists and certified child life specialists from various clinical practice settings across the. United States Round 1 began with three questions that sought to define community reintegration. identify the barriers to reintegration and isolate the most effective treatment strategies for com. munity reintegration in adolescents and young adults with spinal cord injuries Round 1 produced. a total of 161 responses to the three questions but after eliminating duplications 44 themes re. sulted Themes were phrased into statements to initiate Round 2 e g Community integration is. defined as and respondents asked to indicate relative agreement with each statement using. a 7 point Likert scale Only 10 of the original 31 panel members responded to Round 2 but all. three disciplines were still represented Rivera used measures of central tendency means and me. dians and standard deviations to determine agreement A similar process was implemented for. Round 3 and yielded a 92 5 agreement across the panel It should be noted that in analyzing. panel contributions using the Likert scale the author s criterion for agreement with the statement. was based on whether the scale mean and median rating of 4 of the 7 options was exceeded. Because the study questions did not add any qualifiers such as the single most critical barrier. or the three most critical barriers to reintegration all statements that exceeded a mean and me. dian of 4 were deemed to be in agreement, In the case of more complex studies that generate extensive lists of alternatives for panel consid. eration studies like the Wynaden et al 2014 effort that narrowed mental health nursing research. priorities might not use either of the above two hypothetical processes While first two rounds in. their study involved invitations sent to all nurses in Western Australia the final round involved. more stringent screening criteria in order to achieve consensus within a reasonable number of. iterations Panel members in round one were asked to identify the five most important issues for. research A total of 97 nurses responded with 390 individual suggestions that the researchers con. densed into five categories using thematic analysis software This allowed the researchers to nar. row the 390 individual responses into 56 broad research questions The second round involved. some 127 nurses who were tasked with rating the relative importance of the 56 questions using a. 5 point Likert scale This yielded a range of research questions from the most important Are. there alternative primary care models that can be adopted to reduce the pressure on acute inpa. tient mental health beds p 20 to the least important Do uniforms promote identify and. professionalism in mental health nurses p 21 The 10 most important research priorities from. round 2 were submitted to a panel of senior mental health nurses to obtain their consensus in. ranking these 10 questions in order of importance,Modified Delphi Designs. As noted previously Modified Delphi designs typically do not consult the expert panel to gener. ate answers to the round 1 question s Rather the researcher collects the initial answers to the. question s through some other means and presents them to the panel to begin the consensus. seeking process Some examples of this approach include the following. Researcher collects an initial list of responses based on a review of the relevant literature. and disseminates it to the expert panel The panel would then be asked to rank the list ac. cording to a specific criterion provided by the researcher Panel members would be en. couraged to add to this initial list based on their own experiences in order preclude re. searcher from controlling or limiting alternatives. Researcher conducts a series of interviews with individuals either within or outside the. study panel summarizes the results and presents them to the panel Using thematic anal. ysis software as a guard against researcher interpretation an initial list of alternatives. would be generated and disseminated to the panel If the interviews were conducted with. individuals external to the panel panel members would also be encouraged to add to this. initial list based on their own experiences, Researcher provides the results of a survey administered to a group external to the panel. While this approach eliminates the risk of interpretation or intervention by the researcher. panel members would still be encouraged to add to the list of alternatives based on their. own experiences, McBride 2015 used the interview approach to generate the Round 1 alternatives The purpose of.
the study was to determine the leadership theory or style most effective in leading employees. with diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD She assembled a panel of 10 individuals. in leadership positions within the Federal government both military and civilian with service. tenure ranging from 17 to 37 years who currently supervise or have supervised in the recent. past federal employees who were diagnosed with PTSD according to accepted diagnostic stand. ards The interview data was subjected to analysis to identify common themes and patterns using. thematic analysis software which were then subjected to two rounds of panel activities to deter. mine consensus While both transformational and situational leadership were isolated by the pan. el as being effective in dealing with PTSD diagnosed employees situational leadership was ulti. mately identified as the most effective, Joyner and Smith 2015 convened a modified Delphi panel to ensure whether a proposed faculty. developed framework for an undergraduate curriculum in dairy manufacturing was in alignment. with current industry needs The 21 panel members represented the dairy industry regulatory. agencies and academic institutions Panel members were presented the proposed curriculum and. courses and two rounds were used to gather the feedback The first round was used to determine. how the curriculum course content met the needs of the current dairy industry and to determine if. there were any gaps or excessive overlaps Because the overall objective of the study was to en. sure alignment between the curriculum and courses with the needs of the industry the focus was. on ensuring that the program providing graduates with the necessary entry level skills as opposed. to higher level positions Panel members were asked to provide feedback in the form of a 5 point. Likert scale rating for each course and how appropriate they were to the curriculum and to the. needs of the industry The results of Round 1 were used to make changes to the curriculum and. courses and these were presented to the panel for round 2 The overall Likert scale ratings for the. round 2 curriculum and courses were overwhelming rated as highly appropriate Likert level 5. or appropriate Likert level 4 with the preponderance of ratings achieving the highly appropri. ate rating,Delphi Panels,Advantages and Disadvantages. Like any research design Delphi provides benefit and value when it is determined to be the most. suitable approach to address the research problem and answer the research question Yang et. al 2012 noted its suitability for studies that exhibited the following properties. Subjective expertise and judgmental inputs, Complex large multidisciplinary problems with considerable uncertainties. Possibility of unexpected breakthroughs,Causal models cannot be built or validated. Particularly long time frames and, Opinions required from a large group Anonymity is deemed beneficial p 78.
Following are some specific examples of advantages and disadvantages of using Delphi. Advantages, The main advantage of the Delphi Method comes in achieving consensus in areas of uncertainty. or in situations lacking in causation Powell 2003 This is particularly true in the case of studies. that focus on topics where multiple stakeholder groups are potentially involved The Gjoligaj. 2015 and Rivera 2013 dissertations provide typical examples as does the Joyner and Smith. 2015 study In no particular order of importance some other advantages include the following. Flexibility and simplicity, Delphi studies can be relatively straightforward to design and flexible in how those designs are. put together The Gjoligaj panel 2015 addressed a single issue competencies and asked the. panel one question Responses were recycled until consensus achieved The Kim and Aktan panel. 2014 asked three questions and combined data gathering qualitative and assessment quantita. tive components until the purpose was satisfied In pursuing a Delphi design the researcher. could start the process by presenting initial responses to the panel question gleaned from the liter. ature as was done in the Joyner and Smith modified design panel or simply ask the question of. panel members as Gjoligaj did Researchers might even employ a validated quantitative instru. ment to begin the process It s critical however that a researcher not compromise rigor for sim. Knowledge sharing, One area not often mentioned in regard to Delphi designs centers on the ability of different disci. plines to share knowledge and stimulate new ideas that apply to the purpose of the panel Pill. 1971 and which can broaden the knowledge base of other panel members In the hypothetical. admissions criteria discussion having faculty involved in the panel can provide insight and po. tentially correct misconceptions among other participant groups which could broaden the per. spective of the other two panel groups,Cost effectiveness. Unless the researcher decides to integrate an instrument for which there is a fee for use in. volved pursuit of a Delphi design is highly cost effective Williams Webb 1994 It is the re. searcher s time as well as the time of participants all of whom are volunteers that constitute the. principal cost Beyond time there is little expense unique to the study It makes use of tools and. supplies already available,Freedom of expression, Freedom of expression is a direct result of the anonymity required in all Delphi panels It gives.
panel members considerable latitude in presenting their opinions and potentially offers different. perspectives to others without fear of criticism de Villiers de Villiers Kent 2005 Anonymi. ty also eliminates participants feeling threatened in reporting their opinions and positions Not. knowing who said what eliminates overt judging of individual contributions by other panel mem. Ease of communications, In its infancy the Delphi Method employed physical artifacts typed and mailed faxed docu. ments that severely limited the efficiency of panel operations and essentially eliminated the op. portunity for international participation The availability and ease of electronic communications. have gone a long way to ameliorate those issues but in turn have created issues of their own es. pecially for researchers This is particularly true in maintaining participant anonymity With the. exception of disseminating individual round questions and subsequent summaries of round re. sults all communications between the researcher and each panel member should be a one to one. Membership variations, As experienced in the Rivera 2013 dissertation and the Wynaden et al 2014 study the number. of panel members participating in each round does not have to remain constant throughout the. entire process It can vary in a number of ways members can drop out or skip a round and return. later or members can skip the initial round but join a subsequent one to name just two Re. searchers need to be attentive to maintaining the number of groups and the balance in member. ship cross the groups and to ensuring criteria for membership are maintained. Lack of geographical limitation, Electronic communications have virtually eliminated geographical boundaries that affected the. design of physical artifact Delphi studies The Gjoligaj panel 2015 was entirely located in Alba. nia but the researcher was in Brooklyn New York Kim and Aktan 2014 were located in Korea. and Turkey respectively Researchers are no longer bounded by geography in recruiting partici. pants or in addressing issues of international concern. Disadvantages, Like most research designs Delphi is not without flaw but also like most research designs those. flaws arise with the researcher and not the design Flaws can appear from shortcomings of the. researcher or from panel members Following are some typical examples. Researcher bias, Given the extraordinary authority and influence of the researcher in the process bias may creep.
into the process even unintentionally Linstone Turoff 2002 How the question s are formu. lated and who is invited to participate can become tools for the researcher s positions to prevail. Just as interview scripts in dissertation proposals are field tested by experts to ensure they don t. steer responses it would be in the best interest of a Delphi researcher to have an outside expert. review the formulation of the question s That outside expert could be the dissertation committee. Chair or another faculty member familiar with the Delphi design. The temptation for a researcher to select panel members with known positions on the problem is. another way a researcher can exert bias While the policy of no known relationship even casual. Delphi Panels, acquaintance espoused by Murphy et al 1998 would seem to preclude selection of individuals. who share the researcher s positions this may not always be possible in areas where the field of. experts is limited Researchers can also exert bias in panel member selection by appointing them. selves as arbiters of participant qualifications As noted earlier it should be the discipline in. volved that determines expertise and not the researcher. Researcher shortcomings, A potential disadvantage lies in the researcher imposing his or her preconceptions on respondents. especially in the case of a modified design that uses a researcher generated literature review for. Round 1 Another can be exhibited by poor summarizing of panel contributions or incomplete. presentation of the group response for the next round de Villiers et al 2005 The expertise of. individual panel members in their subject areas and their willingness to be open and direct in their. contributions should provide an offset to researcher shortcomings Previous discussion of modi. fied Delphi designs noted that no matter how initiating material was generated panel members. should never be constrained from adding to the alternatives generated It s important for research. ers to recognize that their role is not one of contributor but rather than of facilitator. Panel member anonymity and petulance, Vernon 2009 reported an occasion where participants expressed minority opinions but dropped. out when asked to explain them remaining members had to deal with them anyway McKenna. 1994 noted that anonymity could provide temptation for participants to be less than fully moti. vated and be less rigorous or less serious in their contributions Also problematic is the possibility. that a panel member can drop out at any point and for any reason and not just the ones already. It s the topic not the method, Grant and Kinney 1992 suggested that panel deliberations could get bogged down in discus. sions debates over the method as opposed to the topic Vernon 2009 reported that panel mem. bers with expertise in research methods who espouse a positivist perspective may challenge the. method as opposed to contributing topic related positions. Sackman 1975 indicated that the consensus process does not lead to the best option but rather. to a watered down version This was later echoed by Rennie 1981 who asserted that the pro. cess yielded only non controversial statements that would produce the least common denomina. tor And while these might be valid concerns one might reasonably ask however what defines. If an education dissertation proposal asked the research question and convened a Delphi panel to. pursue how best to integrate social emotional learning into elementary school curricula what. defines best could conceivably vary depending on who was asked Teachers might identify one. process as best but the school psychologist might well say another was best And if either. required parental involvement that group might disagree with either or both In the end what. defines best is the one that meets the objective and instils the learning into the students as. agreed by all That s the fundamental benefit of a Delphi panel approach. Other Factors to Consider in Delphi Design, To this point many of the major criteria for designing a Delphi study have been addressed.
Panel size number and membership of participating groups. Panel member recruiting definition of expert and participant time interest and lan. guage facility, Choice of design approach conventional or modified and. Process to maintain participant confidentiality and provide feedback to the panel. In addition to these three additional factors are put forth for consideration. Field Tests or Pilot Studies, Field tests and pilot studies are not techniques normally associated with Delphi designs but there. are cases where employing either or both would be to the researcher s advantage One example. where a field test might be appropriate occurs in Round 1 if the researcher plans an interview of. panel members or when a researcher designed survey is planned Ensuring that the interview. script or survey is comprehensive and thorough in addressing the study topic might best be. achieved by submitting the instrument to a field test before implementation. In the case of complex studies involving large panels that include multiple professional groups. each with a widely diverse membership it may be to the researcher s advantage to test the pro. cess in the form of a pilot study A pilot test might also be advantageous in the case where the. author plans a self designed survey instrument Proving statistical validity and reliability is not. necessarily the objective in these pilot studies but rather how well the design would function. when executed,Use of Outside Help, When looking to include a Round 1 interview script or survey researchers should not be reluctant. to seek outside expertise in reviewing any planned instruments in a modified study design Unlike. a traditional field test which focuses on the credibility and transferability of an instrument and. employs individuals with expertise in the specific research method involved field tests of Delphi. instruments seek to determine if the instrument is comprehensive and thorough in the topical area. and instead might employ one or more subject matter experts. Data Saturation, When pursuing an interview based research design such as narrative inquiry or phenomenology. attention to achieving data saturation is a key component in the process of answering the research. question and achieving the study purpose In those situations where a researcher plans to conduct. interviews of panel members or outsiders to initiate Delphi panel deliberations achieving satura. tion is not a concern The purpose of the interviews is to provide a starting point for panel delib. erations and it is those panel deliberations that will answer the research question and achieve the. study purpose Also contributing to overlooking saturation is the opportunity for panel members. to contribute beyond any list of alternatives provided to them. Delphi Design in Recent Dissertations, Some interesting statistics can be extracted from the dissertation abstracts that appeared in the.
78 104 dissertations published by UMI Dissertation Services in the two years between January 1. 2014 and December 31 2015 A search for keywords in the abstracts reflecting the various re. Delphi Panels, search designs revealed the following 9 486 classified the design as case study 1 266 as ground. ed theory 288 as ethnography 400 as phenomenology but only 200 described the study s design. Based on the above statistics one might legitimately ask why the design hasn t achieved greater. dissertation research exposure No doubt there could be a number of reasons why it hasn t en. joyed greater popularity Doctoral candidate comfort level and committee Chair expertise in one. design area over others is perhaps one Lack of exposure to the design in Research Methods. courses is certainly another But still another reason may lie in the availability of design resources. used by both new and experienced researchers Discussion of the Delphi design is typically found. only in databases that provide links to articles that reported studies using the method or in the. doctoral dissertations already completed both using Delphi as one of the search terms Unless. one can assess Delphi as an alternative to generic inquiry or single multiple case study in investi. gating and answering a research question for example it can get overlooked as a viable research. alternative Well known texts in qualitative research methods and designs such as Creswell. 2014 Christensen Johnson and Turner 2013 or Leedy and Omrod 2013 don t mention it at. all Another possible reason centers on a perception the Delphi is a technique only for forecasting. future events or for problem solving that addresses a practical concern or shortcoming But isn t a. practical concern or shortcoming the starting point for a significant number of contemporary dis. sertations, Perhaps the cause of the previously listed issues not covered in Research Methods courses or. methodology texts has evolved from what had been the harshest criticism of Delphi that has ap. peared over the years and might still permeate some segments of the research methods communi. ty That criticism came in 1975 when Sackman highlighted it as having limited scientific value. Linstone and Turoff 2002 took a contrary position pointing out that Sackman needed to look. beyond methodological tradition More recently the work of Yang Zeng and Zhang 2012 spe. cifically noted the applicability of Delphi for complex studies that called for subjective input. where no cause and effect could be established This category of studies would call for a process. outside the realm of traditional science It would appear that Delphi shares the same scientific. value as generic qualitative research in the form of narrative inquiry which regularly collects. subjective input when no cause and effect has been established And since dissertation commit. tees and peer review panels regularly accept dissertations and articles using Delphi its place. within the realm of research methods should be acknowledged and more importantly utilized. Despite being the least known and utilized among dissertation research designs the Delphi Panel. has been experiencing increasing acceptance recently It is uniquely applicable to a number of. research applications that involve a postpositive constructivist perspective and it offers potential. advantages not available in many of the more traditional qualitative designs such as case study. ethnography or grounded theory It comes with disadvantages as well but most of these can be. overcome with careful attention to the design of the process Delphi designs are flexible in that. they can be organized in different configurations and they are particularly applicable in pursuing. complex topics where there is no clear causal relationship and the subjective judgments of experts. could generate breakthroughs, Delphi panels are based on two principles the opinion of experts is a mixture of knowledge and. speculation and the averaging of separately collected opinions provides a more accurate picture. than a collective opinion resulting from a face to face group discussion Additional facets that. provide the foundation of the method are concentrated on the researcher who performs the func. tions of planner and facilitator but not instrument as found in other research designs Key proper. ties of the design are participant anonymity to encourage freedom of expression and feedback. panel discussion are summarized and fed back to members. In designing the panel the researcher must decide which groups of experts will best arrive at sat. isfying the study purpose how many individuals should be included in each group and what cri. teria will be used for membership In the case of membership criteria it is expertise as determined. by the discipline of the group and not the opinion of the researcher that s the primary professional. consideration This taken together with the selection of individuals who are unknown to the re. searcher will provide the best approaches to staffing the panel Willingness of potential partici. pants to devote the time and interest in the specific topic are also considerations as is the ability. to communicate particularly in the case of international panels. Once the panel is formed members are asked specific questions and provide responses which the. researcher consolidates and feeds back to the panel in a series of rounds until consensus is. achieved It s important to note that unanimity is not the objective achieving 70 concurrence. among panel members is considered the standard Vernon 2009. Any research design has its advantages and disadvantages both in selection and use Delphi de. signs offer distinct advantages in dealing with topics where problem solving is a desired outcome. or when causation cannot be established Problems in business and education typically affect dif. ferent constituencies and having those constituencies work collectively to find what works best. for all together is an ideal dissertation research design as is trying to determine why something. has occurred when there is no clear cut cause precipitating it. A key consideration to the applicability of a Delphi design centers on the topic affecting multiple. constituencies While Delphi designs have been employed in single constituency studies see ear. lier discussion of the 2014 Wynaden et al study in most cases research questions that focus on a. single constituency provide little beyond a voting process on the various responses The relative. advantage of employing a Delphi design over a more direct integration of the multiple perspec. tives that individual members of a single constituency would provide in response to a series of. questions delivered in a narrative inquiry format is something that would flow directly from the. study purpose,Reference List, Akins R Tolson H Cole B 2005 Stability of response characteristics of a Delphi panel Applica. tion of bootstrap data expansion BMC Medical Research Methodology 5 37 doi 10 1186 1471 2288. Amant R 1970 Comparison of Delphi forecasting studies in 1964 and 1969 Futures 2 1 35 44 Re. trieved from http www sciencedirect com science article pii 0016328770900066. Christensen L Johnson R Turner L 2013 Research methods design and analysis 12th ed Up. per Saddle River NJ Pearson Education, Creswell J 2014 Research design Qualitative quantitative and mixed methods approaches Thousand.
Oaks CA Sage Publications, Custer R Scarcella J Stewart B 1999 The modified Delphi technique A rotational modification. Journal of Career and Technical Education 15 2 Retrieved from. https ejournals lib vt edu JCTE article view 702 1013. Dalkey N Helmer O 1963 An experimental application of the Delphi method to the use of experts. Management Science 9 3 458 457 Retrieved from, http pubsonline informs org doi abs 10 1287 mnsc 9 3 458.


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