"The Delphi group approach is a technique for gathering data that is similar to focus groups. Its value is that unlike focus groups, Delphi groups do not have to physically meet. The Delphi technique is a method of generating ideas and facilitating consensus among individuals who have special knowledge to share, but who are not always in contact with each other. Delphi study carefully selects individuals who have knowledge necessary to analyse a specific problem.
"Most often, Delphi studies are conducted through the mail, by [email], telephone, and sometimes by personal interviews. However, this technique can also be used with faxes and e-mail. Initially, the participants do not interact with each other. Through the efforts of one [facilitator], who serves as a clearinghouse, the panelists see and react to each other's ideas. Through a series of surveys, they share and generate new ideas based on an emerging consensus among the panel members." (from Nehiley, see References)
Nehiley also writes, "the Delphi technique is an innovative way to involve busy experts and specialists who may not be able to come together to brainstorm, but who nevertheless need to interact with each other to generate new ideas." Using email, one central contact person (who may be conducting research) will send questions and background information to individuals who have been selected on the basis of the relevance of their expertise. These people will reply, stating their thoughts on the topic. The researcher or facilitator will then compile these ideas to develop a concrete proposal, set of guidelines, or wording for an agreement, and will send this out again for comment. The process is continued until agreement on the wording or process or action to be taken has been reached.
This page originally copied with permission from the Citizens Science Toolbox