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Name: NGUYEN HONG HUNG (Brother Joseph FSC)

The Delphi Technique

The Delphi technique or method is an approach used to gain consensus among a panel of experts. This is normally achieved through a series of rounds where information is fed back to panel members using questionnaires. Questionnaire is distributed to participants (this can be by email, post or fax). Typically, the content analysis techniques are used to identify the major themes generated by the initial unstructured questionnaire. These are then translated into a structured questionnaire that forms the basis of the following rounds. Second and subsequent round data, being quantitative in nature, are analyzed using ranking or rating techniques (Jairath & Weinstein 1994). Third and subsequent rounds should indicate to participants the central tendency and dispersion of scores from the previous round. The process goes on until there is no new opinion emerges. Before it was used in business setting, however, recently it has been used in other environments, including education. The Delphi technique has been described as a quick, cheap and relatively efficient way to combine the knowledge and abilities of a group of experts. The participants dont need to travel, but they still enable to participate in the responses, this is saving time and cost for both the researcher and the participants. Moreover, without face-to-face meeting, the participants don't feel the social pressure, but more flexible in answering the questions. This method is designed to encourage a true debate, independent of personalities. Therefore, anonymity is required in the sense that no one knew who else is participating. Further, to eliminate the force of oratory and pedagogy, the reasons given for extreme opinions are synthesized by the researchers to give them all equal "weight" and then feed back to the group as a whole for further analysis. The Delphi technique appears to be a straightforward approach to doing research in the area of forecasting and for building consensus. However, according to some expert researchers, the

consensus reached in a Delphi may not be a true consensus; it may be a product of specious or manipulated consensus. A specious consensus does not contain the best judgment. Instead, it is a compromise position (Mitroff & Turoff, 1975). For Fred Woudenberg, he found that Delphi does not produce more accurate answers than other methods, and that consensus occurs as a result of pressure brought on participants that have extreme opinions (Woudenberg, 1991). And the accuracy and reliability of a judgment method are difficult to evaluate. A measurement can be partitioned into a true score and an error component. The error component can be regarded as consisting of a number of random variables. These random variables tend to cancel each other out in the long run, giving the error component an expectation of zero. Other reasons make against Delphi such as a low level reliability of judgments among experts and therefore dependency of forecast on the particular judges selected; the sensitivity of results to ambiguity in the questionnaire that is used for data collection in each round; and the difficulty in accessing the degree of expertise incorporated into the forecast (Makridakis and Wheelright, 1978). Olaf Helmer also agrees that, there are difficulties in defining qualifications and measuring relative performance of experts. That is, it is far from obvious what we mean or should mean when we say that somebody is an expert (who is expert, what biases each expert has,
etc.). Because it is difficult to evaluate the accuracy of a judgment method, it is not surprising

that the accuracy of the Delphi has been falsely inferred from other criteria, such as consensus, the log-normality of first estimates, and the relation between remoteness and precision of a forecast. The researcher might not be able to conceptualize different ways to examine the problem being investigated. As researchers become more creative in perceiving how different individuals may view the same problem in many different ways, this becomes less of a weakness. Also, if a researcher hastily tries to complete a Delphi, thorough time for thought may not be given to the problem and consensus may not be obtained. Therefore, researchers must be careful to follow the steps in any Delphi to make sure that the experts in the group have a chance to provide appropriate feedback. Time is also necessary so that the researcher appropriately restructures the questionnaire from round to round so that adequate and correct feedback is provided through the questionnaire. All of these weaknesses and limitations result in a poorly designed and executed Delphi technique, which will result in inadequate or incorrect data.