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Enhancing Delphi research: methods and results

Authors


Holly Powell Kennedy,
University of California,
2 Koret Way,
Box 0606,
Room N411Y,
San Francisco,
CA 94143,
USA.
E-mail: holly.kennedy@nursing.ucsf.edu

Abstract

Background.  The Delphi method provides an opportunity for experts (panelists) to communicate their opinions and knowledge anonymously about a complex problem, to see how their evaluation of the issue aligns with others, and to change their opinions, if desired, after reconsideration of the findings of the group's work. Delphi studies have the potential to provide valuable information, yet few researchers have taken further steps to support or refine their findings. Without this step there is a potential threat to the applicability, or external validity, of the results.

Aims.  The purpose of this article is to present an argument for further inquiry to enhance and support Delphi findings, and specific approaches to this will be considered.

Methods.  Methods to enhance, expand, or refine Delphi study findings are described. Mixed method design within a Delphi study on midwifery practice is described, and a follow-up narrative study to examine the findings is presented.

Findings.  Selected results from the follow up narrative study are presented to convey how the narrative data clarified the Delphi findings. Together, the studies provide a more robust depiction of midwifery practice, process, and outcomes. Although there were similarities to the dimensions identified previously, there was a more dynamic focus and explanation of the interaction between the midwife, the woman who had received midwifery care, and the health care system.

Study limitations.  Lack of diversity in the sample and the midwives’ familiarity with the author's past research represent a potential threat to the findings. Prolonged interviews and multiple narratives were gathered in an effort to control for this.

Conclusion.  Delphi studies are research exercises conducted by a panel of experts. Designing studies to further enhance, clarify, or refine their findings from the context of practice holds promise for their ability to influence clinical care.

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