Insights into the use and complexities of the Policy Delphi technique
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Insights into the use and complexities of the Policy Delphi technique

Pauline Meskell Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, National University of Ireland, Galway, Republic of Ireland
Kathy Murphy Professor of nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, National University of Ireland, Galway, Republic of Ireland
David G Shaw Lecturer, Open University, Buckinghamshire, UK
Dympna Casey Senior lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, National University of Ireland, Galway, Republic of Ireland

Aim To describe the Policy Delphi technique and show how it was used in a research study in the Republic of Ireland.

Background Policy Delphi is a variant of the Delphi technique, but differs in that its purpose is to explore consensus rather than aid it. It is an appropriate methodological tool for researching complex issues that benefit from the insights and consensus of a group of experts. It is useful in examining options and implications of policy and assessing their acceptability.

Data sources A three-round policy Delphi study was the second phase of a sequential mixed-method design. The study was intended to examine stakeholders’ perceptions of the clinical role of lecturers in nursing to identify supportive and limiting factors that affect the clinical role, with the purpose of determining a model for best practice.

Review methods A review of literature about Policy Delphi from its development to current use (1970-2013) was undertaken to explore the technique.

Discussion The complexities of using the Policy Delphi methodology to explore policy options are discussed.

Conclusion Policy Delphi is an underused tool that would benefit nursing research. The output from a Policy Delphi study produces a substantial number of new ideas and an evaluation of those ideas for use in decision making.

Implications for research/practice Policy Delphi can offer researchers a means to explore levels of consensus on policy issues that have major effects on nursing developments. Practitioners may also benefit because it provides a useful way to assess and validate expert knowledge that could be contestable in a range of practice situations.

Nurse Researcher. 21, 3, 32-39. doi: 10.7748/nr2014.01.21.3.32.e342

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 10 July 2012

Accepted: 24 June 2013

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