The importance of a strong Delphi survey
A Delphi study is a methodical approach towards gaining structured, anonymised expert opinion on a topic that may suffer currently from conflicting, ambiguous or absent evidence. It provides citable, credible evidence that can be used to campaign for better decisions to be actioned. The survey stage of a Delphi study is an opportunity to validate the statements developed by the steering group on a scale that is representative of the study population, using a wider expert panel. It provides the steering group with the confidence to make recommendations that are backed up by and advocated for by expert peers that work in the study field.
This blog will share some tips for designing a strong Delphi survey which provides the data necessary to create compelling and actionable recommendations that help drive change.
Prepare the survey introduction.
The introductory text that accompanies the survey is important as it maps out the wider context of the project and sets the expectations of the responders so they can give informed consent to participate in the Delphi study. Below are some suggestions on what to include to create a strong survey introduction:
Purpose of the survey – why is the survey being conducted? What research question does it aim to answer?
Briefly outline the methodology being employed?
Survey population – Describing the qualifying criteria for the survey population will help the respondent ensure they fit the criteria to fill in the survey.
Anonymity – It is important to establish that survey responses are anonymous
Funding – For transparency, it is important to include whether the survey is being funded and who is funding it.
A strong survey introduction will also be beneficial when analysing the data. If the introduction is clear, there will be fewer responses which fail to meet the inclusion criteria that may then need to be excluded from the data set.
Define screening criteria.
Screening questions are useful to include as they will make sure the respondent fits the characteristics of the study population. Especially in Delphi studies, it is important to ensure only people who have experience in the topic area that is being researched are completing the survey as this provides the steering group with confidence that the recommendations they ultimately make are supported by peers in the field.
It is advisable to include screening questions at the beginning of the survey to avoid wasting the time of the respondent if they don’t meet the inclusion criteria. Common screening questions for healthcare studies may include questions on role, experience, and geographic region. However, more can be added if the study topic is very specific. It is important to be aware that the more screening questions that are asked the fewer responses you are likely to get.