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The Delphi technique: a method for testing complex and multifaceted topics

Thomas Grisham (Grisham Consulting, Inc., St Pete Beach, Florida, USA)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 23 January 2009




The purpose of this paper is to provide project management (PM) students with an example of the Delphi research approach that was applied to a recent doctoral research thesis. The objective is to provide both a description of the approach and an explanation of how it was successfully applied so that researchers in PM may become more aware and expand their perceptions of methodological options available to them.


The paper sets out a literature review of the Delphi approach and explains this research method as it was experienced as a research tool. The paper also provides reflection on the experience of being a researcher undertaking a doctoral study.


The Delphi approach is one of many that may be selected for researching PM issues and problems. It is appropriate for researching complex issues where larger scale quantitative “hard data” fails to unearth richness in tacit knowledge to help the research understand subtle expert opinion. It does not offer the rigor of clinical testing or quantitative analysis, but it provides a scientific methodology that is well suited to issues that require the insights of subject matter experts. The use of Delphi in this context was successful in that the thesis was passed and so its use in this context may be now considered as proved through rigorous examination.


The paper provides a solid literature review that may be used or referred to by researchers wishing to adopt this research approach. It also describes the protocols and processes adopted in the doctoral study. Thus, this paper provides the opportunity for PM researchers to expand their repertoire of research tools. Practitioners may also benefit from this paper as it provides a useful approach to assess and validate expert knowledge that could be contestable in a range of practice situations.



Grisham, T. (2009), "The Delphi technique: a method for testing complex and multifaceted topics", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 112-130.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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