Compare delphi technique with nominal group technique

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Richard Allen Kratz, University of Pennsylvania


There is a great deal of interest, and concern, today in the value-added effect of a college education. This concern has been expressed by legislators, legislatures, and taxpayers at the local, state, and federal levels. While everyone has focused their attention on the final criteria that will be used to measure--or assess--these outcomes, no one has looked at the process, that is, which method, or process, is best for a college to pursue when developing these criteria to measure the value-added effect of a college education. This dissertation focused on two processes, the Delphi Technique which was used at one community college in the Eastern region of the State, and the Nominal Group Technique (NGT) which was used at a community college in the Western part of the Commonwealth. The research method used was a case study approach. In both instances, the writer focused on the social-emotional satisfaction (SES) of the committee members and the quality of the criteria that was developed. The writer felt that the committee using the Nominal Group Technique (NGT) would be more satisfied, from a social-emotional satisfaction perspective, because they had the opportunity to meet, face-to-face, with each other and openly discuss these critical issues. The Delphi Technique group never met as a committee and, in fact, had no idea of who was on the committee. The writer's hypothesis was correct, the study clearly indicated that the committee using the Nominal Group Technique was more satisfied, from the social-emotional satisfaction perspective, than was the committee using the Delphi Technique. In terms of the quality of the criteria developed, a group of community college professionals, not involved in either case study, reviewed the criteria and compared it with the philosophy and mission of each institution. They concluded that one technique was not superior to the other in terms of the quality of the criteria developed. The results of this particular study, then, were that the Nominal Group Technique was superior to the Delphi Technique from a social-emotional satisfaction of the committee members, but that there was no difference between the two processes with regard to the quality of the decisions reached.

Subject Area

Community colleges|Education|Higher education|Educational evaluation

Recommended Citation

Kratz, Richard Allen, "A comparison of the Delphi technique with the nominal group technique (NGT) in determining the criteria to be used for measuring the value-added effect of associate degree graduates of two Pennsylvania community colleges" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9224774.


Two of the most popular tools for evaluating and prioritizing ideas are the Delphi Technique and the Nominal Group Technique (NGT). But, do enough research on decision-making strategies and they all start to blur together. Let’s take a closer look at how each technique works, and when they’re best used.

The Delphi Technique

The Delphi Technique relies on questionnaires to gather information and insights from a panel of experts who remain anonymous to decision-makers for the purposes of candor.

The questionnaires are delivered in rounds. The questions in each round are determined by the responses from the round before and are accompanied by the decision-makers participant-specific questions or requests for clarification. Members of the expert panel are encouraged to provide additional feedback or commentary on their own responses as well as the responses of other panelists.

Starting in the second round, panelists are asked to rank the ideas presented by order of priority. They are asked to defend their prioritization in relation to other panelists’ decisions in later rounds. The questions grow progressively more focused on a small subset of ideas on which the board may reach a consensus.

Read our full article on the Delphi Technique here.

Nominal Group Technique

Nominal Group Technique relies on a moderator who records the ideas produced during an individual brainstorming session. Group members read their ideas aloud to the moderator. Each idea is discussed solely for the purposes of gathering information rather than debate.

Decision-makers then vote using index cards numbered one through five. The numbers correspond to the priority the idea (which must also be written on the card) should receive. A score of “five” indicates an idea should receive the highest priority while a score of “one” indicates a voter’s lowest priority. The votes are then tallied. The ideas are pursued in order of the priority score they received (from highest to lowest).

Read our full article on the Nominal Group Technique here.

While both techniques rely on a system of “rounds” — the questionnaires in the Delphi Technique and the discussion structure of NGT — they differ in the source of information and insights. While both require the use of a moderator, the responsibilities of Delphi moderators are far greater and more demanding than those placed on the NGT moderators.

While each method, may appear similar at first glance, the situations in which they’re employed are vastly different. Nominal Group Technique is often used to inform less consequential decisions. It can be performed quickly and relies on the knowledge of participants without the time to conduct any further research. Because of this, NGT is often used to make the small- to-medium sized decisions which require some discussion without the need for additional or third-party opinions.

On the other hand, The Delphi technique may require weeks of going back and forth between panelists and decision-makers. This provides participants with the time to ensure the information they submit is well-informed. When performed effectively, the Delphi Technique should lead the selection of ideas which best meet the needs of decision-makers. This makes it perfect for addressing high-stakes issues which require a thorough examination of options and leveraging of expertise.

While learning the finer details of each decision-making technique isn’t easy, gaining a basic understanding of how they work and when they’re best used is a piece of cake. We hope this gives you enough of an understanding to decide between the two when the time comes!