Defining consensus: a systematic review recommends methodologic criteria for reporting of Delphi studies

J Clin Epidemiol. 2014 Apr;67(4):401-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2013.12.002.


Objective: To investigate how consensus is operationalized in Delphi studies and to explore the role of consensus in determining the results of these studies.

Study design and settings: Systematic review of a random sample of 100 English language Delphi studies, from two large multidisciplinary databases [ISI Web of Science (Thompson Reuters, New York, NY) and Scopus (Elsevier, Amsterdam, NL)], published between 2000 and 2009.

Results: About 98 of the Delphi studies purported to assess consensus, although a definition for consensus was only provided in 72 of the studies (64 a priori). The most common definition for consensus was percent agreement (25 studies), with 75% being the median threshold to define consensus. Although the authors concluded in 86 of the studies that consensus was achieved, consensus was only specified a priori (with a threshold value) in 42 of these studies. Achievement of consensus was related to the decision to stop the Delphi study in only 23 studies, with 70 studies terminating after a specified number of rounds.

Conclusion: Although consensus generally is felt to be of primary importance to the Delphi process, definitions of consensus vary widely and are poorly reported. Improved criteria for reporting of methods of Delphi studies are required.

Keywords: Consensus; Delphi study; Multi‐disciplinary; Publication quality; Reporting guidelines; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Consensus*
  • Delphi Technique*
  • Humans
  • Research Design