Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Dissertation Topics

We have provided a selection of example alternative dispute resolution dissertation topics below to help and inspire you.


This topic is a great topic to choose for your dissertation are there are many different avenues that could be explored! Take a look at some of our suggestions below:

Example negotiation dissertation topic 1:

Different approaches to negotiation: Hard hitter or calm collaborator?

Negotiation and other forms of ADR allow for varying styles and methods, concentrating often more on the content of the ADR than the manner in which it is conducted. However, it has been posited that even with the strongest case, ADR battles can be won and lost due to the technique of negotiation chosen. This dissertation looks at the two most well-known styles of mediation and ADR (collaborative and competitive) and considers if changing style aids in better resolutions. This dissertation will also review whether the success of the style is determined by the type of litigation (commercial, family, and so on) or whether, irrespective of issue, style is paramount.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Guttman, R and Maes, P. ‘Cooperative vs competitive multi-agent negotiations in retail electronic commerce’ [1998] 1435 LNAI 135
  • Robinson, P ‘Contending with Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: A Cautiously Cooperative Approach to Mediation Advocacy’ [1998] 50 Baylor L Rev 963
  • Shell, GR ‘Bargaining styles and negotiation: The Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument in negotiation training’ [2001] 17(2) Negotiation Journal 155

Example negotiation dissertation topic 2:

Holding out for more: The use of the competitive model in negotiations.

More and more the varying approaches to negotiation and mediation are becoming mainstream legal practice; however, there is little analysis as to whether using one method over the other is more effective and whether in reality one method can yield better results. This dissertation compares the two most popular styles of mediation and negotiation models and attempts to determine whether one is more effective than the other. Further, this dissertation will compare information and results from real life examples to academic studies to see if the reality is different to the theory.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hollander-Blumoff, R ‘Just Negotiation’ [2010] 88 WashULRev 381
  • Morgan, A ‘ADR: In Search of the Emperor’s New Clothes’ [1991] 21 Golden Gate ULRev 351
  • Tjosvold, D ‘Cooperative and Competitive Goal Approach to Conflict: Accomplishments and Challenges’ [1998] 47(3) AP 285

Family Law

Whether you are interested in mediation of divore or child custody, deciding to complete your dissertation on family law could be the way to go! Take a look at some examples below:

Example family law dissertation topic 1:

Mediation in family law has passed its prime.

Mediation has long been used in family disputes as a method of congenial dispute resolution. The ability to include a third party, wholly independent of the dispute between the members of the family, has, at least in theory, allowed the amicable settlement of disputes. While the inability to legally enforce mediation caused concern, the implementation of such a system soon overshadowed any such issues. This dissertation looks at whether, in today’s legal system, mediation in family law is more prevalent than ever or whether mediation has outgrown its usefulness. Considering this, this dissertation takes examples of real life mediation and determines whether the participants feel that they are truly coming to a just result. Therefore, within this dissertation there will be a consideration of the ethical issues surrounding surveys.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Berman, D and Alfini, J ‘The Future of the Court ADR: Mediation and Beyond: Lawyer Colonisation of Family Mediation: Consequences and Implications’ [2012] 95 Marq L Rev 2012
  • Murphy, J ‘Revitalizing the Adversary System in Family Law’ [2010] 78 UCinLRev891
  • Payne, J ‘Whither Mediation?’ [2010] OAFM 1

Young Offenders

Deciding to base your dissertation on young offenders could be a very exciting topic. If you are struggling to decide on a topic, these examples may help:

Example young offenders dissertation topic 1:

The integration of mediation into the prosecution of young offenders

Mediation is extremely popular in resolving family disputes, mainly because of its diffusion of aggressive tactics and its reluctance to apportion blame to any single party but to work towards an end goal which benefits all parties. For the past decade mediation had been used, formally, to address youth offending and attempt to heal the wounds of both the victim and offender. Historically, native aboriginals in the US or Australia, for example, have used mediation to settle conflicts between offenders and victims in order to reduce the branding of people as ‘bad’ and address the true problems behind offending. This dissertation looks at whether the attempts to use mediation for youth offenders has been successful and to what extent mediation has a permanent place in the criminal justice system.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Baldry, A and Scardaccione, G ‘Victim and Offender Mediation in the Juvenile Justice System’ in Psychology and Law in a Changing World: New Trends, in Theory, Practice and Research (Routledge 2013)
  • Doak, J and O’Mahony, D ‘Developing Mediation and Restorative Justice for Young Offenders across Europe’ [2010] 4(36) SchriftenzumStrafvollzug, Jugendstrafrecht und zurKriminologie 1691
  • Sawyer, B An Evaluation of the SACRO Young Offender Mediation Project (Scottish Central Research Unit 1999)

The ADR Method

Mediation is some times disputed as a good form of justice. Investigating this further could make for a captivating piece of work. Take a look at some examples below:

Example ADR method dissertation topic 1:

Can mediation be effective even though agreements cannot be enforced?

Mediation is slowly becoming a form of compulsory pre-action conduct with the introduction of the Dunnett theory. Given the almost uniform pre-requisite of mediation, or some other forms of ADR, in civil litigation is there an ability to reach truly lasting conclusions? Can mediation result in fair and lasting conclusions to legal matters? Where there is no legally binding result are there indications that the results are being adhered to none-the-less? This dissertation looks at the inability of mediation to impose legally binding results upon parties and whether, due to this inability, mediation should be required before proceeding with a claim.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Datta, D and Ghosh, A ‘Mediation and Enforceability’ [2011] GNLU 1
  • Davidovich, C ‘Mediation as a Method of Resolving Commercial Disputes’ in Lex nouveaux enjeux du management: Le temps des turbulence de la connivience a la competence (L’Harmattan 2012)
  • Tanielian, A ‘Arbitration Still Best Road to Binding Dispute Resolution’ [2012] JLADREC 1

Example ADR method dissertation topic 2:

ADR: Forced compromise or suggested resolution?

After the decisions in Hurst v Leeming and Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust, many argued that ADR had effectively become a requirement during the litigation process. This dissertation looks at whether ADR has become a requirement and what affects such a requirement would have on the resultant ADR process. Have the Hurst and Halsey criteria lessened the blow of the Dunnettrequirement? Is the threat of cost implications enough to result in forced ADR? Can forced ADR ever result in successful resolutions or are parties simply ‘going through the motions’ of dispute resolution? All such questions will be considered.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Isaac, K ‘Pre-Litigation Compulsory Mediation: A Concept Worth Negotiating’ [2010] 32 U La Verne L Rev 165
  • McGuire, J ‘Mediation Mandate: Refusing to mediate becoming more difficult on both sides of the Atlantic’ [2002] 9(1) DRM 17
  • Newmark, C and Dalhberg, A’New English ADR Principles Advance Law, Raise New Questions’ [2004] 22(9)Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation 146

Example ADR method dissertation topic 3:

To mediate or negotiate, that is the question.

Mediation has often been espoused as a more productive form of ADR due to its inclusion of an unbiased third party. The ability of a third party to step in where both parties come to a head and suggest creative alternative solutions is arguably more productive than the negotiation, where two opposing sides effectively ‘argue’ a resolution. Moreover, the different types of negotiation techniques (including competitive vs cooperative) often result in session with no hope of adequate resolution. This dissertation compares the differing styles of mediation and negotiation and attempts to determine whether mediation is more effective through its use of a ‘middleman’.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bercovitch, J and Jackson, R ‘Negotiation or Mediation?: An Exploration of Factors Affecting the Choice of Conflict Management’ [2001] 17(1) NJ 59
  • Carnevale, P and Pruitt, D ‘Negotiation and Mediation’ [1992] 43 ARP 531
  • Goltsman, M, Horner, J, Pavlov, G and Squintani, F ‘Mediation, arbitration and negotiation’ [2009] 144(4) JET 1397

Example ADR method dissertation topic 4:

Can ADR deliver justice?

Increasingly, prior to litigation, parties are involved in some form of ADR; however, has the growing dependency on ADR actually resulted in greater access to justice or is it a false economy? ADR can, notoriously, be extremely expensive with ADR ‘specialists’ being employed to iron out a resolution to a dispute. Moreover, in contractual contracts the inclusion of express arbitration clauses has resulted in the legally enforceable requirement to participate in a form of ADR which can often be just as expensive (if not more so) than litigation itself. This dissertation looks at whether the various forms of ADR can actually delivery justice, and whether such justice is the bargain it was once espoused to be.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Landsman, S ‘ADR and the Cost of Compulsion’ [2005] 57(5) SLRS 1593
  • Sternlight, J ‘ADR is here: Preliminary reflections on where it fits in a system of justice’ [2002] 3 Nev LJ 289
  • Stipanowich, T ‘ADR and the “Vanishing Trial”: the growth and impact of “Alternative Dispute Resolution”‘ [2004] 1(3) JELS 843

Example ADR method dissertation topic 5:

Has ADR become a form of privatised justice?

Justice has always been theorised as a system which should be available to all, regardless of financial ability. However, with growing reliance on ADR prior to litigation, the concept of justice is changing. Growing reliance on an industry, which, by its very nature, is a commercial industry, is contrary to the concept of open access justice. This dissertation looks at whether the growing privatisation of ADR has resulted in only the wealthy accessing its benefits, while the poor are left with little access. Moreover, this dissertation questions whether a private system can really fit into the concept of justice.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Garth, B ‘Tilting the Justice System: From ADR as Idealistic Movement to a Segmented Market in Dispute Resolution’ [2002] 18 GaStULRev 9277
  • Noone, M ‘ADR, Public Interest Law and Access to Justice: The Need for Vigilance’ [2011] 37 MonashULRev 57
  • Weinstein, J ‘Some Benefits and Risks of Privatization of Justice through ADR’ [1996] 11 Ohio StJLDR 241

Critical Studies and Cases

Maybe specific cases or a critical study could be more for you? If so, take a look at some of these examples:

Example critical studies and cases dissertation topic 1:

A critical study of the ADR movement

The increasing reference to ADR since the Halsey and Dunnett decisions has resulted in greater reliance on ADR methods. However, has the Court’s suggestion of a near compulsory requirement of pre-litigation dispute resolution resulted in an over-reliance of a system which is by no means flawless? Can mediation, with its non-binding agreements really resolve issues to a point where litigation is avoided? Do the costs of ineffective ADR result in an inability to pursue consequent litigation? Does negotiation rely too heavily on being able to afford barristers with reputations as being excellent ‘closers’? This dissertation critically reviews the various types of ADR.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Green, C ‘ADR: Where did the “alternative” go? Why mediation should not be a mandatory step in the litigation process’ [2010] 12(3) ADRB 1
  • Guill, J and SlavinJr, E ‘Rush to Unfairness: The Downside of ADR’ [1989] 28(3) JJ 8
  • Joseph, J ‘Alternate to Alternatives: Critical Review of the Claims of ADR’ [2011] West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences

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