Last edited 03 Nov 2020

Dissertation introduction chapter - example

This is part of a series of Construction Dissertation Guides for students.

Below is an example of an introduction chapter for a dissertation examining mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution.


[edit] Background

As a whole the construction industry has long been seen as a competitive and adversarial business with conflicts and disputes being almost inevitable at some point during each project. Over the last few decades several ways of resolving disputes, without having to resort to the public trial of litigation, have presented themselves and become known as ‘alternative dispute resolutions’.

Adopted from the USA at the end of the 1980s, mediation has slowly but steadily expanded and grown – particularly following the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) in 1999 – to become the leading non-adjudicative method of dispute resolution in the construction industry, boasting a success rate of around 90%.

An article by Carroll and Jackson in ‘The Lawyer’ (2010) claimed that in 2010 the commercial mediation profession could save business around £1.4 billion in wasted management time, damaged relationships, lost productivity and legal fees. The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) – in their May 2010 audit – put the value of projects undergoing mediation proceedings at over £5.1 billion a year whilst seeing a 30% increase in the number of mediations since 2007.

In the past decade, the courts have increasingly passed rulings relating to mediation, by imposing cost sanctions on parties that refuse to mediate (e.g. ‘Dunnett v Railtrack’ 2002) and by emphasising their belief that mediation should be considered in most cases rather than heading straight to litigation (e.g. ‘Cowl v Plymouth CC’ 2001).

In response to these changes many people have been calling for even wider mediation exposure, with the consensus at the Civil Mediation Council’s (CMC) May 2010 conference being that mediation is still labouring under a lack of awareness industry-wide; as well as Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury’s ‘Educating Future Mediators’ (2010) speech which hinted at the need for a Mediation Act, thereby embedding the process into statute form.

In the wake of such mainstream exposure of mediation, detractors have begun to voice their concerns regarding the growing ‘legalisation’ of the process in much the same way as with adjudication when it was entrenched within the ‘Housing Grants, Regeneration and Construction Act’ 1996. Regarding adjudication Richbell (2008 : p26) claims,

‘Inevitably, because it is a legal process and therefore one that has been developing legally since its adoption...solicitors, even counsel, and experts have become common participants’.

Leading industry practitioner Tony Bingham (Jun 2006) has written about how,

‘The English court system has got into the habit of frogmarching would-be litigants to mediation, and this is damaging the reputation of the judges and mediators’.

As well as this he has stated that ‘mediation is being ruined by rules.’

In response to mediation gradually infringing upon their arbitration and litigation work, many lawyers have begun imposing their influence upon mediation, whether by training as mediators themselves, or by being hired to negotiate on their client’s behalf. The previously client-led principles of mediation are in danger of being eroded by such litigation influences upon the process; for example, as Daiker (Jul 2005) claimed - ‘if represented by counsel, a party may not speak at all during a mediation.’

This report will aim to examine these changes to mediation, allegorically in terms of the ‘Attachment Theory’ more commonly found in family psychology, and also through gauging the opinions of industry experts and practitioners.

These developments towards legalisation and standardisation of the mediation system are what this report aims to examine as a potential threat, which might irreparably compromise the core principles and ethos of mediation.

[edit] Rationale

This writer decided to undertake the study on mediation due to his recollections of such a procedure being followed on his summer industrial work placement. Together with his specific interest in the subject area of construction law, the perceived value of mediation as a dispute resolution, as well as its growth in popularity and industry prominence over recent years, seemed to offer an intriguing and worthwhile subject for investigation and examination.

Once research was underway for the initial literature study, the author could appreciate the scale of existing information works on the subject and felt it necessary to hone the crux of the work on a particular aspect of mediation that had not previously been subject to such rigorous investigation.

As a result of attending an In-House Lawyers Forum at Loughborough University and reading opinion pieces from leading industry practitioners, the writer was able to pinpoint a developing problem that could potentially be hampering the effectiveness and efficiency of mediation – the increasing standardisation and legalisation that may diminish its ability to fulfil its potential as a process.

[edit] Hypothesis

The working hypothesis of the research is:

‘The principles of mediation, as an effective form of ADR, risk being compromised by the developing standardisation and legalisation of the process.’

[edit] Aims and objectives

The primary aim of the research is to support the hypothesis statement with opinions and information, with a view to offering reasoned conclusions and further recommendations to the industry.

As well as this main aim, there are numerous objectives that will be identified and achieved:

  • To introduce the principles, processes and practises of mediation, and the main benefits of its utilisation.
  • To examine the developments being made to standardise and institutionalise the process of mediation and how those principles may be affected.
  • To examine the developments, through case law and the increasing involvement of lawyers, that are making the process more legalistic; and how this may affect the original principles.
  • To explore theories of attachment more commonly associated with parent-child psychology to suggest parallels with the domineering influence lawyers increasingly exert over their clients and what impact this has on the process itself.
  • To raise these issues with leading industry professionals by means of formal validation interviews and subsequently analyse their opinions.

[edit] Overview of work done and methodology

Whilst Research Methodology is covered in Chapter 2, this section summarises the main techniques employed by the writer to successfully compile and complete the research project.

A pilot study was undertaken whilst working in industry on a placement year. This was necessary to ascertain the relevance of such study to the industry as a whole before progressing with it any further. It consisted primarily of examining past dissertations looking at the subject area and existing industry reports so as to begin expanding the writer’s existing yet limited dispute resolution knowledge. Placement work colleagues and university staff were also consulted during this process in an attempt at validating the proposed research as being suitable and workable.

The literature review was started by purchasing and reading relevant textbooks before returning to the Loughborough University Library and taking advantage of the available resources there. Familiarisation with the websites and systems of related organisations (such as CEDR) was a major part of the literature review, as was compiling a file of material accumulated from websites, blogs, reports, and investigative journals.

Research was completed through the utilisation of questionnaires sent out to mediation and legal professionals and through the means of semi-structured interviews. This was done with the aim of gathering factual evidence on expert practitioners’ experiences within the industry as well as to test the theories and ideas proposed by the research.

[edit] Overview of main conclusions

From undertaking several months of research and investigation in an effort to meet the objectives of the report, this writer was able to conclude that there was significant evidence and opinion to largely support the hypothesis.

Analysis was undertaken into the opinions of numerous industry practitioners as well as the detailed views of three highly distinguished professionals with years of experience of the mediation practice. This then successfully served to inform the discussion of the objectives and the conclusions.

This writer was able to establish a consensus amongst these professionals to suggest that, despite improvements, as far as they were concerned, mediation is still not being used to its full potential and more should be done in the future to promote its usage. This writer was able to interpret, from research undertaken in the Literature Review as well as from the interview stage, what repercussions this increased promotion and wider exposure might have for the process of mediation itself. The discussion of these issues was able to concur with the warning given by Lord Neuberger (May 2010) that, ‘...overstating the virtues of mediation will rebound in the long term, even in the medium term, to the disadvantage of mediation.’

The report investigated the developments towards standardisation and legalisation of mediation currently being made. In particular, the report examined the Theory of Attachment of parent/child as an analogy for the relationship between legal professionals and their clients. This writer concluded that, although lawyers should be prepared to play a less dominant role, their negative impact on mediation may have been somewhat overstated by mediators. A recommendation was made for further in-depth research into this precise area.

The report concluded that there exists a current ‘dilemma’ facing mediation in terms of how it can develop towards reaching the ‘full potential’ that is desired by so many, whilst simultaneously maintaining the principles and processes that mediation was initially designed to encapsulate. These include such principles as neutrality of the mediator, flexibility to adapt the process as per dispute, informality and non-adversarial, parties not being present under duress, and so on.

These and other principles are the foundations upon which mediation was established as an effective form of ADR; away from the more formal and complex procedures of litigation or arbitration. The report reasoned that were these principles compromised in the pursuit of mainstream status, it could be said to have relinquished its claim as a truly effective, and alternative, form of dispute resolution.

[edit] Guide to the report

The report is structured in 8 chapters, each with a separate focus and angle on the research topic. Each chapter is supported by an introduction to how it intends to contribute to the report and a conclusion which attempts to balance and add context to the findings within.

With the exclusion of this Introduction chapter, the report contains the following sections:

Chapter 2: Research Methodology

Details and evaluates the methods adopted for the execution of the research, the limitations of the study, as well as the methods of data collection and analysis.

Chapter 3: An Introduction to Mediation

This chapter introduces the concepts of ADR and mediation, before detailing the different approaches adopted, the role of the mediator, the various processes involved, and the basic principles of mediation.

Chapter 4: The Mediation Landscape

The recent developments of mediation are explored, through case law and investigative reports, with a view to determining the current state and climate of the process within the industry.

Chapter 5: Lawyers in Mediation

This chapter aims to further examine the developments towards legalisation and, whilst referring to the Attachment Theory, draw parallels from the relationship between lawyer/client to that between parent/child with regard to the Attachment Theory.

Chapter 6: The Future of Mediation

This chapter examines the possible development of mediation, the steps being taken to integrate it into the mainstream, as well as the potential threats to the integrity of the process as a result of increasing standardisation and legalisation.

Chapter 7: Data Analysis

Draws on the primary data collection undertaken as a means of analysing the opinions of industry experts to support, validate or discount the ideas and theories raised.

Chapter 8: Conclusions and Recommendations

Aims to consolidate all the opinions sought in order to return to the hypotheses and draw some conclusions from the research as a whole to then be able to offer industry recommendations.

[edit] Chapter conclusion

This chapter serves as a concise introduction to the subject of mediation in the construction industry, as well as providing an insight into the rationale behind this writer’s topic selection. The chapter also gives a summary of the research methods utilised to meet the aims and objectives of the study. These will be evaluated in detail throughout the next chapter. Finally, the chapter has provided a brief summary of the main conclusions that this report will now work towards.

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