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One core problem in the dispute resolution process involves the determination of what the parties actually dispute. Through the process of mediation participants can agree to the scope of the dispute or issues requiring resolution. Examples of this use of mediation in the United States to narrow the scope of legal pleadings and its use in industrial and environmental disputes.

Definition of the nature of a dispute can often clarify the process of determining what method will best suit its resolution. One of the primary uses of mediation involves parties using the mediation process to define the issues, develop options and achieve a mutually agreed resolution.

Where prospects exist of an ongoing disputation between parties brought on by irreconcilable differences stemming from such things as a clash of religious or cultural beliefs, mediation can serve as a mechanism to foster communication and interaction.

Mediation can function not only as a tool for dispute resolution but also as a means of dispute prevention. Mediation can be used to facilitate the process of contract negotiation by the identification of mutual interests and the promotion of effective communication between the two parties.

Governments can also use mediation to inform and to seek input from stake-holders in formulation or fact-seeking aspects of policy-making. Mediation in wider aspect can also serve to prevent conflict or to develop mechanisms to address conflicts as they arise.

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