SYDE 533 Conflict Resolution

  Fall Term


Conflict resolution is of significance to engineers because of the great importance of social and political influences in engineering decision making. For example, when designing a large scale engineering project such as a hydro-electric complex, the engineer must ensure that the undertaking is not only physically, environmentally, financially and economically feasible, but also socially and politically viable. In the past, many large engineering projects have been abandoned, drastically altered, or stalled due to improper assessment of social or political feasibility. For instance, the Garrison Diversion Unit is an immense planned irrigation project in the American state of North Dakota which could cause environmental damage by polluting rivers which flow into Canada. Political pressure by the Canadian government and environmental groups has now caused much of the proposed project to be cancelled, even though millions of dollars had already been spent. The purpose of SYDE 533 is to present techniques for systematically studying a conflict such as the Garrison dispute so that possible resolutions to the problem can be determined and sound decisions can be made.


Conflicts are virtually inevitable in situations where humans interact, either individually or else in groups. In addition to large-scale engineering projects, other examples of conflicts include nations which are at war with one another, patent disputes between multinational corporations, management and labour negotiations, and energy controversies. Therefore, SYDE 533 may be of interest to students and researchers who work in various fields.


Attractive features of the conflict resolution techniques taught in the course are that they are relatively easy to use in practice and they yield valuable insights into the problem being studied. The topics covered in SYDE 533 are divided into the following two main groups:


(1) Conflict Resolution in Practice


(2) Conflict Resolution in Theory

(3) Related Topics


The conflict analysis methodology has been programmed for use as a DSS called GMCR II. A student will be able to use GMCR II when he or she analyzes an actual conflict of his or her choice for the term project.


It is preferable, but not necessary, that students will have previously taken some mathematics courses at the university level. However, the theory behind the methods in conflict analysis is based upon set theory, logic, and some basic ideas from graph theory. The required mathematical topics will be reviewed in the course.


"Interactive Decision Making: The Graph Model for Conflict Resolution", by Liping Fang, Keith W. Hipel and D. Marc Kilgour, published by Wiley, New York, 1993. Some material will also be used from the book "Conflict Analysis: Models and Resolution", by N.M. Fraser and K.W. Hipel, North Holland, New York, 1984, and from recent research papers.


A course project, an examination, and assignments will account for 45%, 40% and 15%, respectively, of the final grade.


SYDE 533 can be taken as part of four different academic PACS programs administered by Conrad Grebel University College.


SYDE 533 is an accredited course with this program.


SYDE 533 can count as credit towards the Applied Statistics, and Water Resources Options within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Students taking the Management Sciences Option are also encouraged to take this course on multiple participant - multiple objective decision making.


Within the Department of Systems Design Engineering, SYDE 533 is part of the Societal and Environmental Systems technical elective package.


Because conflict analysis is a 500 level course, it can be taken for credit by both undergraduate and graduate students registered in any department at the University of Waterloo.


Master's and Doctoral research on conflict resolution and other related decision making techniques are being carried out within the Conflict Analysis Group in the Department of Systems Design Engineering. Details about current research opportunities are available upon request and at


If you have any questions please contact the class instructor, Professor Keith W. Hipel, in the Department of Systems Design Engineering (Room DWE-2518B; extension 32830; Any University of Waterloo student is most welcome to take conflict analysis for credit or audit.