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How to get started in debate. Rules for debates


There are two things you will have to study if you want to participate in debate:

a) the principles of debate – logic, evidence, case construction, proof, refuting arguments, rebuttal, the brief, etc.;

b) the current debate topic – you must study the subject thoroughly, to learn all that is to be known about it.


Something to argue about is called the TOPIC. All topics begin with the word “That.” Deciding and explaining what the debate is going to be about is called “defining the topic.” When defining the topic the affirmative team should ask themselves:

- Is this definition reasonable?

- Is it something the average person might expect?


In your definition explain the meaning of the whole topic rather than each separate word. The negative team may agree with or chose to challenge the definition presented. If the negative team chooses to challenge the definition, it should be done by the first speaker who should clearly outline why the negative is challenging and then propose a better definition.


The TEAM LINE is the basic statement of “why the topic is true” (for the affirmative team) and “why the topic is false” (for the negative team). It should be a short sentence, presented by the first speaker of each team and used by the other speakers to enforce the idea of teamwork. Each member of the team needs to reinforce the team line and be consistent with what has already been said and what will be said by the other members of their team.



For proponents:

· Choose a definite formulation of the thesis (topic) you are proposing, and communicate this formulation to your opponents at least several days beforehand.

· State this formulation of the thesis at the beginning and end of your presentation, and several times in the middle.

· Make it clear what the theoretical background of your argument is.

· Attempt to trap your opponent, by anticipating his arguments beforehand and showing what is wrong with them.

· Do not be afraid to use visual aids to make your point.

For proponents and opponents:

· Include a conclusion in which you demonstrate how you have established or refuted the thesis.

· Avoid lengthy and repetitive presentations of facts or stories. Concentrate on arguments and on thinking through to basic presuppositions.

· Use notes. Do not attempt to write out every word of your presentation beforehand.

· Speak loudly and clearly, and address your remarks to the audience.

· Speak confidently; always sound as if you really believe in what you are saying.

· Always prepare more notes than you think you will need. If you think you have said enough, move directly to you conclusion. Do not leave the audience with the impression that you have not said enough.

· Leave your personal views and your personal experiences out of account; what is important is exclusively the quality of your arguments.

· Never concede that you agree with the other side or suggest compromise positions. Preserve a clear opposition between the views of proponents and opponents throughout.

· Use radical and imaginative gambits to keep the attention and sympathy of your audience. For example, pretend to agree with almost everything the opposing side says, but then reveal how what your opponents say implies that they are in fact quite wrong.



Rule 1. There are two teams. Each team consists of two or three speakers.

Rule 2a. The speeches and speaking time are divided equally between the two teams.

Rule 2b. Each team has two or three constructive speeches.

Rule 2c. Each team has from one to three rebuttal speeches.

Rule 2d. The affirmative gives the first constructive speech, and the constructive speeches alternate: affirmative, negative, affirmative, negative.

Rule 2e. The negative gives the first rebuttal speech, and the rebuttals alternate: negative, affirmative, negative, affirmative.

Rule 2f. In some debates each team has one or more questioning periods, in addition to the constructive speeches and rebuttals.

Rule 3a. When worded as a proposition of policy, the topic requires the affirmative to support some specified action by some particular individual or group.

Rule 3b. The affirmative has the right to make any reasonable definition of each of the terms of the proposition.

Rule 3c. If the negative challenges the reasonableness of a definition by the affirmative, the judge must accept the definition of the team that shows better grounds for its interpretation of the term.

Rule 3d. Once the negative has accepted the affirmative’s definitions, it may not later object to them, even though it later develops that they are unreasonable. Failure of the negative to object to the affirmative’s definitions in the first constructive speech following the definitions is equivalent to acceptance of them by the negative.

Rule 3e. The phrase “should adopt” or its equivalent means that the affirmative must show that the plan, if adapted, would be desirable. It does now in any way obligate the affirmative to show that the necessary approvals could be obtained.

Rule 3f. The phrase “should adopt” or its equivalent obligates the affirmative to recommend that action be taken in the reasonable near future.

Rule 4a. The affirmative must advocate everything required by the topic itself. It must also explain the major features and policies under which the proposed plan is to operate. If the negative recommends a counter plan, it has the same duty.

Rule 4b. No revision of position of a team is permitted during the debate.

Rule 5a. He who asserts must prove. To establish an assertion the team must support it with enough evidence and logic to convince the opposing party.

Rule 5b. Facts or quotations in a debate must be accurate.

Rule 6a. No new constructive arguments may be introduced in the rebuttal period.

Rule 6b. Refutation may take place in any part of the debate.

Rule 7a. The team doing the better debating is the winner.

Rule 7b. The decision is given to the affirmative if it succeeds in showing that the proposed plan should be adopted. The decision is given to the negative if the affirmative fails to show that the proposal should be adopted.

Rule 7c. The judge must not accept ideas which are not backed by reasonable proof.

Rule 8. Any gains made outside of the established procedure are disallowed.


Date: 2016-03-03; view: 1075

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