Debate Skill
Guide

Debate is a skill used either formally or informally to support an opinion or belief about a controversial topic. Formal debate follows a particular format and is subject to rules and time restrictions. Informal debate is common and often occurs in everyday conversations.

Rationale: In English speaking societies, rule-based competitive debate is often encouraged in high schools and colleges. Debating is an important skill because it enables people to discuss and decide on differences within a framework defining how they will interact. Debate gives structure to an argument and allows people to discuss an issue in a format that allows for equal floor time and influence. Formal debate skills translate into informal situations and allow people to express themselves in a clear and logical manner. Debate skills can help elevate haphazard arguments into an intelligent and tolerant discussion of a controversial issue. Debating improves public speaking abilities and confidence. Students who debate learn how to recognize the elements of a good argument and can then construct them on their own.

Instructions: There are many different forms of debate, with different rule structures and formats. Below is a generalized example of extemporaneous debate. Extemporaneous debate is a style involving no advanced planning or research between two teams. The debaters are often given one or two sources of information shortly before the debate along with the resolution. This style of debate generally centers around three main contentions. In order for the affirmative to win, all of the negative contentions must be defeated, and all of the affirmative contentions must be left standing. Much of extemporaneous debate is similar to policy debate, and one main difference is that extemporaneous debate focuses less on the implementation of the resolution.

1. There are two sides to each debate (either a team or an individual), labeled “Affirmative” and “Negative.”
2. The affirmative are in support and the negative are against a given statement (“proposition” or “resolution”).
3. Each side must then prove their position on the statement to be true. For example, the Affirmative side will argue in favor of the resolution, while the Negative side will argue against it.
4. There is scope for definition within the resolution, so each side may define what the resolution means to them.
5. The debate follows a generalized format, where each side is given a specified time frame to address the audience and judges. Each team begins with an opening statement, typically with Affirmative going first. Then follows a series of rebuttals, began by the Negative side and culminating with the Affirmative (usually two rounds).
6. The opening statement is known as the “constructive” speech and lays out the individual or team’s stance on the topic and gives evidence in support of their beliefs.
7. The rebuttal, a form of cross-examination, gives each team a chance to destroy and delegitimize the arguments and evidence of the opposing team. Speakers are generally not allowed to bring up new points or evidence in favor of their arguments during a rebuttal, and are expected to respond only to the opposing team’s statements.
8. The debate is evaluated either by impartial judges or audience vote, and the side that has maintained the rules and given the most convincing argument will “win” the debate.

General Guidelines:

· Presence and speaking skill is an important aspect of debate.
· Debaters should dress, act and speak professionally.
· Confidence, clarity and conviction also help to strengthen the legitimacy of the speaker.
· Debaters often use index cards with brief notes or an outline to help guide them in their speeches.
· Debating is a high pressure environment and speakers should try to remain calm and collected during their time on the floor.
· Debaters should avoid personal attacks on the other team and should focus on questioning the legitimacy of their statements and evidence.
· Debaters should use reliable sources for their data.
· Informal debate lacks the structure and rules of formal debate, and often has no clear “winner” or “loser.”
· Informal debate occurs between friends, classmates, acquaintances and co-workers and can sometimes stray off-topic, so the parties involved should be aware of the potential to stoop into personal attacks and strive to remain respectful and keep the conversation relevant.

Rubric:

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Example:

Resolved: That globalization hurts underpaid manufacturing workers in developing countries.


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