How to Debate
This introduction to debating is just that: an introduction. It is not intended to be comprehensive and, if it works like it should, you will have more questions about debating after you read it than you did before. We will answer those questions during the Introductory Session and you will have access to members of the Seawolf Debate team for advice and coaching before your round.
Here is the PowerPoint lecture delivered to competitors on the Introductory Session.
Here's a round of debate in the motion "University of Alaska should allow individuals to carry guns on campus." You may find that you better understand the Introduction to Debating after watching a video of a round, or you may find that you better understand the video of the round after reading the Introduction to Debating. Either way, this is a good example of the type of debating you'll see in the competition. In fact, this was the Final Round from the 2010 Cabin Fever Debates!
The tournament will use the international collegiate debate format. Four teams will participate in each round, two on the Proposition (Opening Proposition and Closing Proposition) and two on the Opposition (Opening Opposition and Closing Opposition). Each team is made up of two debaters who work together to advance their position.
In general, teams on the Proposition must argue in favor of the motion as presented and teams on the Opposition must argue against the motion presented. At the end of the round, the adjudicators will decide which team has done the most effective job of arguing the position to which they were assigned.
Each speaker in the round gives one, seven (7) minute speech, beginning with the first speaker from the Opening Proposition and alternating between the Proposition and the Opposition.
During each of these speeches, debaters from the opposite side may ask for the opportunity to speak briefly from the speaker holding the floor. Known as Points of Information (or POIs), these interjections are short questions or statements taken at the discretion of the debater holding the floor. POIs are allowed from the opposite side after the first minute and before the last minute of each speech. Within this time, a debater may request the opportunity to present a Point of Information (either verbally or by rising) from a team on the opposite side of the motion at any time after the first minute, and before the last minute, of any constructive speech. The debater holding the floor may accept or refuse Points of Information. If accepted, the debater asking the POI has no more than fifteen (15) seconds to make a statement or ask a question. During the Point of Information, the speaking time continues. Each debater should make an effort to accept and respond to 2-3 Points of Information
Each debater has three duties in his or her speech: construction, deconstruction and framing. While the time spent on these duties varies from speech to speech, debaters should keep these three priorities in mind when preparing their remarks.
Construction refers to the debater’s obligation to bring new substantive matter to the round, i.e. each debater should develop arguments to support his or her team’s position. Also known as developing and advancing a case, debaters will be evaluated in part on their ability to build arguments that prove their position on the motion.
Each speaker in the debate has a specific set of obligations:
a. Prime Minister (a.k.a. PM, Opening Proposition Team-1st speaker)
The Prime Minister meets his or her framing obligations by defining the terms of the motion (through explicit definitions or the presentation of a model). Following this interpretation, the Prime Minister engages in constructive argumentation by presenting a case that supports that motion.
The Leader Opposition’s role is to establish the opposition to the motion and/or the Proposition's case. The LO satisfies his or her framing duties by clearly articulating the stance of the Opposition in the round. The LO then moves on to deconstructive argumentation by critiquing the arguments made by the PM. Finally the LO should engage in constructive argumentation during which he or she develops “positive matter” or arguments that demonstrate the falsity of the motion.
The Deputy Prime Minister should engage the points made in the Opposition Leader’S speech and further develop the Proposition team's argument. The DPM must support the Prime Minister; he or she may do so by critiquing the positive matter offered by the LO (deconstructive argumentation), further developing arguments presented by the Prime Minister or by advancing new arguments (constructive argumentation). Finally, throughout his or her speech, the DPM should attempt to compare and contrast the Proposition and Opposition efforts relative to the motion (framing).
As with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Deputy Leader Opposition must engage the material advanced by the Opening Proposition team and support his or her teammate to advance the Opening Opposition team’s position. The DLO should balance their effort between their framing, deconstructive and constructive duties.
The Member of the Proposition's role is to support the Proposition line (introduced by the Opening Proposition team) while simultaneously distinguishing his or her team’s contribution to the debate. Following an effort to summarize and evaluate the debate as it has unfolded in order to develop context for his or her arguments (framing), the MP may deconstruct the arguments made by the Opening Opposition team. The MP’S most important contribution, however, is in his or her constructive argument.
Like the Member of the Proposition, the Member of the Opposition's role is to support the Opposition line while simultaneously distinguishing his or her team’s contribution to the debate. The Member of the Opposition may do this by offering an “extension.” An extension may be a new line of argumentation consistent with the original proposal offered by the Opening Proposition, a case study that deepens analysis on a specific example relevant to the motion or an extension may further develop a position introduced by the Opening Proposition.
Framing is the primary duty of the Proposition Whip speaker. An effective whip speech should to summarize the whole of the Proposition’s position on the motion relative to the Opposition’s effort. To do so, he or she should consider the relevant arguments advanced by the Proposition teams and the Opposition teams’ response to those positions. The Proposition Whip may continue to develop his or her team’s case, but the majority of time should focus on summing up the Proposition side and on rebutting the opposition team's arguments. As a general rule, no new arguments may be introduced in a Whip speech (though new analysis and evidence is welcome).
Like the Proposition Whip, the primary responsibility of the Opposition Whip speaker is to summarize the Opposition’s position on the motion. To do so, he or she should consider the relevant arguments advanced by the Opposition teams and the Proposition teams’ response to those positions. The Opposition Whip may continue to develop his or her team’s case, but the majority of time should focus on summing up the Opposition side as a whole and on rebutting the opposing team's arguments. As a general rule, no new arguments may be introduced in a Whip speech (though new analysis and evidence is welcome).
At the end of the debate, a panel of judges will confer and rank the teams first through fourth. Teams are scored on both matter (quality of argument, strength of supporting material, refutation of the opposing team) and manner (execution of debater duties, teamwork between team members, presentational style, strategy). Once the judges have conferred (it usually takes between 15-30 minutes) the results will be announced.