Tournament Debate: Debating Tips

  • Tournament Debate: Debating Tips

    Students in Tournament Debate learn the art of debate, including both the Lincoln-Douglas (individual) and Public Forum (team) debate formats, as well as Model Congress and Extemporaneous Speaking.  Students are expected to participate in at least two Saturday tournaments and to provide parent judges for these tournaments.  

    Grading is based upon active class participation (50%) and the researching and writing of debate cases and bills/resolutions/authorship speeches for Model Congress (50%). 

    Debaters are encouraged to meet with Dr. Andrews after school and during free periods to practice. 


    Lincoln-Douglas Debate


    Affirmative case format:


    1) Quotation

    2) State the Resolution (topic)

    3) State the highest VALUE for the round (and explain why it is the highest value)

    4) Value Criterion

    5) Definitions

    6) Key Observations (if any)



    3 contentions (arguments), each supported by reasoning AND evidence/history; all three contentions must uphold your VALUE






    1) usually much shorter than aff. case so as to allow time for a rebuttal against the aff. case

    2) similar to aff. case except that it usually only has 2




    CROSS-EXAMINATION is used to clarify points, expose errors, obtain admissions, and set up arguments. 


    Cross-Examination Tips:


    1) *Never ask your opponent a question to which you do not already know the answer. 


    2) Pre-plan "chains" of  3-4 questions each which slowly

        commit your opponent to an untenable position. 


    3) Never ask "Why?"  It will give your opponent an

       opportunity to give a speech instead of answering 

    your  question.


    4) Be calm and polite.


    5) If your opponent has admitted something that strengthens your case, do not continue questioning him about it.  Move on lest he "clarify" what he "really meant to say..." (Just be sure to point out the admission in your next rebuttal.)


    6) Avoid wordy questions and questions phrased in the

      negative such as "Isn't it true that..."  Such questions may confuse judge and opponent alike. 







    1) Clearly SIGNPOST (or label - by number AND name/title) EACH of your opponent's contentions  BEFORE you respond to it.  


    2) Refute your opponent's value if it is different from your own.


    3) You must CLASH with your opponent's contentions.  Do not simply give another speech; respond to what he or she said, explaining WHY the arguments and/or the evidence which support them are flawed. 


    4) Group similar arguments if you are pressed for time. 


    5) Explain why evidence which you present is relevant

        and why your opponent's evidence is not. 


    6) You might even try to show how your arguments better support both your value and your opponent's value than his case.  You might also try turning around his arguments to support your own case or declaring them to be nice but extratopical (irrelevant to the topic). 


    Some basic philosophy of which to be aware:



    Various notions of Justice:


    1) Aristotle calls Justice "giving each his due"


    2)John Rawls' "Veil of Ignorance" says that we should look at all people as the same as if we knew nothing about their race, creed, background, status, etc. 


    Various notions of the "Social Contract" (the "contract" between the Government and the Governed) and the State of Nature (which preceded the Social Contract; i.e. the time before civilization or organized governments):


     Thomas Hobbes (author of The Leviathan) favors obedience to an absolute monarchy, believing that the alternative is chaos; Hobbes wrote that life under the state of nature was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,"  "a war of all against all."  His dark view of humanity's natural predispostions was influenced by his observation of the English Civil War (1642-48).


    John Locke(author of Two Treatises on Civil Government) believes that a government which abuses its people on a regular basis may be overthrown.   Thomas Jefferson looked to Locke for inspiration while penning the Declaration of Independence, in which Jefferson wrote that Americans were suffering "a history of (unredressed) abuses and usurpations" by King George III of England.  Locke's observation of the 1688 "Glorious" Revolution prompted Locke to believe humans' natural state to be "rational."


     At the other side of the spectrum from Hobbes, and lacking Locke's moderation, is Jean Jacques Rousseau, a radical aristocrat and author of the book entitled The Social Contract.  Having observed an often capricious French monarchy firsthand, Rousseau believed that government was naturally suspect and that it was moral to overthrow most governments.   Rousseau held that man's natural state was one of innocence but that society/government corrupted him.


     Rousseau does offer a possible contradiction to his opposition to government.  He maintained that once a new government has taken the place of the old government, if that new government has the "General Will" of the people behind it (not what the people may want but what they need), such a government can never be opposed and the individual minority must yield or be crushed.  In this way, this intellectual precursor to Karl Marx and many other revolutionaries sounds more like Hobbes and has been used to justify atrocities in the name of perceived liberties by the likes of Robespierre and other dictators.


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