LD Debate Tips
Things You Know Unless You're a Novice
You will debate each side of the resolution at every tournament. If you are for the resolution, you are affirmative; if you are against it, you are negative.
The format of the round is as follows:
1. Affirmative Constructive-6 min-Aff. reads his case
2. Negative Cross Examination-3 min-Neg questions Aff
3. Negative Constructive-7 min-Neg presents his case, attacks aff
4. 1st Aff Rebuttal-4 min-Aff rebuilds his case and attacks neg
5. Neg Rebuttal-6 min-Neg rebuilds his case,attacks aff again, and offers brief explanation to the judge of why he thinks he should win (called voting issues)
6. 2nd Aff Rebuttal-3 min-Aff summarizes the round and gives voting issues.
7. Each debater has 3 minutes of prep time which he can use at his discretion throughout the round.
Each case consists of definitions of important terms in the resolution, a value (a principle or concept that has worth and can be attained only through your side of the resolution,e.g. liberty), a criterion (a weighing mechanism for the round), and contentions (specific reasons why your side of the resolution is best, like the body paragraphs of a persuasive essay).
First, you should understand that no matter how good your cases are, they will not win rounds for you. You must be able to uphold them in rebuttals and attack your opponent's case effectively. Bad cases, however, will cause you to lose rounds. Logical fallacies, contradictions, or holes in your case will leave you without a leg to stand on in the round.
Never ever run something that you don't understand or are uncomfortable with just because your teammate or coach told you to. You won't win with it.
Simple is sometimes better. Simple cases are easy for you and the judge to understand and therefore difficult for your opponent to misconstrue and less likely to have internal contradictions.
Defintions are the first thing that appear in your case after the introduction. Define all the important parts of the resolution. Make your definitions clear, concise, and above all, fair. Do not base your case upon a unique definition of a particular term because if your opponent argues against it and wins, your entire case has been obliterated.
Values and Criteria: Your value and criterion should relate to one another in some way. The manner in which they should relate and the function of the criterion in the round varies from region to region; consult your coach on the best approach for your area. When choosing a value, it is sometimes helpful to brainstorm for pragmatic examples of the resolution and determine which values were helped or hurt in that situation. To choose a criterion, select something that is related to your value but also distinct enough to give you another area on which to base your analysis.
Pre-case observations are sometimes situated in between the statement of value and the contentions. They are simply observations about the resolution intended to clarify or restrict the parameters of debate. I recommend against it because they often pull the debate off onto a tangent that would not have come up if you hadn't mentioned it. If the observation is important to a point you're making, add it to your case with that point or use it in a rebuttal.
Contentions need to mention your value and criterion. Obviously, you can't achieve your value or fulfill your criterion if you never mention it again.
I recommend having more than one point under each contention. You can achieve this by having broad taglines underwhich you mention many smaller points. Refer to my old cases for examples of how to do this. The reason this stategy is desirable is that it gives you many arguments to work with and something to fall back on if your opponent destroys one of your points.
An easy case structure is to do one contention that relates to your value and one that relates to your criterion. Under each contention, expalin why your value is paramount or criterion is important, how your opponent's side hurts your value or criterion, and finally how your side of the resolution achieves your value or criterion.
A second possible case structure is to create a 2-tiered case (for example, cont. I: Civil disobedience is justified through moral law; cont II: Civil disobedience is justified through the social contract). When you do this, you are creating 2 distinct points, which will increase your chance of winning thre round because you have approached the issue and proven your side from different perspectives. In addition, if you lose one of those contentions, you still have something else to fall back on.
YOu should use at least one quotation to back up each major point of your case. If you value or criterion revolves around a specific philosopher, you must use evidence from him in your case.
Finding evidence is one of the hardest parts of casewriting. To make it easier, read philosophy books. Once you have familiarized yourself with the ideology of each philosopher, you will know where to begin researching. Also, when you write cases, cut and paste the quotations you use into your personal evidence file. This way, you will have a list of quotes that you can use to begin your cases.
Read the philosophy for yourself. Second-hand information is often flawed, and reading the philosophy will make you better equipped to answer questions or argue with misinterpretations. If you've used a lot of a particular philosopher in your case, bring the book with you to the tournament to back up what you're saying.
Use pragmatic examples sparingly. For every example, there is a counter-example, so don't build your case on them. Instead, use them to explain or back up a philosophical concept.
Rounds are won and lost in cross-examination. The admissions you give or receive are inarguable evidence for you or against you. They cannot be attacked because they are words that your opponent consented to give you; it is a statement that they made just as definitely as if they had made it in their case. Learn to use CX effectively and you will win not just rounds, but tournaments.
CX should not be a time to flow your opponent's case. If you missed something, ask about it, but use the time to lay the groundwork for your arguements and attack their weaknesses.
Pre-write your CX questions to co-ordinate with your case or to attack common arguements.
Your CX questions should move in baby steps. Break your analysis into small questions with obvious answers so that your opponent will agree to your analysis without realizing what he's doing.
Avoid open-ended questions because they give your opponent a chance to waste your CX time and repeat his analysis to the judge.
The exception to this rule is when your opponent answers a yes/no question in an illogical way. Asking them "why" or "how" will require them to admit their mistake or provide analysis that you can attack with more questions or argue against in a rebuttal.
Remember to use the admissions you gain in CX in your rebuttals when you attack a specific point. Your opponent can't say anything against you if he conceded something with his own words in CX.
When answering questions, be polite and direct. Don not evade questions or deliberately waste your opponent's time. Remember that you should never answer a question that you don't understand and that you don't have to answer anything with a yes or no only.
Never answer a question with "that's irrelevant" even if the question is irrelevant. Do yourself a favor and let your opponent waste his CX time with dumb questions.
Never agree to a question that says "so if I prove such-and-such, I win the round?" Reducing the round to a single point on the flow, especially so early on, means that no other arguements matter. If you lose that point on the flow, you lose the round, even if you won every other arguement.
Make sure you answer every point on the flow, starting with the value and ending with theh last contention of each case. This makes it easier to follow. You also need to signpost, which means telling your judge specifically which point you are refuting.
Do not argue excessively about defintions. It will waste time that could be used to deal with major issues. Unless a defintion is extremely unfair, don't argue at all.
When refuting contentions, make sure you answer the analysis behind each point and not just the tag line. If someone has been speaking for 2-3 minutes about something, then there is probably more than one important issue present. If you're unsure of what needs refuting, ask in CX for a brief summary of the important points under a contention.
If you make multiple arguements against a point, number your attacks as you give them just as you would the contentions in your constructive. Do not make attacks solely to give your opponent more to refute.
Conceding points is sometimes acceptable or even strategically necessary. If you do this, however, argue against it by saying "what my opponent says is true, but this is unimportant because..."
If you must speak quickly, be certain that you enunciate. If you notice that your judge cannot flow, slow down and eliminate some arguements.
Don't get disheartened too easily; you don't have to win every debate round brilliantly, you just have to pick up the ballot(s). Remember that you don't have to win every point on the flow or even a majority and keep concentrating on the most important things that you can find.
At the end of your 1NR, make sure you provide some voting issues.
In your 2AR, it is not necessary to argue your opponent's entire case and it may be considered unethical. However, as you present your voting issues, point out how they contradict arguements that your opponent has offered.
Thinking of arguments in your 3 minutes of prep time is challenging. You will perform better if, before the tournament, you make a list of common arguments and answers to them. Take the list with you to tournaments and spend your prep time tailoring them specifically to the case you must attack.
Strategies for Dealing with Lay Judges: Remeber that lay judges are not necessarily stupid. Continue to refute all the points on the flow. If you opponent drops important arguements, point that out and explain that according to the rules of LD Debate, that means he has agreed to them. Make your arguements very explicit and avoid arguementation about debate theory (i.e. the role of the criterion) or a particular philosopher. If you have complicated philosophy in your case, you may want to cut some of your analysis in favor of a simplified explanation. Leave ample time for voting issues and pay attention to your delivery. Don't talk fast.
Damage Control when You're Getting Your Butt Kicked: Now is the time to concentrate on saving face. Continue to argue all points on the flow. Conceding lots of things or giving half-hearted rebuttals only make you look stupider. Never give up because you might be doing better than you think (or your judge might be stupider than you think). Pay attention to yoru delivery; you sound more credible andn look better wehn you speak well. Furthermore, speaker points often determine who breaks, and letting one bad round ruin your entire tournament would be foolish. If you have one good arguement, keep repeating it over and over--you never know, it may be the one that will decide the round. When it's time for voting issues, find any point on the flow that you've won and (without lying or twisting the rules), find a reason why it's the only point that should matter. Finally, after the round is over, figure out exactly what it is that made it go so badly. Figure out what you can do to prevent it from happening again and how you can do the same thing to your opponents.
Always be polite. Never roll your eyes, make rude noises, or do anything that makes you look arrogant. Arrogance and rudeness may not make the judge vote against you, but they will make the judge want to vote against you. Most judges lower your speaker points for a bad attitude and you will get a bad reputation if you are consistently rude.
Fluency and good enunciation are the best way to get good speaker points. When you feel the urge to say "um," take a small breakth instead. It's less noticeable.
Don't speak in a monotone but don't be over-emotional either. For an example of ideal delivery, watch reporters on news magazines like "Dateline" or "60 Minutes" and try to emulate them. If you notice a debater who consistently wins speaker awards, watch his rounds and pay attention to his delivery.
Use gestures sparingly.
Never make a disclaimer to a judge about your skill; if you must say something to someone, tell your opponent when the judge can't hear you, but I don't recommend that either. Pre-flow before you come into the round.
Conduct with a Judge: Don't suck up to the judge. If they initiate a conversation with you, talk back. Avoid excessive expressions of gratitude or shaking their hanrds. Offer a stopwatch if they need one.
Clothes for Boys: Wear at ie, a shirt with a collar, and a belt. Jackets are nice but not required. Jeans, athletic shoes, and white socks are forbidden; they look unprofessional. Wear socks long enough that you don't expose a strip of skin when you sit down.
Clothes for Girls Skirts, dresses, or pantsuits are appropriate. Ally McBeal should not be your role model. Thigh highs are dangerous; if your skirt isn't long they tend to slip and expose your thighs when you sit down. Don't wear anything too tight or put on too much make-up. If you can't wear it to church or show it to your grandma, don't wear it to a tournament.
Dress Guidelines for Everyone: Remove body piercings before you speak. Don't wear a coat or lots of jewelery. REmeber that although few judges would vote you down because of poor attire, it does distract attention from what you are saying and may lead to lower speaker points.
Word economy is the key to good delivery and good rounds. You must learn to meaningfully attack all the points on the flow and still speak at an intelligible rate. Work to eliminate unnecessary words, and instead of repeating an argument over and over again tell the judge to cross-apply attacks that you have made elsewhere against your opponent's case.
Debate is pointless unless both debaters have an equal chance to win. Behaving unethically destroys that balance, and when you win by debating unfairly, you're proven nothing about your skill.
If respect for your fellow debater isn't enough for you, keep in mind that it's in your best interest to behave ethically. Unethical debaters forge a bad reputation which is nearly impossible to get rid of, and eventually, skilled debaters and judges will be able to see through your tactics.
Ask permission before flowing rounds. Throw away the flow if asked to do so.
Never make your arguments that your opponent has no chance to refute, for instance, during your 2AR.
Do not give out or ask for your opponent's flows.
Don't lie about or fabricate evidence.
Don't lie to extricate yourself from a difficult situation. You will look foolish and you won't learn anything.
Don't take advantage of lay judges' inexperience, for instance, by lying about the rules of debate.
Debate the issues; don't try to trap your opponent with sneaky definitions or observations.
If you qualify for state or nationals, you have an obligation to work hard to do your best. Qualifying for these tournaments is a privilege and an honor; you have a responsibility not to waste the slot. Chances are, one of the alternates behind you would have worked very hard to compete at the tournament, and you have an obligation not to waste the slot you took from them.
Make sure that the judges your school brings are trained. Train them yourself if necessary. No one likes to be screwed over by a bad judge.
Tips for Getting Better
Practice Practice both in class/at school and by competing whenever you get the chance. Practicing shouldn't be limited to doing entire LD rounds. Practice formulating CX questions by having your team mates read your their case and then spend 3 minutes asking all the questions you can think of. Practice answering questions by having a group of your teammates cross examine you. Don't make a time limit--you want them to ask all the questions they can think of so you'll know all the weaknesses of your case. Conduct rebuttal drills in the same way; refute your team mates' cases and have them refute yours. Practice word economy by repeating an argument over and over again, working each time to make it more concise but equally meaningful.
Advance preparation is the key! No one thinks their best when they're standing in front of a difficult opponent, a harsh judge, or a critical audience. By thinking about major arguments and writing CX questions and arguments to deal with them, you will always have something to say in the round.
Learn from your failures (and successes) Getting bad judges is an unavoidable fact of LD life, but avoid the temptation to blame every loss on the judge. Study your ballot to see what the judge thinks you did wrong and go over your flows to determine exactly which argument or strategy lead to your win or loss. Repeat your successes and avoid your failures.
National Debate Camps Many debaters choose to attend national debate camps like those held at Iowa and Stanford. These camps are undeniably beneficial and produce many success stories, however, they are both stressful and expensive ($2000-3000). Remember that the camp does not make the debater; the national champions who attended these camps also spent hours doing practice rounds, writing arguments, and plotting strategy on their own. If you want to attend a national debate camp, wait until you have had a couple years' experience so you will understand the basics of LD debate. Also, if your team does not travel the national circuit often, you probably do not need the advanced work that a national camp provides. Instead, I suggest that you look for a less expensive local camp.
Local Debate Camps Some local colleges and universities sponsor smaller, less well-known debate camps. These camps tend to be less expensive, but can still provide quality instruction. Ask your coach for recommendations.
Cameron University Speech, Debate & Broadcast Camp: My Favorite Debate Camp Cameron University is located in southwestern Oklahoma, in Lawton. I attended their camp for 2 years and have taught there two years. A number of my state's national qualifiers and state champions have attended their camp. Tuition, housing, and food total $235-275. It operates for 2 one-week sessions during the second and third weeks of July. You may attend one or both sessions. In addition to policy, individual events, TV broadcast, and extemp labs, it features 3 divisions of LD debate: beginning, for debaters with no prior experience; intermediate, which provides lectures on major philosophers as well as practice rounds and discussion of debate theory; and advanced, which consists almost entirely of critiqued practice rounds. If you are interested in this camp, I suggest you email Tony Allison, camp co-ordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Student Congress Tips