Jon's introduction:

David Snowball was, until his relatively recent retirement from college debate, one of the smartest, funniest, and most pleasant people to be around.  David very generously agreed to allow me to make this public and his only concern was that in its current form it may be somewhat dated.  This is a text that was last revised in 1994, and since debate texts go out of date faster than computer hardware (I remember how cool my 486 machine seemed in 1994), David is probably right that some of the information here may seem a little archaic.  Nonetheless, I include this as a valued companion (if not superior) volume to the Debate Bible, since this book does a much better job of dwelling on some of the basics that I raced right past.  You may view this as a text more appropriate for novices trying to get a firmer grasp on the basics of kritiks and such and the Debate Bible as a text for students with some experience trying to make the jump to varsity levels.  Or, alternatively, you may view my work as that of a young punk and David's as that of a wizened veteran.

If you are reading this text because I referred you to it for an argument class, chapters 4 and 7 are the most pertinent.

Thanks again to David for supporting debate at all places and all levels.



A Reference Guide

Third Edition, 1994


David Snowball

Augustana College

Rock Island, Illinois





The Importance of Perception

Before the Round

During the Round

After the Round




                    Stock Issues



                    Tabula Rasa

                    Argument Criticism

The Ugly Truth of the Matter


Debate Resolutions

                    Bi-directional Resolutions




                    Strictness of Definitions

                    Functions of the Resolution





Case Writing

                    Plan Writing

                    Presumption/Burden of Proof









                    Added Advantages

Justification Arguments



                    Two-constructive Arguments



                    Generic Arguments

                    Conditional Arguments



                    Computerized Research








I designed this third edition of Theory and Practice in Academic Debate (TPAD3) to provide debaters and coaches with a brief and summary introduction to some of the theoretical and practical issues currently receiving attention in competitive debate. In its sections on theoretical matters, I strive to inform you about the genesis and elements of controversies. I am not, as a general matter, advocating one side and I certainly don't claim to present a resolution to these problems. I firmly believe that debaters and coaches need to think clearly about these issues and to decide which side has the greater merit, rather than relying on an outsider to give them a set of the "right" opinions. In this spirit, the TPAD3 was designed to provoke thought and highlight issues, not to provide evidence for use in debate rounds. When the subjects are more practical (for example, flow-sheeting or plan construction), I will offer some suggestions which have worked for my debaters over the past fifteen years. This is not an attempt to defend "The One True Way," but merely to point out one workable way to approach a problem.

Remember: that TPAD3 is a review of arguments offered by the proponents and opponents of various views. The quality of the arguments used ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime; there are many arguments mentioned in this booklet which are (in my opinion) pretty silly.

I recognize my great debt to the scholars of debate (from Aristotle to Zarefsky) who were responsible for the ideas which he is attempting to present. Whether we ultimately judge their positions to have been right or wrong, we still have gained from their willingness to share insights and to enter, forthrightly and thoughtfully, the marketplace of ideas. It is my hope that, following their example rather than mimicking their words, you choose to do likewise.



I would like to recognize the contributions made to TPAD3 by two sets of readers. First and foremost, I have learned a great deal from the debaters and coaches at Augustana College and I appreciate both their support and their questions. In addition, a number of wise and generous outsiders have read and commented upon the drafts of this work. Primus inter pares is Nicholas Burnett, the Director of Debate at the California State University - Sacramento. Nick, a fine writer in his own right, read and critiqued a number of drafts of this book. The arguments I am presenting are far clearer because of his help. Other friends and colleagues who have contributed to TPAD3 include: Dr. Heather Aldridge, Director of Debate at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD; Dr. Stephen Anderson of the University of Alabama; Dr. Arnie Madsen of the University of Northern Iowa; Dr. Star Muir, Director of Debate at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA; Seth Northrop, varsity debater at Millard-North High School in Omaha; and, Dr. George Ziegelmueller, Director of Debate at Wayne State University in Detroit.

The support of Augustana College's administration was crucial in the creation of this text. I would like to thank Arne Selbyg, Dean of the College, for the grant and the encouragement which made its production possible. TPAD3 has, in addition, benefitted greatly from the skill and thoughtfulness of the professionals in Augustana's Office of Publications: Barbara Bradac and Beth Roberts.

A Note on Abbreviations

I will try to illustrate as many concepts as I can by offering examples from real and hypothetical debates. These additions to the text may be preceded by "i.e." (from the Latin phrase, "id est," which stands for "that is") or by "e.g." (from the Latin, "exempli gratia," which stands for "for example").






Many judges (including most college debate judges) are willing to accept the premise that all issues in the round (with exceptions such as the order of speeches, penalties for evidence fabrication, and so on) are debatable. This openness gives debaters a great deal of leeway in formulating "the rules of the game". Since, moreover, theory arguments are one of the last areas of debate where analysis is still more important than evidence, any debater who is interested in debate theory and willing to reflect upon the implications of his or her arguments is capable of helping to shape the rules in the rounds. We will start with the suggestions about the general practice of debating theory. In later sections of TPAD3, we will look at the debates surrounding specific theories.


The Importance of Perception

Judges are not willing to consider theory arguments if they perceive the arguments as being cheap tricks presented by desperate children. To be taken seriously, you need to create legitimacy and respect for yourself and for your arguments. This requires, at a minimum, that:

1. You prove that you are capable of winning rounds on substantive issues (for example, after two years of conventional success, a University of Massachusetts debater won thirty-five debates as a junior with the argument that specified funding for a plan was extra-topical and should result in a negative ballot). If you're viewed as a loser when it comes to non-theory debating, it's unlikely that judges will give great weight to your opinions on theoretical matters.

2. You prove that your arguments meet reasonable burdens (i.e., they're fair to both sides, they enhance the educational content of the activity, they produce "good" debates).

3. You present your arguments seriously (as opposed to tossing them off as one of many bad arguments in a speech).

4. You have your arguments briefed (with implies foresight and planning), rather than advancing made-up standards produced in the heat of a round.

While these suggestions won't guarantee you success with your theory argument, they will increase your chances of being taken seriously.


Before the Round

1. Read other people's thoughts on debate theory. Professional journals (e.g., Argumentation and Advocacy which used to be called JAFA or The Journal of the American Forensic Association, The Forensic, The Forensic Educator, Speaker and Gavel, Debate Issues, National Forensic League Journal), textbooks (for example, Ziegelmueller's Argumentation: Inquiry and Advocacy), some debate evidence handbooks (e.g., the Debater's Research Guide from Wake Forest) and collections of papers (the many Summer Conferences on Argumentation and the book Advanced Debate are examples) are all fruitful sources of information.

2. Maintain a file of particularly useful articles.

3. Consider and discuss both theoretical and meta- theoretical issues with other debaters and coaches. Theoretical issues ("Is topicality a voting issue?") ask questions about how the debate round should proceed, while meta-theoretical issues ("What is the best basis for evaluating a new theory?") try to help us understand how we should go about judging the validity of competing theory issues. As with any other issue, you have little chance of winning if the other team has taken the time to work out reasonable arguments for which you have not chosen to prepare.

4. Write theory blocks. The most effective use of any blocked argument is as a supplement, rather than a substitute, for thought during the debate. If, during the course of pre-round discussions, you come up with five reasons for why debate should focus on the resolution (rather than specific affirmative plans) then you should write them down to avoid forgetting them. Each block should clearly state your argument, explain why the argument should be used as a judging criterion, and what the implications of your argument are for the round. This will greatly improve your chances of constructing clear and reasonable positions in any given round.

5. Rewrite theory blocks. Most active programs have a rich backfile of theory blocks (some dating back to the Dark Ages of typewriter and ditto). These old arguments should not be blindly reread, year after year. Often the written arguments were designed to be supplemented by extemporized analysis; students not involved in the construction or refinement of the blocks are, generally, incapable of providing the supporting analysis which makes these claims persuasive. Only by rewriting, rearguing and reinterpreting these arguments will you gain the insight and polish necessary to control them.


During the Round

1. Get the best possible "flow" of your opponents' theory argument. Whether or not you win this particular round, a good outline of the argument will increase your ability to examine and criticize the argument after the tournament and will, consequently, improve your chances of beating it the next time. One of the commonest failings of unsuccessful debaters is a tendency to panic (or freeze) when confronted with new and unusual positions; they frequently have only a hazy idea of what hit them, no notes to refer to and little chance to prepare a successful defense for the next round. Stay cool, concentrate and think.

2. Use cross-ex to its greatest possible advantage. If it looks like a theory argument may be a major factor in the round, devote time in cross-ex to setting up your response. You should have three basic goals in mind:

- be absolutely certain that you understand the premise or claim of the argument and do not be ashamed to admit that you are unclear about its implications--this is a lot less embarrassing than trying to explain the loss to your coach;

- be sure you understand the effect your opponents claim the theory will have on the round (is it an independent voting issue? does it allow them to drop arguments? does it de-legitimize "turn-arounds"?); and,

- explore the implications of the theory by constructing hypothetical examples and asking what implications the theory would have for them (this helps in your constructive by giving you a set of examples to draw on when explaining why you object to the theory). One example of this latter type of question would be: "using your theory, then, the negative would have the option of running as many counterplans as they could fit into one speech and they could concede some, all, or none of them without penalty?"

Remember to check the section on cross-examination for tips on how to ask good questions.

While this particular question is a bit long, it illustrates the type of concern that a thinking debater might focus on during rounds.

3. Be as clear as possible. Many theory debates feature a proliferation of dozens of murky claims and "this will destroy debate" conclusions; this makes these debates abysmally difficult to judge. A debater's best chance often comes in exploiting the murkiness or novelty of a theory by grounding his or her refutation on a limited number of arguments which are simply structured, clearly labeled, and directly addressed to the implications of an opponent's position.

4. Keep your strategic options open. It is entirely possible that your opponents will pull any number of bizarre implications of their theory; this often occurs in the rebuttals. To protect yourself against the ugly possibility of losing in this fashion, you should probably make a clear statement in your constructive that you reserve the right to make additional responses if the other team substantially alters the focus of the theory argument in rebuttals. This claim is premised on the fact that, by constructing many new implications in rebuttals which were not explicated in constructives, the other team has de facto chosen to run new arguments of their own.


After the Round

1. Review the flows and ballots to determine what role theory arguments played in your wins and losses.

Remember: you should keep your flows from each tournament.

2. Discuss any new theory arguments which you might have encountered and draw up blocks of responses to them.

3. Update and revise your own blocks. It is foolish to assume that the theory blocks you write at one point in the year will remain adequate throughout; inevitably, you will think of new arguments, some older arguments will prove to be unclear or unpersuasive, and your opponents will become more adept at beating the arguments previously used against them. In response to these developments, you must be always improving the quality and clarity of your own arguments.

In summary, then, debating about theory can be an interesting and stimulating undertaking open to all debaters; you need neither evidence cards nor hundreds of rounds of experience to participate. You do need to listen closely to other people's arguments, to take the time to explore their implications and to prepare your responses. If you do this, you will have added a powerful tool to your repertoire.











"Paradigm" defined

A paradigm (pronounced "para - dime") is a set of assumptions governing the process of the debate, arising from a single, coherent core assumption. These assumptions generally establish some analog (judge as scientist, as legislator, as policy analyst, and so on) to help the debate judge understand how to resolve arguments in the round. Most debate scholars, when writing about paradigms, refer to the works of Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn, a historian of science, was interested in the process whereby a field of science substitutes one set of core assumptions with another, contradictory set (for example, changing the assumptions of astronomy from the earth at the center of the solar system to the sun at the center). As such, paradigms help to define the appropriate problems, standards and methods for research.


The (Limited) Importance of Paradigms

The key function of a judging paradigm is to help judges sort through the strategic intricacies of each round. A judge's choice of paradigm helps resolve questions such as: can I vote for an affirmative who has no case significance but who has "turned" a disadvantage? can I vote for a disadvantage which applies to the resolution in general but not to the specific plan? can the negative disown a counterplan which has been shown to be disadvantageous?

The importance of paradigms has always been greater in the minds of debaters than in the minds of judges. This is an understandable bias, since debaters are always looking for ways of increasing their chances of winning and understanding a judge's paradigm seemed to offer one such way.

For debate scholars, the significance of judging paradigms is somewhat problematic. Some claim that "the choice of paradigms is now the dominant theoretical issue in debate," while other (equally respected) teachers allege "that paradigms are dead". These views (drawn, respectively, from Professors Rob Rowland of Kansas and Tom Goodnight of Northwestern) are indicative of the ongoing uncertainty among debate critics of how they can make the best and fairest decisions. Rowland's argument for the primacy of paradigms is that:

Not only do disputes over debate theory increasingly focus on the contest among debate paradigms, but specific debate theories and tactics are often understandable only within the frame of reference provided by a paradigm. And in many cases, the justification for a theory or tactic comes from a paradigm or model of debate.

For example, he explains, if an affirmative team is challenged to explain the motives behind the structures of their inherency, the importance of the challenge is determined by the paradigm applied: stock issues judges would see an interesting but non-crucial request for information, policy-making judges would see an irrelevant "press" which did not alter the nature of the policies defended, but the hypothesis-testing judge would see a key question which the affirmative must answer in order to claim inherency. Similarly, a justification argument (the negative challenge that the affirmative must show why, for example, their plan must be adopted at the federal level) is largely irrelevant to a policy-making judge since the question does not define a negative policy system, yet could well be a voting issue for a hypothesis tester who requires the affirmative to justify acceptance of the entire resolution.

Judges on the other side of the dispute, however, claim that paradigm issues do not serve a true organizing function in debate but rather are mere elements in a strategic game. These judges believe that a negative does not choose to defend hypothesis testing because of the greater integrity and rigor of its method, but rather because it will allow them to run ten hypothetical counterplans and to concede nine. Unwilling to commit themselves to the consistent application of a single paradigm, these critics proclaim their willingness to evaluate all arguments in the round (including paradigmatic - pronounced "para-dig-matic" - ones) on the basis of a number of argumentative presumptions: they seek arguments which are clear, intelligent and well-defended, regardless of their particular labels.

Surveys conducted in 1974, 1976, 1983 and 1994 give some indication of the frequencies with which particular paradigms occur. The percentages of coaches who could be classified by paradigm break down this way:



  1974 1976 1983 1994
Policy-maker 43% 46 38 64
Hypothesis-tester 4 10 4 2
Stock Issues 32 14 8 3
Tabula Rasa 6 9 3 0
Argument Critic 15 10 31 19
Unclassifiable     16 11


While the results of one study may not be directly comparable to the others (since the authors may "code" responses somewhat differently and since the 1974, 1983 and 1984 surveys were of the N.D.T. only while the 1976 survey focused on four major tournaments), they do roughly reveal the continued dominance of the policy-making paradigm, the comparatively small number of adherents to the next three paradigms and the prominence of those who espouse a "critic of argument" perspective.

Which paradigm is the best? This question may never be answered since we may never reach unanimity on the corollary query: the best at what? Little agreement exists as to the concrete goals of competitive debate beyond the hopelessly vague claim of "training students". Some perspectives which might be useful to you will, however, be offered. A set of functional standards for paradigm evaluation has been offered by Dr. Rowland. His claim is that a paradigm should meet five standards:

1. the paradigm should be clear and consistent; 2. the paradigm should be fair to both sides; 3. the paradigm should help the debaters focus more effectively on the substantive issues entailed by the resolution (as compared to the effectiveness of competing paradigms); 4. the paradigm should promote high-quality arguments; and, 5. the paradigm should work well within the constraints of academic debate.

A debate on the validity of each of these criteria occurred in the pages of JAFA, the citation for which is in the bibliography. Fortunately, the differences in paradigms mask underlying agreement between most judges. In proposing five hypothetical situations to judges representing various paradigms, Matlon and Cross found a high degree of agreement as to the outcome of the round. Their conclusion:


the majority of judges in the academic debate community view debates with extraordinary consensus regardless of their stated judging philosophies.

This, of course, highlights the importance of using high quality, intelligent arguments regardless of the announced predispositions of the judge.

Finally, most judges view paradigms as debatable issues. In each survey, virtually all of the judges showed a willingness to suspend their predispositions in favor of the paradigm which could be settled during the course of the round; at the 1983 N.D.T., for example, only one out of 110 judges announced his unwillingness to adapt his judging paradigm to the arguments made in the round (and, by 1994, even he surrendered on this issue).



Stock Issues Paradigm

Nature of the Stock Issues Paradigm

Stock issues analysis represents the oldest and most venerable of the debate paradigms; its roots extend back to the stasis (or status) doctrine in Roman law during Cicero's time. As a judicial matter, they were a series of questions to be addressed to determine the innocence or guilt of a defendant. In the debate setting, the resolution serves as an indictment against the status quo whose innocence is presumed. In contemporary practice, the four traditional stock issues (ill, blame, cure, cost) are represented by significance/harm, inherency, solvency and disadvantages. The debate becomes a quasi-mechanical application of this checklist; failure of the affirmative to meet every one leads to a loss.

While the four stock issues are present in each paradigm, their use in the stock issues paradigm is special. Under stock issues, the affirmative needed first to provide "a compelling need". Because presumption is strongly in favor of the present system, neither small harms nor minor comparative advantages suffice to demonstrate compelling need. In addition, the stock issues judge does not normally consider "turn-arounds" on disadvantages to be a voting issue since the harm issue still would not have been proven. The second responsibility is to establish the inherent responsibility of the system for the harm. The stock issues judge requires both that the affirmative identify the structural cause of the ill and then prove that the present system will remain incapable correcting it. To merely identify one of many causes of a problem is considered argumentatively inadequate since ignorance of the prime cause of a problem implies ignorance of our ability to cope with it. The solvency issue is generally addressed with reference to the influence of the plan on the structural source of ill; if you can prove that "X" causes the ill and you eliminate "X", then the ill likewise will be eliminated. Disadvantages are the negative analog to the harm argument and must meet the same burdens of causality that the affirmative meets. Under the stock issues paradigm, precedence goes to case arguments since a well-defended minor repair is as likely to win as a disadvantage.


Criticisms of the Stock Issues Paradigm

A number of criticisms seem to have led to the decline of stock issues judging. One problem lies in the ambiguity of key terms, such as compelling need and structural barrier. For example, while a law is clearly a structural barrier, it is far harder to say whether an administrative ruling and executive order is one. With increasingly sophisticated analysis, debaters came to realize that inaction or inattentiveness (the so-called "structural gaps") within a system were the source of as much ill as bad actions already undertaken; unfortunately, stock issues analysis had no place for these observations. As judges sought to allow for these new insights, their paradigms were subtly altered to become indistinguishable from the policy-makers.

Another problem is a bias against the affirmative, since the affirmatives are required to produce proof beyond a reasonable doubt on each and every stock issue. In addition, the affirmatives must be prepared to defend their plans against an array of minor administrative or funding changes.

Finally, stock issues does not allow debaters to address problems which lack a single, structural cause. In those instances where many causes exist, where cause is indistinct but effect is clear or where only a probabilistic assessment of solvency can occur, the stock issues paradigm is incapable of functioning.

Matlon and Cross found that, in practice, stock-issues judges functioned as policy-making judges with a conservative (or negative) bias: they prefer the negative to defend a policy, allow presumption to shift, make on-balance judgments, often accept effect-oriented solutions, listen to counterplans and even to conditional argumentation.



Policy-making Paradigm

Nature of the Policy-making Paradigm

The policy makers live in a world of constant change, a world in which problems are always being perceived and responded to. From their perspective, the question to be addressed is never "should we respond to this situation?" but instead is "how best can we respond to this situation?" The policy-maker believes that the best possible way to answer that question is to let each team define and defend what they believe is the best possible answer to that question, then allow the judge (or audience) to decide which team presented the better solution. These solutions are offered in the form of policy systems, which Allan Lichtman and Daniel Rohrer (policy-making's original advocates) defined as:

complex, multi-faceted entities consisting of a set of ends or goals, means designed to achieve those ends, and checks and balances designed to maintain optimal relationships between means and ends...all elements in a policy system interact, so that the system forms an organized whole that is not merely the sum of its individual parts. A change in any one aspect of a policy system may trigger changes in any or all other aspects of the system.

This paradigm is grounded on the assumption that we are able to predict, with a fair degree of confidence, the likely repercussions of our actions; hence, it is sensible to believe that if debaters provide the best possible arguments for their policies, then a debate judge should be able to assess which of them is likely to produce the greatest future gain. While some policy-makers pretend to be administrators, legislators, judges or committee chairs, the dominant view is that of the systems analyst. Through the application of sophisticated decision technologies (cost-benefit analysis, computer modeling, econometric forecasting, etc.), systems analysts believes themselves capable of making predictive statements about the probable consequences of competing systems.

A number of implications flow from this view. First, each team needs a policy. Since systems are presumed to be neither good nor bad (rather, more or less effective in dealing with a problem), the judge must necessarily compare the available alternatives. If a negative team fails to offer a policy for comparison (or offers many or contradictory policies), the judge will almost always vote affirmative. This is so because, even if the affirmative policy is deeply flawed, it would be impossible to determine whether a less-flawed alternative exists. For example, even if the affirmative plan increases the risk of nuclear war, it is possible that all responses to a given problem also entail this risk; unless the negative defends a policy which engenders less risk of war, the judge has no basis for comparison and will (in theory) ignore the disadvantage.

Second, consistent advocacy is essential. For the policy-maker, conditional arguments are to be discouraged since they create confusion about what system the negative will defend and reduce the time available to discuss core issues.

Third, inherency is future-oriented. The policy-maker requires affirmatives to describe the system which they are indicting and then to prove that the system will be incapable in the future of dealing with the problems under discussion. The negative may either accept this definition of the system and argue that it will adapt to meet evolving difficulties or they may offer another, non-resolutional alternative to the system described; these strategies focus, respectively, on incrementalism (the beloved "dynamic status quo") and on counterplans. Questions of underlying attitudes are largely irrelevant.

Finally, presumption is viewed in comparative perspective. Presumption represents a recognition that change entails risk and that not all risks can be foreseen; as such, presumption tends to lie with the system in which change is small, consistent, reversible and predictable. In comparing a plan with a counterplan, presumption would lie against whichever system was responsible for large, drastic, permanent or unprecedented changes since these changes would represent the greatest disruption in pre-existing interrelationships. As such, presumption does not always lie against the affirmative and may change from one team to another during the course of a debate.


Criticisms of the Policy-making Paradigm

Critics of policy-making view it as being the rigid application of an unrealistic paradigm whose real-world analog has failed miserably. First, critics claim that restricting the negative to a single alternative is an inferior process. Critics claim that real-world policy analysts often examine multiple options for addressing the same problem, since it is possible that any one of several alternatives might ultimately prove preferable. Critics are also somewhat upset by the inconsistency of policy-making theory on this point, since policy theorists have shown a disconcerting tendency to switch from demanding one to permitting several options and then back again.

Second, critics claim that policy-making tends to encourage unrealistic argumentation and an over-reliance on quantification since both of these tactics improves a team's position in the cost-benefit calculus that a judge conducts at the end of the round. For example, several years ago a team argued that better funding for symphony orchestras would increase the risk of nuclear war; their reasoning was that (1) better symphonies improved the livability of the cities in which they were located, which (2) encouraged people to move back to the cities, which (3) increased urban growth, which (4) has been historically associated with the rise of broad-based, right-wing movements, which (5) tend to be represented in national legislatures, which (6) decreases the likelihood of arms control and increases the risk of confrontative policies, which (7) increase the risk of a general nuclear war which could kill 350,000,000 people. A policy-maker, doing a risk-analysis, might say that there is one chance in ten that the first link is true, one in a hundred of the second, one in ten of the third, one in a hundred of the fourth, one in a hundred of the fifth, one in ten of the sixth and one in one thousand of the seventh. The net risk of the disadvantage leading to war might be one in tens of millions, but the policy-maker will almost always assign some level of risk to each event. So, even if the risk is one in ten million, in any given year the disadvantage would be assigned a weight of thirty-five lives (one-ten millionth of the possible impact). And, it is entirely possible that a judge will not feel that the aesthetic gain from better symphonies (which cannot be assigned a life-value) is worth thirty-five deaths. Hence, values-based arguments are downplayed while low-probability, high-impact argumentation is encouraged. Critics claims that policy-making, thus, lacks any basis for evaluating good from bad arguments and leads to unrealistic debates grounded in fantastic premises.

Finally, critics claim that systems analysis has been a miserable failure in the real world. Attempts to project program outcomes, budgetary requirements and to simulate battle conditions have all failed when attempted. For example, a RAND Corporation study of 325 federally-funded education innovation programs revealed a complete inability to predict the outcomes of any program or programs or to replicate the success of one program in another setting. Despite the availability of large amounts of money and sophisticated technology, RAND found themselves unable to define a policy system well enough to make any rational predictions about its results.

The Cross and Matlon survey revealed this about policy-makers' judging practices: most required a negative policy (although a significant minority did not have a firm requirement), they felt presumption rests with the status quo but could shift, they made on-balance judgments and often voted for very small advantages, and they were unconcerned with underlying motives; a small but growing number were willing to accept (albeit reluctantly) conditional argumentation.



Hypothesis-testing Paradigm

Nature of the Hypothesis-testing Paradigm

The hypothesis tester believes that the purpose of debate is to determine the probable truth or falsity of the debate resolution, in much the same way that a critical philosopher or research scientist would apply the scientific method to any other hypothesis. David Zarefsky, the original author of hypothesis-testing as a debate paradigm, writes that

To extend the analogy, the argumentative encounter is the counterpart of the scientific procedure or logical deduction. The proposition being argued is the counterpart of the scientist's or philosopher's hypothesis and placing presumption against the proposition is the means of providing for a rigorous test of the proposition. Finally, the judge of argument is the counterpart of the scientist; his goal is to test the hypothesis to determine whether it is probably true.

The hypothesis tester believes that a resolution is judged correct only if it is a necessary and sufficient condition to solving the problem stipulated; that is, if there is any other possible way of solving the problem or if the resolution contains intrinsic flaws which necessarily overcome its proven advantages, then the resolution is negated. Since the hypothesis tester does not assume that any action results from his or her decision (that is, they recognize debate as a contest of words which does not really result in the adoption of a policy), the negative is given the latitude to select as many different tests of the necessary truth of the resolution as they choose. For example, against a federal guaranteed income proposal, a negative might offer a federal "in-kind" benefits program and/or a federal workfare program and/or a state guaranteed income program. If any one of the three proved to be as efficacious as the affirmative plan, the judge would vote negative since the plan was proven unnecessary to solving the problem. Although it is probably true that each of the three alternatives involves different (and possibly contradictory) premises, the conflict is irrelevant since they are offered merely to disprove the probable truth of the resolution rather than to exist as independent policies.

The hypothesis-testing paradigm carries a number of important implications. First, the role of the affirmative plan is de-emphasized in favor of the words of the resolution. The only function of the affirmative plan in a hypothesis testing debate is to serve as a means operationalizing key aspects of the resolution. There is no pretense made that the plan will come into operation. For this reason, the notion of "fiat power" is virtually non-existent, as are the disadvantages associated with the various schools of fiat. Moreover, the specific words of the plan are not very important since objections against specific wording would not represent an objection intrinsic to the resolution (i.e., an unfair enforcement provision would not be a negative voting issue unless the negative could prove that the inequity was a necessary concomitant of the resolution).

Second, as previously mentioned, hypothesis-testing encourages conditional argumentation as a way of most thoroughly testing the truth-claim inherent in the resolution. The hypo-tester may deny the affirmative's harm, defend the present system, minor repair some aspects of the system and counterplan two or three times. So long as each of the arguments is intelligently defended, the hypothesis-testing judge should be willing to listen to each.

Third, inherency becomes more clearly oriented toward the motives which underlie structures. Believing that it is impossible to solve a problem without understanding why it exists, the hypothesis-testing judge asks, "why do the presumably good people in the status quo allow this evil to exist?" The affirmative which is unable to answer this question cannot then prove the sufficiency of the resolution in solving the specified problem, hence the negative wins.

Finally, presumption is strongly and permanently against the resolution; hypothesis testers do this to guard against the possibility of mistakenly accepting an unproven hypothesis. Much like the rigor of scientists who goes to great lengths to disprove they own hypotheses (since an, affirmed hypothesis could be used as an axiom in later experiments and false affirmation would cripple those later applications), the hypo-tester does not accept a resolution as true unless proven beyond a reasonable doubt. So long as reasonable doubt exists that the resolution is both necessary and sufficient to deal with the problem, the resolution is rejected.


Criticism of the Hypothesis-testing Paradigm

Critics accuse hypothesis-testing of fostering irresponsible, shallow arguments based on a grievous distortion of the scientific method. First, hypothesis testing is alleged to cause irresponsible argumentation by encouraging a negative to adopt a number of inconsistent, contradictory positions and then to jettison any or all, as dictated by strategic concerns. For example, a negative team might oppose a federal action because the act is tyrannical (and counterplan with less drastic federal action) but might additionally oppose the same act because it is federal (and counterplan with the same tyrannical action at the state level). While the premises of the counterplans contradict, the hypothesis-tester would see each as a valid test of the resolution. Critics claim that one important function of debate training is to teach responsible advocacy; that is, to analyze a problem, come up with a logically consistent position with relation to the problem and then to defend one's position as well as it possible.

Second, critics charge that hypothesis testing encourages the proliferation of many, half-developed positions; a substitution of breadth of argument for depth of analysis. By sanctioning multiple positions and not penalizing the jettisoning of counterplans, hypothesis testing encourages debaters to multiply their chances of winning by a proliferation of arguments. By doing so, the validity of any single test of the resolution is weakened since the time available to respond to it is minimized by the need to cover many arguments.

Finally, hypothesis testing is said to distort violently the nature of the scientific method. Critics claim that even a cursory reading of the actual, scientific requirements of hypothesis testing or an examination of the history of science reveals vast flaws in the model. A representative selection includes the fact that scientists test a null hypothesis rather than a research hypothesis (i.e., the resolution should have a counterpart which is negatively phrased and this negative analog is what should be tested), that scientists now recognize an often unfair burden is placed on the null hypothesis, that (in the case of Kuhn's revolutionary science) a hypothesis is tested against a single alternative, that the tests of a hypothesis occur serially rather than simultaneously (that is, the hypothesis would be subjected to only one test per round or experiment), that artificial limits in the contest debate setting bias the outcome of the experiment and that many theories become widely accepted before they can be scientifically proven (e.g., atomic theory was accepted based on inference and deduction long before it could be actually tested). In short, hypothesis testers are accused of forcing an unrealistic and idealized view of the scientific method into a setting which is utterly inconsistent with the paradigm.

The Matlon and Cross survey reveals that much of the theory is translated into practice: hypo-testers do not require a negative policy, rarely make on-balance judgements, support well-defined conditional arguments and do require proof of a core motive; however, they neither accept contradictions nor vote on presumption more frequently than their colleagues who accept other paradigms.


Tabula Rasa Paradigm

Nature of the Tabula Rasa Paradigm

Tabula rasa (Latin for "blank slate") means that a judge enters a round with no personal preferences or prejudgments; supposedly he or she will vote for whatever paradigm the debaters establish in the round. (In at least one case, this involved an assessment of which team was funniest in constructives.) This view is designed to avoid discouraging debaters by rejecting perspectives based on the judges' biases; ideally, it is the least subject to distortions caused by the judge's intervention.


Criticisms of the Tabula Rasa Paradigm

Unfortunately, the paradigm has nothing to say in rounds where the debaters do not attempt to establish a decision rule; for example, the tabula rasa judge should have no idea how to handle contradictory counterplans if neither team advances paradigm rules by which to resolve them. Since some judgment must, ultimately, be made (after all, a judge must write something on the bottom of the ballot) the tabula rasa judge must frequently violate his or her own ethos in order to impose some standard on the round.


Argument Criticism Paradigm

Nature of the Argument Criticism Paradigm

Like tabula rasa, this paradigm is difficult to define because argument critics profess a willingness to accept whatever paradigm is defended in the round. Discouraged by or despairing of the validity of more structured paradigms, the argument critic claims to listen to the arguments in a round and then to perform an intelligent criticism upon them. This means that the critic attempts to go beyond labels and claims in order to examine the validity of the proof which underlies them; this professed willingness to interject personal standards for what is "good" or "bad" argument distinguishes the argument critic from the tabula rasa judge. Operationally, this implies a degree of intervention into the debate (e.g., if a piece of evidence does not clearly support a claim, an argument critic would feel free to reject the claim even if the other team did not raise the challenge). Ideally, the argument critic operates from a stock of fairly clear argumentative requirements (is the evidence from an authoritative source? are there important implied qualifiers? is the claim consistent with other things we believe to be true? does the claim correspond with the underlying support? is the causal chain complete?) which are applied impartially to evaluate each significant issue in a debate. This paradigm grows from the argumentative and rhetorical training of most college-level judges and its successful application presupposes a high degree of judicial objectivity and openness. The claimed advantage of this paradigm is its ability to improve the quality of argument through a refusal to sanction victory based solely on the inability of one team to "cover the spread" of another team or to win through the deliberate creation of confusion.


Criticism of the Argument Criticism Paradigm

Critics of argument criticism claim that the paradigm is apt to become both subjective and punitive because of its approval of considerable judicial intervention into the round. Rather than looking at how well the negative did against the affirmative's strategy, the judge looks at the affirmative's strategy. If the judge believes the affirmative was unfair, tricky or merely too unorthodox, the judge might be justified in voting negative. Critics of argument criticism fear that debaters will soon need to cater to the prejudices and idiosyncracies of each judge and to answer arguments which might appear nowhere but in the judge's head.

The Ugly Truth of the Matter

There are three factors which are, probably, more important than paradigms in determining a judge's actions in a round:

1. Most judges want to vote for high quality arguments;

2. Most judges reason holistically (a notion discussed at greater length in Chapter 7, in the section entitled "The Psychology of Cross-Examination"); and,

3. Most judges flow no better than most debaters.

Unless debaters can accommodate themselves to these three factors, a thorough understanding of paradigms is unlikely to help them.










In this section, we will discuss issues concerning the debate resolution and its role.


Debate Resolutions

Resolutions generally are declarative statements with policy implications (specifying either an effect to be achieved or a policy to be undertaken), which are worded more-or-less broadly and which generally deal with actions that are unlikely to be taken soon. A resolution is generally thought to limit discussion to a particular topic area and to provide "fair warning" to all debaters concerning the issues on which they need to prepare. One traditional way of expressing the function of the resolution is to discuss "affirmative land" and "negative land." Affirmative land is defined by all of the possibilities offered by the resolution, the affirmative is called upon to define and defend a position which lies somewhere in affirmative land. The negative gets access to all of the arguments which lay outside of affirmative land.

Topics are selected differently in debate's different leagues. The National Debate Tournament resolution is a policy-oriented resolution selected by vote of all of the member debate programs. The Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) resolution is, by tradition, a value-oriented statement (for example, "violence is a justified response to political oppression") which often has policy implications. Unlike the NDT, CEDA debates different resolutions in the first and second semesters. The second semester's resolution also serves as the resolution for Nationals. As with the NDT, the CEDA resolution is selected by vote of the member schools. For the National Forensic League, one of three problem areas is selected by national vote; each problem area contains three specific resolutions, of which one is chosen as the topic for the national tournament.

Bi-directional Resolutions

These are resolutions which do not require that the affirmative "increase" or "decrease" something (for example, assistance or commitments), but merely that they "change" them. In this case, affirmatives could either increase commitments or do the exact opposite and still be topical. This innovation has greatly inconvenienced negatives since there is no longer a clear "negative land" for them to defend. One negative response to this development has been defense of topical counterplans. The negative will advocate a policy directly opposed to the affirmative's (for example, under a resolution calling for a change in U.S. policy toward Russia, the affirmative might offer more aid to Russia while the negative bans all aid to Russia). The negative would then argue that they are offering a clear contrast to the affirmative, that the need to be competitive eliminates the risk that the negative will be abusive and that this strategy restores fairness to the debate by recreating ground which the negative can defend.



The requirement that the affirmative operationalize the terms of the resolution is called "topicality". An affirmative team is non-topical when their plan does not take the action or achieve the effect specified in the topic; an example might be a team called upon to regulate the power of labor unions which ends up regulating professional associations instead. Professors Patterson and Zarefsky claim a case may be judged non-topical through any one of three means: 1) they may commit an error of fact (e.g., attempting to regulate a power which the unions do not have); 2) they may incorrectly define key terms (e.g., confusing the concepts "regulate" and "abolish"); or, 3) they may fail to advocate key terms in the resolution (e.g., regulating the unions but not regulating their power). In any of these cases, the affirmative has failed to justify the resolution and will lose the debate.



At times, an affirmative will gain its advantages from actions which exceed those authorized by the resolution; in this case, they are judged to be extratopical. For example, an affirmative may have a topic calling for air pollution control but a plan calling for both air and water pollution control; advantages from water pollution control are extra-topical in that gaining them does not require us to support the resolution. Unlike the non-topical plan, there is no question that the extra-topical one does affirm the resolution (i.e., the negative would grant that the affirmative did control air pollution). There is disagreement about both the nature and the implications of extra-topical provisions. Some advocates claim that every plan contains many extra-topical provisions (e.g., funding, enforcement and intent planks whose presence is not specified by the resolution); they use this precedent to justify the inclusion of plan "spikes", which are additional planks designed to preempt disadvantages and/or solvency arguments. The responding position is that the additional planks (funding...) must represent minimal additions necessary to the administrative existence of the policy called for by the resolution and must not themselves be the source of the affirmative advantage.

A second controversy concerns the implications of extra-topical provisions; specifically, what is the appropriate response to an extra-topical provision? One side advocates severing the extra-topical elements and then voting on the basis of the remaining, topical provisions. Their claim is that this eliminates any advantage gained from the extra-topical provision, yet is not punitive in nature. Those who reject severability claim that the best response is to immediately vote negative. They make two sorts of arguments. One sort of argument draws from a legislative analogy: they claim that a poorly worded bill has to be "sent back to committee" for rewriting and clarification before a vote is taken on it. By analogy, they argue that a judge votes for the whole plan or none of it; if part of this indivisible whole is flawed, the whole thing must be rejected and rewritten. The other claim advanced by the opponents of severing is that the extra-topical provisions distort the debate (by forcing the negative either to avoid running arguments to which "spikes" apply or by forcing them to devote considerable attention to debating the extra-topicality of the "spikes") and that the fairest response is to vote against the affirmative now in hopes of deterring them from the continued use of such provisions.



A central concept in communications is that meaning is not self-evident; that is, to refer to "military intervention" does not immediately call the same, concrete image to the minds of all hearers. In order to overcome the effects of this incongruity, debaters resort to external definitions of key terms. Definitions may be classified as:

Common-person definitions. These represent the generally understood, non-technical meanings of words which would be familiar to the lay person. The advantage of such definitions is that they ground discussion in everyday reality and they give a high degree of fair warning. The drawbacks are that some terms have no readily-recognized definition, that some common definitions are ill-informed (changes in the nature of a phenomenon may occur years before they are reflected in common definitions, as with burgeoning conceptions of "discrimination") and that common definitions unnecessarily constrict debates between un-commonly well-informed advocates.

Lexical definitions. These represent dictionary listings, which are themselves merely compendia of the ways in which words have been used in the past. The advantages of dictionary definitions are their clarity and wide availability. The limitations of dictionary definitions are that they do not consider the interplay of words (for example, merely combining the first definitions of "military" and "intervention" does not capture the complete or specific meanings of "military intervention"), that advocates free to choose among many definitions may construct bizarre interpretations of a topic (for example, since one definition of "rape" is "to despoil", a case banning strip mining of coal might be within the ambit of a felony crimes topic) and that dictionaries have a conservative bias toward merely reporting past uses of a word (which might inadequately reflect current reality).

Contextual definitions. These specify the ways in which experts in a given field use a term; they are generally recorded either in books on the subject at hand (for example, many books on labor relations will provide specific definitions of "labor union") or in specialized reference works (e.g., The Dictionary of Labor Relations). The advantages of contextual definitions are that they tend to be more focussed on the problem area under discussion and tend to give a better understanding of the way experts who are being quoted mean to be understood. Their drawbacks are their occasionally excessive specificity, the fact of frequent disagreement among experts (especially the field involves on-going changes and highly emotional issues), and the difficulty of locating contextual definitions for some terms.

Operational definitions. An operational definition tells a person what is being discussed by stipulating functional features; for example, one affirmative might define "living in poverty" as an income of less than $4800 for a family of four, while a second might decide it means needing to spend more than half of one's income to obtain adequate housing and a third might make reference to the ability to achieve certain dietary levels. While none of these teams provides the specific meaning of the term "poverty" (e.g. "the state of being poor or indigent"), each identifies essential and concrete elements by which poverty status may be determined. The advantage is the flexibility and specificity which such definitions grant to the affirmative, while the disadvantage is the potential for abuse by an affirmative which might choose to stipulate some strange manifestation (e.g., defining military marriages as a type of U.S. military commitment).

Generally, statements which derive from an authoritative source, which help limit discussion to the topic area, which provide fair warning for all advocates and which represent a serious intent to define a term (as opposed to an off-hand, passing or metaphorical reference) are the best sources of definition. You should guard against teams who merely find the words of the resolution used in a sentence and who, then, claim that this is a contextual definition. The problem with such statements is that they are not definitions: they do not "convey the fundamental character" of the idea, they merely illustrate one person's use (or misuse) of the term.


Strictness of Definition

A controversy of some intensity revolves around whether an affirmative must provide just "a reasonable" definition of its terms or whether it must provide "the most reasonable" definition in the round. Advocates of the "better definition" or "most reasonable definition" standard claim that it is virtually impossible to prove that a definition is unreasonable since there are no standards by which reasonability can be measured (e.g., many affirmatives claim that anything which is "not absurd" is "reasonable"), that reasonability standards excessively broaden the resolution (by allowing inclusion of many marginal phenomena) and that definitions should be subject to the same "better debating" standard as all other issues (e.g., a judge does not award the harm issue to affirmatives merely because they have harm evidence, rather the judge compares the affirmative with the negative argument in order to determine who has the more reasonable position). Advocates of "reasonability" counter by arguing that there are no standards for determining what constitutes the "best" definition, that standards for "reasonability" do exist, that the "better definition" standard is likely to narrow the topic too much and lead to boredom and that topicality is a unique issue which ought not be compared with others (an argument which proceeds from the premise that being "sort of" topical justifies debate as thoroughly as being "sort of" sick justifies treatment).


Functions of the Resolution

A final, major theoretical issue involving the proposition concerns the specific role played by the resolution. Hypothesis testers and others view the resolution as a logical statement to which the judge is asked to give assent; as such, the judge will either affirm or reject the whole resolution at the end of the debate. Policy-makers, on the other hand, view the resolution as nothing more than a device for indicating the area to be discussed; at the end of policy debates, the judge evaluates the merit of the affirmative plan rather than of the entire resolution.

The view that a critic accepts on this issue makes a vast difference in issue resolution. Resolutional argumentation forces the affirmative to justify each major term in the resolution, de-emphasizes the role of specific provisions within the affirmative plan and allows for counter-resolutional arguments (that is, arguments which may apply to the resolution as a whole though not to a specific affirmative example). Advocates claim that resolutional debate heightens clash by forcing teams to deal with the essence of a resolution rather than "squirrelly" examples and that it divorces debate from the delusion that some action will really take place at the close of the round.

Opponents of resolutional debate claim that focus on the resolution destroys the affirmative's ability to set the grounds for the debate (which is the traditional counter-weight to their burden of proof), that debate resolutions are too ambiguously worded to merit complete assent (e.g., a team seeking to "strengthen U.S. foreign military commitments" might either greatly increase armaments or greatly decrease them, since one action strengthens our NATO commitment while the other strengthens our commitment to the U.N. Charter), that effects-oriented resolutions cannot be affirmed or rejected except on the merits of specific, limited examples of how the effect might be achieved, that ability to focus on policies serve as a safeguard against the possibility of a very poorly-worded topic and that resolutional argument leads to overreliance on a few broad, generic arguments on each side. Proponents claim that virtually all of these problems can be alleviated thorough careful wording of debate resolutions, which they view as a likely outcome of more resolutional focus.



Counter-warrants grow from the resolutional view of debate. Their claim is that the affirmative is trying to gain assent for the resolution by providing a representative example to be tested; if the representative example is true, then the resolution as a whole is probably true. Counter-warrants were designed for use against a team which chose to advance an unrepresentative example of the resolution (for example, debating about space aliens on an immigration reform topic), whose acceptance might lead us to incorrectly assume that the resolution as a whole ought to be accepted. To guard against this "hasty generalization", the concept of counter-warrants was advanced. A counter-warrant is an objection focussing on essential features of the resolution; the negative claim is that since the affirmative has failed to focus on central issues in the resolution, that the negative should have the right to initiate the debate by defining and attacking essential elements. This will supposedly decrease the value of "squirrel" or surprise cases and increase clash.

Opponents to counter-warrants claim that debate does not/ought not focus on the level of the resolution (which is discussed above in the section on "Functions of the Resolution"), that the negative often prepares its disadvantage against a particularly repugnant (though possible) interpretation of the resolution, that an almost infinite number of warrants (cases) and counter-warrants (disadvantages) exist so that it is virtually meaningless to shift focus from the affirmative example and that counter-warrant debates involve too many issues to clearly and intelligently decide on any of them within the time limits required for debate.




Fiat (from the Latin for "let it be done") is a debate convention designed to focus attention on the substance of a resolution, rather than on questions of its political feasibility. Operating through the word "should" in the resolution, fiat represents a willing suspension of disbelief which allows us to pretend that the plan advocated by the affirmative team is already in operation. This requires a suspension of disbelief both because the affirmative has no "power" to actually bring their proposal into operation and because the affirmative is required (by way of inherency) to prove that their plan cannot or will not come into being within the present system. Without the concept of fiat, all debate would come to a screeching halt as the negative team simply shrugged their shoulders, pointed to the inherency contention, and commented "well, it just ain't gonna happen!"

Fiat becomes the source of abuse and sterile, frustrating arguments when debaters view it as a "power" of one team or the other and make it the basis for their arguments. Negatives, upon hearing an affirmative team urge that their proposal be adopted "by any and all Constitutional means", assume that this means that the affirmative claims for itself the power to unilaterally amend the Constitution so as to include the affirmative plan; thereupon, the negatives often run a disadvantage on destruction of the Constitution based on this unprecedented power. It should be clear from the preceding analysis, however, that the affirmative claims no such power; rather, the claim is that if all the agents involved were to hear the arguments, they would give their rational assent to act. A similar analysis helps to explain why "plan repeal" arguments are illegitimate. Negatives frequently claim that even if the affirmative "fiated their plan past Congress", Congress would repeal it tomorrow. Again, the actual claim is that a rational policy-maker (on hearing the argument) would agree that the affirmative plan was desirable. While this view of fiat assumes a world of rational actors, abandoning fiat would be tantamount to abandoning policy-oriented debate and viewing fiat as an active force (a "magic wand"), which would strain the activity beyond any reasonable bounds.

A related controversy centers on the extent to which disbelief should be suspended; that is, to whom should we pretend fiat applies. The most conservative view is that fiat applies only to the actor specified in the resolution (generally, the federal government); the rationale is that to allow the negative to call upon other actors (e.g., state governments acting in unison) will place the debaters on a "slippery slope". The argument is that if we now permit fiat against state-level actors, there is no reason why we cannot also fiat at the level of the local government, private organization, family or individual. Critics claim that the logical result will be an affirmative trying to deal with the child abuse problem through federal education programs while a negative might claim the ability to counterplan with personal restraint at the individual level. Rather than risk reductio ad absurdum, these advocates claim that the best course is to debate only the agent specified. The most radical view totally rejects this concern and claims that a debate about the proper agent is often as important and appropriate as a debate about the proper action. Consequently, their view of fiat is extremely broad. One middle interpretation would limit fiat to constituted agents already possessing the authority to act. Thus, an organization would require a pre-existing constitution which would serve as the source of its authority to act. This would eliminate both the individual and the as-yet unconstituted agent (e.g., a world government) from the realm of debate, while preserving the power to look at the appropriateness of action at various real-world levels.

Critique/Kritik Arguments

Kritiks (both spellings are pronounced "kri-teeks") are language based arguments which emerged in college debate in the early 1990s. A kritik is an objection to the language used by a team and by the authors of its evidence, rather than an objection to a specific policy. These arguments may object to sexist or racist language (either in the cards or in spoken arguments) or to specific "loaded" concepts drawn from the individual topic area. Kritik debaters generally proceed from two assumptions: first, academic debate is not the "real-world," it's an educational activity. No policies change as a result of voting for one team or the other. The only real outcome of the round is that four students learn that certain arguments (or words or ideas) were considered to be more powerful (or persuasive or legitimate) than others. As a result, the question "what will my decision teach these debaters" should be central to the judge's decision. Second, language is an active, rather than a passive, force. If language is passive, its only effect will be to hold a mirror up to reflect whatever is "really" there. People who say that language is active believe that we react to the symbols (or words) used to describe a thing more than we react to the thing itself. So, for example, you might not feel insulted by a statement until a friend tells you that the statement was an insult. One scholar's phrase is that "a choice of words is a choice of worlds."

This situation would be disturbing enough if we actually understood what we are, at any given moment, saying. Kritik debaters deny that this is true by adopting the perspective of scholars who are called "deconstructionists." Deconstructionists claim that language carries hidden implications which are not, normally, understood by the people who are using the language. This becomes a part of academic debate when kritik debaters argue that we need to identify, analyze and critique the hidden meanings (or underlying assumptions) of the words used by their opponents. These debaters argue that permitting the use of "bad" language miseducates debaters and must, as a result, be rejected. They tend to point to examples of "bad" language used by their opponents and claim that the offending team needs to lose the debate. They will argue, in particular, that the kritik is a priori; that is, the judge must resolve this issue before considering anything else in the round. This can be argued as a parallel case to an ethics challenge: when there is a question about a fundamental issue of fair and appropriate behavior, we resolve that issue first and we do it without considering the policy questions debated in the round.

An example will make this argument clearer: let's suppose that an affirmative team wanted to decrease the rate of growth in the global population by funding development assistance in the form of fertility control for less-developed nations. The negative kritik might focus on the words "development" and "developed." The negative would argue that "development" is a term borrowed from biology to describe a process in which immature juvenile organisms grow into mature ones. This term is treacherous when used to describe the economic and social status of different societies because it immediately labels their society as "immature and juvenile," it labels our society as "mature and whole," and it implies that the one natural course to follow is movement from their condition to our condition (since baby squirrels don't get to pick what species they want to belong to when they grow up). The negative would argue that such assumptions are ethnocentric, racist and wrong. The affirmative should, as a result, lose.

Affirmatives pursue a number of options in responding to such arguments. First, they seek to exploit the fact that judges dislike voting for kritiks. As an example, one judging philosophy from the 1994 N.D.T. referred to most critique positions as "some kind of incoherent philo-psycho-babble." Second, they argue that the kritik is based on the false assumption that language controls reality (a claim denied by cognitive scientists such as Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, 1994). Third, they argue that academic debates are the wrong forum for discussing these matters; time constraints and policy-oriented training make in-round discussions of linguistic philosophy pointless. Fourth, they issue counter-kritiks by arguing that the negative is just as abusive in some of their language choices. Fifth, they may seek to punish the negative for internal inconsistencies. This occurs when the negative runs a kritik (for example, against "national security" and militarism) and then also runs a disadvantage which claims war as an impact. The affirmative would argue that, to the extent that the negative claims we need to avoid perceiving the world through a militarist mind-set, the negative should be punished for contradicting their own philosophy. Sixth, affirmatives argue that kritiks are not "voting issues." In saying this, they mean that they should not lose even if the kritik is upheld. The affirmative argument is that the act of discussing the language in question had an educational value and that its not necessary to vote against them to teach them a lesson. Finally, affirmatives argue it is unjust to punish them for the word choices of topic writers and debate authors.










As with a defendant in a criminal trial, the present system in a policy debate is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictment against the system is initiated in the first affirmative constructive with the presentation of a prima facie case. A prima facie case (from the Latin for "at first sight") is a logically complete argument which, absent negative response, would overcome presumption and convince a rational listener to affirm the resolution. Conventionally, such a logically complete case must prove that a reason for action exists (significance/harm), that affirmation of the resolution is necessary to solve the problem (inherency) and that affirmation of the resolution is sufficient to solve the problem (plan and solvency) without incurring disproportionate costs (disadvantages).

Case Construction

While affirmative cases may be organized and labeled in many different fashions (need-plan, comparative advantage, goals-criteria, etc.), these fundamental burdens do not change from format to format. Experienced debaters will normally pick whichever format they feel will make for the most clear and compelling presentation. The choice of case structure should therefore reflect the nature of the problem discussed (if, for example, you have found a problem growing entirely from a single cause and you can eradicate that cause, then a need-plan format might be most appropriate; if you are engaged in a largely philosophical discussion, then you might use a goals case; if you must treat the effects of some problem with only probabilistic solvency, then you might choose a comparative advantage case), although there are additional considerations in the building of a clear and effective first affirmative:

Avoid unnecessary structure. Many debaters become so involved in substructuring their cases that both fluency and clarity are compromised; inject no more labeled structure than is necessary to allow for a logically complete outline of the argument.

Avoid grand language. Too many debaters try to impress the world with their vocabularies (or thesauruses) by filling the first affirmative with half-understood allusions to great philosophers, convoluted sentences, obscure words and overblown claims. Very often these detract from the persuasive power of the speech and lower one's credibility with a judge. A plain and explanatory style will probably work better.

Avoid over-qualifying evidence. Each source used should be named, qualified and dated but article titles and page number are rarely necessary in the spoken address. Even organizations which require complete qualification stipulate that the complete information is necessary only for the first card read from a particular source. In addition, these organizations generally do not require page or volume numbers. Complete bibliographic information for each source must, of course, be available upon request.

Do not fear change. Very few teams can win by changing their affirmative area after each tournament (or each round), but this does not mean that a case written in August or September should not be improved. By reading ballots, listening to other teams and keeping research current, a good affirmative finds ways to strengthen the case.

As you become more adept at case debating, you will be able to introduce innovations and refinements of your own; until then, these suggestions may enable you to put together somewhat stronger cases.

Plan Construction

Traditionally, most plans have contained a number of provisions:

An enabling phrase. This short introductory sentence usually specifies what level of government will act, by what means and what time (the phase-in).

The mandate, which is the detailed statement of resolutional action designed to bring about the advantage.

Administration, which specifies the name and powers of the administering agent, in the case that a plan is not self-administering (e.g., a ban on capital punishment would be self-administering but a hazardous waste policy overseen by a special board would not be).

Funding, which stipulates the availability of funds (generally from "normal means," occasionally from specified cuts in other programs or increases in specific taxes).

Enforcement, which explains the agent responsible for enforcing plan provisions, the available legal remedies and the nature of checks on administrative action.

Intent, which explains the role played by the various speeches in the debate with reference to how a court might use them to better understand the plan in the case of court challenges.

There may be "spikes" grafted on to any of these planks; these are additional, often extratopical provisions which specify means by which to avoid or ameliorate plan objections (for example, an immigration reform plan might contain a ban on handguns to get around a crime disadvantage). The role and limits of these provisions are discussed earlier in the section on extratopicality.

Some teams are adopting more streamlined plans: in place of the page-long, multi-plank plans of the past, they substitute two sentences. The first sentence contains a statement of the mandate and the second sentence stipulates that funding, enforcement and so on will be through "normal means." For example:

We urge adoption of the following plan: the U.S. Border Patrol will be increased by 50%. Funding, enforcement and administration will be through normal means.

This simplified wording has two advantages: first, it decreases the number of targets an affirmative presents. Since the negative might link disadvantages to any plank of the plan (for example, arguing that your funding mechanism will cause economic chaos or that your administrative board will become tyrannical), the affirmative benefits from being specific only about those actions which directly involve the resolution. Second, it increases the affirmative's flexibility in answering counterplans since the phrase "normal means" subsumes a lot. Against a studies counterplan, an affirmative might argue that studies are part of the "normal means" of implementation. Against a referendums counterplan, they would argue that referenda are normal means.


Other, more controversial questions exist about plan operation. First, there is the question of whether it is legitimate to sever planks from the plan. There are instances in which the negative premises disadvantages on specific words in the plan; the affirmative may then seek to remove these words from the plan, so as to render the objection irrelevant. Hypothesis-testers would support the affirmative if the dropped portions were non-resolutional, since objections to these provisions would not be tests to the resolution. Other supporters could make reference to the judicial analogy, whereby judges are permitted to strike out portions of a law so as to increase its benefits or to harmonize it with the Constitution. Policy-makers would claim that an advocate is responsible for the specifics of a policy, so that the provisions would be viewed as a legitimate source of argument. Others would object to the drop because it violates the advocacy function of debate; their perspective is that debaters are being trained as public advocates and that, as such, they should be willing to live or die with the consequences of the positions they choose to defend. Both sides, however, agree that the affirmatives do not have the ability to re-write the plan (substitute one provision for another) or to sever the topical portions of it.

A second, related question involves the implication of plan wording flaws. At least one affirmative has lost the out-rounds of a major national tournament based on a plan adoption date of February 30th. In addition, some people believe that a poorly or vaguely worded proposal should be rejected out-of-hand, usually with references to "sending it back to committee for re-wording"; others claim that precise word use should be an educational goal and that imprecise use warrants a punitive ballot. Opponents claim that this sort of debate is irrelevant to the topic, that it does not test the resolution, that many laws are poorly worded by legislatures then refined by courts, and that punitiveness is a poor educational tool.


Presumption/Burden of Proof

The general notion of presumption lies in an opposition to unjustified change, since any change entails risk and no one incurs risks without offsetting benefits. It is also a tenet of conservative thought that the unintended consequences of change will generally outnumber the intended consequences by 10:1 and will probably be adverse (a fear supported by geneticists' findings that almost all random mutations decrease an organism's chances for survival). Some types of unanticipated consequences include a premature commitment to one solution (i.e., after we have found a "solution" to some problem, we no longer search for better policies), disruptions in value systems (i.e., the inherency explains why the current system acts as it does and violating these systemic judgments by acting on different values may call a whole value hierarchy into question or provoke a backlash), the establishment of an unintended precedent (i.e., the affirmative logic may energize an entire generation of new policy commitments) and the triggering of consequences through unrecognized chains of causality (e.g., the construction of new fresh water reservoirs might change either the micro-climate or the global climate through a series of events which we do not have adequate understanding to predict). Additionally, there is the simple risk that we might just be wrong and will affirm the resolution in error. All of these considerations serve to undergird the notion that the affirmative carries a burden of proof; they have the responsibility to prove the validity of their particular change. Affirmatives may do this either by defending their product or their process. A "product defense" relies on a preponderance of evidence suggesting that it is highly probable that a particular action will generate a particular, desirable state of events. A "process defense" holds that, while the particular outcome cannot be guaranteed, the processes institutionalized by the plan (or the resolution) carry a higher probability of minimizing risk and maximizing benefit than the processes currently shaping policies.



The proof that a problem justifies change is provided in the significance contention. In order to prove significance, the affirmative must establish that some important value is being infringed upon and must then indicate the magnitude of the infringement. Some values are considered largely self-evident (the sanctity of life), others are weighed as parts of related constellations of concerns (freedom of speech), while others may require very explicit defenses (economic efficiency). Regardless of the type of value considered, the affirmative carries the best chance of succeeding when they are able to relate the infringement to some human consequence since some ideals are so peripheral that they may not even justify diverting a policymaker's limited time and energy for their consideration. If, for example, some phenomenon costs one life every century, it is entirely possible that a policy maker would not find the issue sufficiently pressing to attend a debate on the subject; similarly, isolated deviations from some abstract theory of government may not warrant attention.

In addition to locating a problem, the affirmative needs to consider the extent of the problem. This may occur through quantitative estimates (in terms of lives lost, injuries caused, percentage changes in unemployment, etc.) or through some qualitative judgment by an authoritative source ("a potentially catastrophic infringement" or "the most serious threat") or both.

The "bottom line" on significance is determined by two factors: 1) is the problem serious enough to create a prima facie case -- would a reasonable person even care enough to stay around for the debate? 2) is the problem serious enough to warrant the risks entailed by the plan? Some teams try to "beef up" their significance through wildly exaggerated claims and "end of the world" impact evidence; this temptation should be overcome since such arguments may destroy one's credibility with a judge by making it appear that the debater is incapable of assessing reality and may serve to lend credibility to "meatball" disadvantages (since larger changes normally entail greater numbers of repercussions and greater risks).



Inherency is the explanation for why (absent affirmative action) the problem isolated under "significance" will continue to exist. While some debaters believe that the existence of a problem implies its continuance (so-called "existential inherency"), there are many reasons which explain why a problem has not yet been resolved: the phenomenon is not recognized as a problem, the phenomenon is recognized as a problem but not as one serious enough to warrant action, the problem is recognized as serious but the costs of cure are believed to be too high, the problem is recognized as serious but no cure is known, the problem is recognized and cures are being studied, cures have been undertaken but are not yet effective, and/or some barrier prevents the cure from occurring. In analyzing inherency, the affirmative should try to explain the core features of the relevant systems or institutions and should then prove a causal connection between the core and the continuance of the problem. By doing so, they avoid selecting problems which are noninherent (e.g., solutions are or soon will be underway) or insoluble (i.e., where no solution exists).

In describing the core of an inherency, one of several terms may be used. We may refer to a structural inherency, by which we mean the existence of laws or institutions which preclude effective action and which can be circumvented only through resolutional action (for example, laws banning heroin would be an inherent reason that it could not be used to treat cancer). A second type of inherency is known as a structural gap, in which no mechanism exists by which a problem can be addressed. For example, a lack of federal jurisdiction in dealing with certain crimes would provide an inherent reason why the F.B.I. cannot act with respect to those crimes; this inherency is structural in the sense that a structural (legal/institutional) change is required to permit action to be taken. A third form of inherency is attitudinal inherency, which functions to explain why a system will not be likely to respond to a problem in the near future. For example, conservative support for free-market policies might serve as an inherent explanation for why wage and price controls are unlikely to be imposed to control inflation. It is extremely important for affirmatives and negatives to have a clear sense of inherency, since it is virtually impossible to prove that a problem can be solved by one system (the affirmative) if we do not know what prevented its solution by another (the present system).

One must also guard against certain common misconceptions over inherency. First, the existence of a problem does not necessarily imply its continuance. As the list of questions in the first paragraph (above) illustrates, there may be many problems which either will soon be solved without resolutional action or which are (essentially) insoluble. Second, inherency does not require an affirmative to prove what first caused a problem. Understanding the origins of racial discrimination, for example, might require an analysis of five centuries of social and political philosophy; this undertaking might be interesting, but is not best undertaken in the course of one debate. The most realistic burden is future-oriented; that is, the affirmative need only prove that our most probable future scenario does not include a significant (or sufficient) reduction in discrimination. Third, the affirmative does not need to explain why their plan has not yet been passed. This essentially-sterile inquiry is probably impossible to complete for most programs and would not significantly further one's understanding of why the problem continues.



Once an affirmative has proven that it has located a problem that requires resolutional action, they must then prove that the resolution is sufficient to eliminate the problem (or a fair portion of it). Affirmatives can do this in several ways:

Logical necessity. Some problems flow from a single, discrete cause and an affirmative may need only to prove that they eliminate the cause. For example, one's problem may be that people are being shot by some nut on a rooftop; a plan which sends a policeman in a bullet-proof outfit to arrest the person will necessarily solve the problem. In such (rare) instances, the affirmative's greatest burden is to prove the workability of their solution (e.g., the availability of a protected policeman) but the central logic is unchallenged.

Historical precedent. Some affirmatives may advocate policies which had been relied on at some point in the past (e.g., capital punishment, tax cuts, wage/price controls). The specific affirmative burdens under this type of argumentation are to prove that the policies had succeeded in the past and that present conditions are similar enough to allow for a repetition of that success. Negatives will generally focus on this second assumption, arguing that conditions have changed too drastically to allow the repetition of past successes.

Successful experiments. Some plans have been tried either in laboratory settings (certain air pollution systems) or in limited settings (for example, a pilot program or a law adopted in only one state) and teams may try to extrapolate from success in these settings to a national outcome. These extrapolations are extremely problematic, since the success reported in these experiments is often due to the maintenance of ideal conditions, the availability of unlimited funding, the presence of highly trained experts to oversee the experiment, widespread news media coverage, an operations staff which is thoroughly committed to the program and/or unique local conditions. All of these factors bias the program's outcome toward success, but may not be replicable in other settings (as budgets become tight, the original staff is replaced by bureaucrats, and so on).

Analogous operations. Affirmatives may try to argue from the success of actions which are related to the one which they propose; for example, an affirmative advocating the ban of one chemical may make reference to the experience of banning others (e.g., Red Dye #2, cyclamates, etc.). These comparisons are valid only if the situations are closely analogous and are invalid when the circumstances surrounding the two products are substantially different (e.g., the banning of cyclamates would produce comparatively little insight into the effects of banning meat or tobacco).

International examples. Affirmatives may try to argue that the experience of other nations in adopting analogs of the affirmative plan can lead us to understand the implications of acting here. For example, heroin legalization and handgun bans have both been adopted in other nations (Great Britain and Japan, respectively). Again, the conditions in these countries may be so vastly different as to make comparisons impossible; this is true even when two countries are generally similar, since comparatively few changes in the relevant portion of the society are necessary to invalidate the comparison.

Negative responses should not be limited to straight refutation of these arguments, but may also draw upon types of proof not utilized by the affirmative; for example, if the affirmative uses historical precedent to prove their plan will work then the negative should deny the validity of the precedent and offer examples of failure in analogous operations.



Disadvantages explain the repercussions of a policy and highlight the ways in which costs of change outweigh benefits. In order to be legitimate, a disadvantage must be causally connected to the affirmative position, must prove the existence of a particular undesirable outcome and must prove that the plan alone will cause or heighten the problem (the concept of uniqueness). In short, the negative must prove that the affirmative action is a necessary and sufficient condition to generate a great evil. In a policymaking debate, the causal link specifies some element of the affirmative plan which is responsible for the wrong; in hypothesis-testing, the disadvantage must flow only from resolutional portions of the plan since objections to any other part would not be intrinsic to the resolution being examined (for example, it would be illegitimate to object to a funding mechanism, since that particular funding source is not an intrinsic element of the resolution).

A key controversy in this area surrounds the question of degrees of causation. Since innumerable factors may play on the strengthening or weakening of a phenomenon (e.g., inflation) and since we can never predict the outcomes of our actions with 100% certainty, we can only make more-or-less certain predictions of probable results. We might, for example, be able to say that a given policy action runs a 70% risk of increasing the rate of inflation by between 2-5% within the next two years; our knowledge will never be sufficient to say that action "X" will without question increase inflation by 4.7% in the next day. Because of these factors, a plan may engender different levels of risk for different outcomes (e.g., one chance in a billion of causing nuclear war, one chance in a hundred of increasing inflation by more than 50% and ninety-five chances in a hundred of generating nasty Letters to the Editor). Negatives must then trade off the probability of an occurrence with its potential impact; this is called a risk assessment. There is little difficulty accepting risk assessments based on good data for moderate-high probability outcomes; the controversy surrounds the weight given to highly speculative, extremely low probability results. (Debaters have traditionally referred to these as "meatball disadvantages.") Debaters need to consider the arguments made by Nicholas Rescher, a philosopher of science at the University of Pittsburgh. Rescher argues that concepts such as "one chance in a hundred thousand" do not represent meaningful assessments probability and that such events should be treated as if they have a risk-level of zero (based on the argument that such low likelihood events cannot be used as the basis for action without functionally paralyzing all human action).

Affirmative responses to disadvantages fall into several categories. They may: deny the causal link ("we don't cause inflation"), turn the causal link ("we actually decrease inflation"), deny the impact ("there is no net harm to inflation"), turn the impact ("inflation is good"), deny the uniqueness of the link ("inflation will occur with or without the plan"), challenge the intrinsicness of the impact ("other mechanisms will act to control inflation"), outweigh the impact ("our harm is greater than your disadvantage") and/or deny its legitimacy as a voting issue ("it is unacceptable to control inflation by starving the elderly").

Three of these issues (turn-arounds, intrinsicness and inherent illegitimacy) require further explication. The first is the concept of a "turn-around". A turn-around is a reason for believing that the negative misanalyzed the effects of the plan so that they mistook a beneficial consequence for a disadvantageous one. There are two ways to turn a disadvantage: at the link ("you said we increase inflation and inflation is bad. No, turn, we decrease inflation") or at the impact ("you said we increase inflation and inflation is bad. No, turn, inflation is good"). Most college-level judges believe that turn-arounds create additional advantages to the affirmative plan and are acceptable grounds for voting affirmative. Be careful, though, since some more conservative judges see them as merely eliminating the disadvantage from consideration. For these judges, winning case significance is still essential.

When debating "turns", you need to remember:

1. that you must not simultaneously run both link and impact terms - a practice referred to as "double-turning the disadvantage." The effect of double-turning the original disadvantage is to concede that you cause a whole new disadvantage (in the example above, where the negative says you cause inflation and inflation is bad, the affirmative should not say "we decrease inflation and inflation is good").

2. that link/impact denials may serve to negate the turn (for example, the link turn "we decrease inflation" becomes interesting but irrelevant if you also run the impact take-out "inflation is not harmful").

3. that conceding a disadvantage will not automatically neutralize a turn-around (for example, a negative cannot merely stop talking about the inflation disadvantage in rebuttals once the affirmative has claimed it for their own).

4. that conceding specific affirmative responses can sometimes neutralize a turn (if, for example, the affirmative offers three reasons why they decrease inflation and three reasons why inflation is not harmful, a good negative rebuttalist will go specifically to the impact take-outs, concede them and explain that they make the link turns irrelevant).

5. that affirmative debaters sometimes misuse the term "turn" (for example, by applying the "turn" label to what are actually link/impact denials)

6. that you should seek to explain the substance and impact of the turn so that the judge can clearly understand why the "turn" should be considered as an element of his or her decision. In particular, try to weigh the impact of the turned disadvantage against the weight of arguments the negative is still winning.

The second strategy which requires elaboration is the concept of intrinsicness. Affirmatives may wish to argue that some general sorts of problems occur regularly (e.g., many Presidential actions might be misinterpreted by potential adversaries, many actions may increase the rate of inflation, many actions may increase production of greenhouse gases). The political system seeks to preserve itself in the face of these potentially destabilizing changes by developing mechanisms for heading off problems before they become catastrophic. So, while it is true that hyper-inflation might trigger a global war, it is untrue that policy-makers will sit idly by while the rate of inflation builds. Affirmatives exploit these built-in safeguards by claiming that disadvantages are not intrinsic: even if the plan pushes us one step down the road toward destruction, other mechanisms will push us back. Intrinsicness arguments carry two logical consequences: first, the affirmative should be required to document the existence and effectiveness of the offsetting mechanism (just as the negative needs to document the existence and effectiveness of the original link). The alternative would allow the affirmative to make a huge number of asserted claims (1. the President will control, 2. Congress will control, 3. Federal Reserve will control, 4. World Bank . . .) that the negative could never wade through. The second implication is that each intrinsicness response may serve as an additional link to negative positions. An intrinsicness argument, in the abstract, says this: "If a direct effect of the plan is to trigger a disadvantage link, then a secondary effect of the plan is to trigger an offsetting mechanism." The affirmative, thus, is arguing that a probable outcome of the plan is the action discussed in intrinsicness. A negative has the option to show that this action is, itself, disadvantageous.

Finally, the third area which requires some expansion is the concept of inherent illegitimacy. Affirmatives may wish to argue that certain disadvantages are grounded in premises which are so repugnant that they ought not be used in the determination of policy. Many scholars (including Aristotle, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Dewey, Stephen Toulmin and Chaim Perelman) have observed that a strict application of the rules of logic to public affairs can produce results which are rational but not reasonable; that is, the logic is internally consistent and correct, but the outcome would generally be viewed as appalling. In describing "crackpot realism", philosopher Chaim Perelman argues that both the Soviet system of psychiatric detention and Nazi initiation of the Holocaust were supremely rational actions within their stated premises. He proves, however, that these actions were also unreasonable, inhuman and damnable. Affirmatives may seek to develop this same rationality vs. reasonability dichotomy as the basis for arguing that certain disadvantages imply premises which are indefensible; this defense has been raised with some success against disadvantages which claim that we should allow people in the Third World to starve to death, that we should launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against nations who have recently received nuclear weapons and that we should allow racial discrimination to continue to avoid provoking backlash.

The difficulty with these positions is they require considerable advance preparation so that the affirmative can advance "good reasons" for their arguments and avoid merely appealing to claims of "moral repugnance". Debaters often turn to evidence from philosophers when they attempt to delegitimate arguments in this way. Philosophers have proposed "grand narratives" in the field of ethics; i.e., theories which propose to offer rules for covering all situations. The two narratives which are most important to debaters are called teleological (also called consequentialist or utilitarian) theories and deontological (or rights-based) theories. Teleological theories say that we should take those actions which produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people; when they rebuttalists claim that the disadvantages outweigh the case advantages, they are making teleological claims. In opposition to this, deontological claims say that we should do what's right without regard for the practical consequences. The aphorism "Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall" is a deontological claim, as is the argument that "rights outweigh lives lost." A well-considered deontological position should give affirmatives considerable leeway when they choose to defend small or abstract (i.e., qualitative) advantages against concrete (i.e., quantitative) disadvantages.










One increasingly-popular negative strategy is for the negative to counterplan, to present a negative policy which can solve the problem isolated by the affirmative and do so without the resolution. For the hypothesis-tester, a successful counterplan proves that the resolution is not a necessary element in solving a given problem. For the policy-maker, a good counterplan is proof that a competing, non-resolutional policy exists which is superior to, and exclusive of, the affirmative. At their best, counterplans brilliantly highlight conceptual flaws in an affirmative plan by providing higher-quality alternatives. At worst, generic counterplans are a way to avoid discussing or clashing with issues in the affirmative case by re-focussing the debate on procedural or administrative elements; for example, a resolution calling for federal action on some domestic problem is susceptible to a counterplan favoring state-level administration of the affirmative solution. In any case, counterplans greatly increase the number and complexity of issues in the debate and often lead to near-madness in rebuttals.

We will look at affirmative response strategies in some detail as the chapter progresses. For now, remember that the most basic affirmative strategy is three-pronged: first, prove that the counterplan fails to meet one of its central theoretical burdens (non-topicality and competitiveness, both of which are discussed below); second, prove that there are advantages (either those presented in the first affirmative constructive or those which can be presented in the second affirmative) which the affirmative can claim but the negative cannot; and, third, prove that there are disadvantages to the counterplan which do not link (or do not link as well) to the plan.


Types of Counterplans

While it is certainly possible to construct a unique and highly particularized counterplan in response to a specific plan, it is nonetheless possible to place most counterplans into one of four categories.

Study counterplans. Fearing that inadequate information is available to make a good decision about the advisability of the affirmative case, some negatives propose to delay action while undertaking wide-scale studies. These studies explore possible results and offer policy recommendations to relevant policy-makers. Negatives claim that this will lead to better decisions, while affirmatives typically claim that adequate information exists, that it would be better to adopt the plan and then study its operation while holding open the possibility of eventual amendment, that there will never be enough information available to satisfy everyone and that studies generally produce inconclusive results. Arguing at a higher level of abstraction, some affirmatives also claim that the counterplan is no different from the affirmative, in that studies are an integral element of the "normal means" by which new policies are adopted. Finally, others argue that study counterplans become topical at the very moment that they become solvent.

Process/agent counterplans. While agreeing that the affirmative may have found a good policy, negatives claim that the affirmative has selected an inappropriate agent to implement the policy. Thus, they suggest that court action, state action, public action through referenda or private action would greatly increase the probability of an effective outcome. So, for example, the affirmative might call for legislation to protect illegal immigrants from unsafe working conditions. The negative might then counterplan by calling for a national referendum on the question of whether to strengthen these work place protections. Alternately, they might counterplan with a Supreme Court decision recognizing a right to a safe workplace.

The affirmative may either indict the counter-agent or may argue that the fiat convention allows them to assume virtually any route to adoption (i.e., it is possible that the plan had been adopted by court order, public vote, or whatever).

Changed act counterplans. While agreeing that the affirmative may have found a problem and an authority to deal with the problem, the negative argues that the affirmative has come up with the wrong solution and will offer a substitute solution to be implemented by the same agent chosen by the affirmative. For example, the negative might counterplan a federal tobacco-ban plan with a federal education and taxation counterplan. The affirmative will generally argue either that it is possible and desirable to adopt both or that the affirmative policy is clearly superior.

Exception counterplans. While agreeing that the affirmative is generally correct, the negative will argue the need for exceptions to the affirmative policy; in a topic requiring the affirmative to act in some absolute fashion (e.g. ban all military intervention, provide a guaranteed income to all citizens in poverty, nationalize all utilities, shift responsibility all types of hazardous waste liability, etc.), an exception will generally make the resulting counterplan both non-topical and competitive. The negative then argues that the amended plan is somewhat fairer or more effective. The affirmative must prove either that the topic does not require absolute action (claiming, for instance, that "all" means "all in a particular class" or "the most feasible extent") or that the exception is unwise.

The well-prepared affirmative will generally have "blocked" (or pre-set) responses to each of these generic negative counterplans.



The traditional view is that a legitimate counterplan must be non-topical, since a topical counterplan de facto provides another reason for adopting the resolution. Now even this view is under challenge. A counterplan needs to be non-topical if either one of two premises is correct: 1) the affirmative is seeking to test the whole resolution -- in which case a topical counterplan proves the whole resolution correct; or, 2) the non-topicality requirement is a "rule of the game" which exists just to guarantee balance and clash. A counter-plan may be topical if either one of two other premises is true: 1) that the plan operationally defines the resolution -- in which case the plan purports to represent the whole resolution for the purposes of a particular round, thus making everything else outside of the resolution; or, 2) the purpose of the resolution is just to provide fair warning about what case the affirmative may run -- at which time the resolution ceases to serve any other function (check out the section in Chapter Three on "Functions of the Resolution" for a fuller discussion of these questions). At the college level, topical counterplans have become more acceptable with the proliferation of bi-directional resolutions (the reasoning behind this change is also presented in Chapter Three, "Bidirectional Resolutions").

An interesting strategic consideration: in the case of resolutional debate, a topical counterplan with attendant disadvantages would serve the same function as a counter-warrant (this concept is discussed at the end of Chapter Three); in rebuttals a negative might consider conceding that the counterplan is topical and claim that disadvantages to the counterplan are now reasons to reject the resolution.



The competitiveness requirement is designed to insure clash between plan and counterplan; in essence, it says that the counterplan must function as a reason to reject the affirmative. If the competitiveness standard did not exist, a topic calling for the regulation of labor unions could be constantly counterplanned with global nuclear disarmament; technically the counterplan would always win since it was non-resolutional and accrued far greater advantages than an affirmative could claim. While there is widespread agreement that a counterplan must compete with the plan, there is almost no agreement over exactly what constitutes adequate competitiveness. The two most widely accepted standards are:

Net benefits. This describes the situation in which the combined benefits of plan and counterplan are less than the benefits of the counterplan alone; this normally comes about when the negative provides a disadvantage which is unique to the plan. For example, under an immigration reform topic, the affirmative might issue national identity cards to all citizens and legal aliens. The negative might choose to counterplan by strengthening the Border Patrol and might run a "Big Brother" disadvantage (which does not link to the counterplan). For the sake of argument, let's say that the affirmative's advantage was saving 100 lives, the counterplan could claim to save 75 of those lives, and the impact of the disadvantage was 50 lives lost. The argument for competitiveness would be this: the initial benefit of the counterplan (75 lives) is smaller than the initial benefit of the plan (100 lives), but the net benefit of the counterplan is greater because the plan incurs the disadvantage which decreases its net advantage (100 lives saved minus 50 lives lost equals net benefit of 50 lives saved).

Mutual exclusivity. This standard applies to cases in which it is logically impossible for the plan and counterplan to exist within the same system. The classic example would be simultaneous attempts to ban and regulate the same item or action. This is the most stringent and the most widely accepted standard of competitiveness. The limitation on mutual exclusivity is that, in the end, very few things are utterly incompatible. Even if the instance cited above, it turns out that bans and regulations are not completely exclusive. For example, marijuana is both banned and taxed by the federal government. As a result, many people argue that mutual exclusivity is just an extreme example of net benefits; that is, while we could somehow force the plan and counterplan to exist in the same world, the effort would be so enormous that no one would undertake it.

Negatives have developed a variety of other, less-accepted standards of competition. In bad counterplan debates the negative will sometimes present a bunch of these standards as a sort of smoke-screen. Their hope is to force the affirmative into misallocating time.

Redundancy. This describes the situation when the counterplan is able to achieve the entire affirmative advantage; at that point, the negative will claim that the affirmative is unnecessary and that presumption or some additional counterplan advantage warrants rejection of the affirmative. Affirmatives normally claim either that some area of non-overlapped advantage exists or that redundancy is desirable since the systems do operate to reinforce one another; they might, for example, note that the right to free speech is protected by the U.S. Constitution, every state constitution, laws such as the Whistleblower Protection Act and administrative rulings.

Legal pre-emption. Unique to the state counterplan, this standard claims that courts generally rule that federal action in an area preempts the rights of states to establish competing regulations in that same area. The affirmative response often centers on the fruitful co-existence of state and federal regulations and laws in a number of areas.

Philosophical. This standard claims that philosophical consistency is important to government regulations (because it simplifies judicial interpretation, sets clearer precedents, increases popular respect for the system, and so on) and that the plan and counterplan represent such divergent philosophies that they ought not both be adopted by the same agent at the same time. Affirmatives normally claim that this standard is illegitimate both because any two systems can be described in such a way to be either consistent or inconsistent and because many examples exist of inconsistent programs being adopted (e.g., tobacco price support and anti-smoking programs).

Resources. This claims that the two programs would need to compete for scarce resources (money, facilities, highly-trained specialists, etc.) and that there is not enough of any or all of these resources to support both programs. Affirmatives can claim a considerable ability to raise more money, train more specialists, construct more buildings, etc. The most accepted form of this argument presents it as a subset of mutual exclusivity.

Fiated. Some negatives insert a provision into their counterplan which either bans the plan, usurps the administrative structure or forbids any government action other than the counterplan. Affirmatives normally declare the standard to be illegitimate since it does not represent any inherent conflict between the essences of the two systems.

Resolutional. This standard is valid under the hypothesis tester's assumption that the debate functions to test the probable truth of the resolution; in that case, the negative merely needs to prove that the counterplan is (in some way) competitive with the "essence" of the resolution rather than with the specific affirmative plan. The most appropriate affirmative responses are to deny both that the resolution is being debated and that the counterplan competes with the resolution (e.g., if the counterplan is only philosophically competitive with the resolution, the affirmative could indict philosophical competitiveness).

The negative needs to win only one of these tests in order to be competitive with the affirmative (since, for example, if two systems cannot logically co-exist it does not matter whether they are philosophically consistent).


Affirmative Response Strategies

As a general matter, affirmatives try to answer competitiveness by going through each negative argument and giving reasons why (1) the standard is illegitimate and/or (2) why the affirmative meets the standard. The difficulty with this tactic is that it gives the negative considerable control over the round, since they need to win only one of their competitiveness arguments and they have the option (in rebuttals) of focussing heavily on the argument where the affirmative's responses are weakest. As either a supplement to (or substitute for) direct refutation of competitiveness standards, affirmatives may try to construct alternate "tests of competitiveness". These are ways of looking at the plan/counterplan interface which are independent of the usual competitiveness standards. By far, the most common affirmative strategy is to propose a permutation.

Permutations are arguments in which the affirmative claims that it is possible to achieve both the plan's advantages and the counterplan's advantages by making modest changes to the plan, the counterplan, or both. For example: the affirmative plan bans the building of three tall hydro-electric dams because they will damage the environment. The negative counterplans by building shorter versions of these same dams, and they claim that this will solve for most of the case harms and will avoid triggering a power shortage disadvantage. The affirmative might say: "Permute: build one short dam and ban the other two. This will solve better for the environment harm than the counterplan will and it will provide enough electricity to avoid the disadvantage."

There are many questions, though, concerning the theory of permutations. For example, is the affirmative actually arguing in favor of doing the permutation or are they merely using it as a hypothetical illustration? Does the permutation need to be non-topical? Is it abusive to propose five or six permutations to the same counterplan (as some affirmatives have done)? Are permutations inherently abusive, since almost all counterplans are susceptible to some permutation or another? Do permutations encourage sloppy thinking on the affirmative's part, since they get to sort of rewrite the plan in the middle of the round?

While permutations are a potentially useful tool, they suffer from two weaknesses. First, most competent negatives have blocked arguments contesting the legitimacy of permutations. As soon as the affirmative mentions the term, the negative dumps out objections which they're familiar with defending. Second, many judges are suspicious of permutations, since many affirmatives have misused the strategy.

This does not mean that affirmatives need to abandon permutations. It does imply that you should prepare one of two strategies: one, get really good at defending permutations or, two, defend the idea behind permutations using slightly different language. A number of other tests of competition have emerged which address the same basic questions as a permutation, but which are less familiar to the negatives. One such test is referred to as the "friendly amendment" test, which essentially asks whether the counterplan could be adopted in the form of an amendment to the affirmative plan. If the answer to this question is "yes", then the counterplan would not be competitive with the plan. A second possible test is the "order of adoption" one, which asks whether there is a logical sequence to the adoption of the plan and the counterplan which would allow them to co-exist. For example, conventional theory would declare a taxation counterplan to be competitive with a ban plan (i.e., one cannot tax a banned item); arguably, however, a ban of a major product would be phased-in over a multi-year period during which the counterplan could profitably operate. Hence, a logical order to adoption test would suggest that a judge should affirm both the initiation of the banning process with interim taxation. A third test derives from the legal doctrine called in pari materia. This doctrine applies when two laws are in conflict and it authorizes the judge to try to reconcile the two laws by approaching them as if they were separate clauses of the same act. In attempting to reconcile the two, the judge is authorized to make whatever changes that he or she feels are necessary to allow the two laws to co-exist; the only limit on this power is the requirement that the judge may do nothing to distort the essential operation of the laws. Hence, if minor changes would allow a plan and counterplan to co-exist, then a judge should make that finding and proclaim the counterplan to be non-competitive.

Added Advantages

In running counterplans, negatives may rely on added advantages to provide the margin of victory over the affirmative. An added advantage is a benefit generated by the counterplan (but not by the plan) from planks which are competitive with the plan; that is, a legitimate added advantage must flow from the portion of the counter-proposal which competes with the resolution and not from some non-competitive addition whose only function is to generate advantages (e.g., on an immigration topic, a state-level counterplan would need to claim its added advantage from benefits of state action and not from an additional plank which might institute global disarmament). In a policy-making debate, these additional advantages serve to explain why the negative system is superior and are, therefore, essential; in hypothesis-testing debate, the negative always has presumption so that added advantages are not theoretically necessary to break a dead-lock. Most negatives choose to claim their added advantages either from the different process/agent used (e.g., state-level action would claim some inherent superiority over federal-level action) or from the differences in the action undertaken (e.g., taxation is less tyrannical and more effective than abolition).

Justification Arguments

As mentioned in the sections on judging paradigms and on the resolution, justification arguments flow from the notion that the affirmative is testing the truth of the resolution; as such, the resolution is true only if a team is able to justify the inclusion of each significant term (e.g., if an affirmative could prove only that an action was necessary but not that the actor specified by the resolution should be responsible for the action, then the resolution would not be justified). If this assumption is accepted, then the negative can press the affirmative to justify key terms with the same impact that a policy-making negative would have in running a counterplan; for example, the burdens in answering a federal-level justification argument are largely identical to the burdens of answering a state counterplan.

Affirmatives tend to object to justification arguments by: 1) claiming that the resolution is not the center of debate; 2) that justification arguments are unfair since they require virtually no effort on the negative's part to blurt out a series of challenges; and, 3) it is impossible to justify all words ("the") or to decide which terms require justification.











Debate games are practices which draw upon the nature of debate as a strategic game. Many of these practices make little pretense to educational value or to intellectual development; basically, they are ways to win more often. Since it seems hypocritical either to pretend that these do not exist or to issue pompous, ineffectual denunciations of them, a few words on strategic games will follow, if only as a way to defend against them.




This is the practice of speaking very quickly, so as to advance more arguments than one's opponents can answer (or "cover"). The mass of arguments advanced in a spread speech is sometimes referred to as "the dump," and the practice of speaking quickly (especially when done poorly) is called "spewing." The regrettable tendency of weaker debaters to present many, many weak arguments when they have nothing better to say is called "goo-ing up the round." These terms are important as reminders of the intense dislike you can generate through high speed speaking.

Spreading has both tactical and strategic implications; tactically, it decreases your opponents' ability to advance new arguments of their own (e.g., it stops harried second affirmatives from advancing added advantages to their cases) and, strategically, it gives the spreader more chances to find winning arguments in rebuttals. A good spread is clear, intelligible and constructive (i.e., it does not consist of a hundred minor challenges around only a few major arguments). Delivering a good spread has many requirements: all evidence and argument labels must be pruned to the bare minimum, the debaters must speak no more quickly than they can enunciate, and the debaters must not fumble or add "filler" phrases ("I would argue. . ." or "this is really crucial"). Success with a spread strategy requires a judge willing to listen, and practice before rounds and tournaments so that one's blocks are extremely well-understood and one's mouth is "warmed up".

Responding to a good spread is difficult; it is almost always necessary to speed up and decrease the difference in the two rates of delivery. In order to answer more slowly, one must develop a proficiency at "grouping" arguments, so as to allow one or two of your arguments to serve as replies to ten or twenty of their's. This can be accomplished when many of their arguments proceed from the same assumption or source; your task is to isolate and indict these groundings. Beating a bad spread is easier since judges have little sympathy in a "speed for speed's sake" approach and since a bad spread has many presses and few arguments. The distinction is important: an argument offers reasons (with or without evidence) in defense of a conclusion. Presses, on the other hand, offer only undefended conclusions ("It's a reverse voter!") or thought fragments (for example, "What controls?"). You may argue that presses ("who did the study/what controls were used/how many in sample population/ what's the impact...") do not constitute valid arguments since they do not individually carry an explanation for why they are important. Presses require responses but, once answered, tend not to effect the outcome of the debate. Their key function is to distract and bog down the answering team.

You may also want to argue that excessive speed is a reason to vote against the other team by arguing that the arguments cannot be understood, that the analysis is superficial and that the educational value of debate is undercut by the practice. Most judges are sympathetic and will often follow instructions not to call for unintelligible evidence and not to give weight to any argument which could not be easily understood; more rarely, they will vote against a team on this basis.


Two - Constructive Arguments

Until the early 1980s, most college debaters observed a strict division of responsibility during rounds: first negatives started all topicality and case arguments (including counterplans) and second negatives started all plan arguments. This division originated in the early practice of presenting cases in the first affirmative and plans in the second affirmative. While plans had, by the late 1960s, migrated to the first affirmative speech, negatives took a decade or so to notice. Their response was the proliferation of two-constructive arguments.

This is the practice of running a short but complete argument (called a "shell") in the first negative constructive, allowing the second affirmative to respond and then devoting most or all of the second negative constructive to crushing the responses. The negative contention is that since the argument was logically complete in the first negative (all of the links and impacts were represented), the affirmative may not make new responses in the first affirmative rebuttal. Since the argument would not have received a great deal of time in first negative, the unwary second affirmative might make only five or six responses; the second negative would then have time to make ten responses to each second affirmative response and could "dump" more impact evidence as well. This same strategy is used by negatives who present somewhat-abbreviated counterplans in the first negative constructive and then delegate the second negative to greatly expand upon some (e.g., topicality and competitiveness defenses) or all of it.

There are a number of good strategies for dealing with these arguments. The affirmative, of course, has a great advantage if the negative presents the argument poorly (e.g., too quickly or with poor structure), incompletely (e.g., they legitimize new first affirmative rebuttal answers by running new links or impacts in the second negative) or obnoxiously (many conservative judges seem to dislike this strategy and may be anxious to vote against an unpleasant team). Against a well-run argument, the affirmative needs to:

1. know in advance what is going to happen by querying other affirmatives about the negative's strategy;

2. make adequate numbers of extensions to prevent a second negative from gaining an insuperable advantage;

3. attempt to "turn" the disadvantage - which often puts the second negative on the defensive;

4. have a clear first affirmative rebuttal strategy for concentrating on a few powerful responses rather than trying to match the second negative argument-for argument; and,

5. argue for the right to make new first affirmative rebuttal extensions on the premise that a 10 to 1 quantitative expansion in the second negative constructive is sufficiently radical to represent the creation of a new argument.



This is a particular form of the spread constructive in which the spreader attempts to camouflage one or two key arguments in the midst of another argument or in part of a spread which he or she does not intend to extend. For example, a meet-need argument may contain a topicality challenge as one of its impacts or a miniature disadvantage might be placed in the midst of a case argument. Judges do not generally favor this strategy but may vote for it in light of inadequate refutation. The presenters' hope is that their opponents will misanalyze the argument and respond only to the larger "cover" argument while neglecting the independent component.

If recognized, these arguments are easily beaten since they tend to be underdeveloped, isolated and subject to judicial antipathy. In general, the affirmative should listen to key phrases as a tip-off (e.g., topicality, absolute issue, independent issue, decision-rule, standard for evaluation) to the presence of submerged arguments; they should also highlight these arguments on their flowsheets so as not to lose them during the speech. Particular techniques of extension include a claim for the legitimacy of cross-application of arguments, the use of generic standards and the right of making new extensions if the other team pulls unrelated arguments out of the middle of dumps.



This is the practice of making an extension against one argument in one speech and then trying to apply it to another argument in another speech. For example, a first affirmative rebuttalist may use a given response against a solvency argument (e.g., "Solvency evidence in 1AC disproves the link") but not against a disadvantage which had also been run; the second affirmative rebuttalist might then attempt the apply the argument against the disadvantage as well. This strategy highlights the fine line between an "old" and a "new" argument in rebuttals, since the cross-application does not change the original words of the argument but does change their significance by using them in a different strategic context.

Teams are advised to pre-empt cross-applications by arguing that they are an illegitimate strategy; the reason for this contention is that a virtually unlimited number of cross-applications are possible and each changed application creates a new argument.


Generic Arguments

A generic argument is one whose premises are drawn from the resolution rather than from specific arguments by a particular affirmative; as such, generic arguments tend to apply to most or all affirmative cases without regard to their particular substance. For example, a resolution calling for decreasing the President's power in some area will inevitably call forth a Presidential credibility disadvantage (roughly, Subpoint A: President's credibility is on the brink; Subpoint B: Affirmative embarrasses the President; Subpoint C: Presidential credibility necessary to avoid war) and/or a counterplan to increase the President's power. As such, generic arguments help define negative "ground" in a debate and provide a guarantee that the negative will have something to argue in (almost) every round.

A well-developed generic argument is the product of extensive research and highly-specific application. Since a generic argument might apply in 90% of all debates, a wise negative will devote enough energy and thought to make their top generic arguments into the counterpart of their affirmative case -- heavily researched, extensively briefed-out and continuously updated. And since each affirmative will provide nuances to the resolution, the negative has a special responsibility to adapt their generics to the case at hand. At the very least, this implies a discussion of the relevance of the generic to the case; optimally, it requires causal link evidence between the specific affirmative position and the countervailing generic one.


Conditional and Dispositional Arguments

Conditionality is an attempt to link two independent arguments, such that the outcome of one argument dictates the strategic action taken on the other. For example, an affirmative might claim the right to strike out a plan provision when the negative links a disadvantage to it (plans sometimes contain wording such as: "we will use one or more of the following mechanisms" or "we will act through a combination of...") or the negative might claim the right to make a counterplan disappear when the affirmative proves that the counterplan would be a disaster.

Proponents of conditional argument claim that it better reflects the evolutionary nature of argument in the real world and that it provides for a better examination of the validity of an opponent's position (by allowing the use of a wider variety of arguments). Opponents of conditionality claim that it encourages argumentative irresponsibility (since a debater can no longer be penalized for running an untrue or disadvantageous position), that it is inconsistent with the concept of advocacy in real-world settings, and that it encourages a proliferation of inconsistent arguments with a concomitant increase in the need for a judge to sort-out and discard arguments as different conditions are fulfilled.

Dispositional arguments are a subset of conditional arguments, in which the negative (typically) sets out in advance the conditions under which their counterplan would cease to exist. They might include, for example, the phrase "counterplan is dispositional on topicality and competitiveness." Their intent is to eliminate the counterplan from consideration if it is shown to be either topical or non-competitive. The negative hopes to add to their strategic options this way, since they might have the chance to concede competitiveness in order to eliminate disadvantages to the counterplan. Dispositional arguments are gaining in favor at the college level, mostly because they decrease the extent to which the negative can juggle conditional arguments late in the round.











Adequate research is an essential precondition to successful debating; while you may be able to win some fraction of all of your debates by relying just on your own insights and analysis, a meeting between two otherwise-equal teams will generally be decided by the depth and quality of research that each has. Unfortunately, few debaters obtain any great satisfaction from the act of library research and many view it with the same dismay that football players show for two-mile runs. Rather than trying to convince you that research is fun, I will try to explain how to go about getting the most (quantitatively and qualitatively) from the time that you are willing to commit to research. If you follow these suggestions, you will be on the road to better research and greater success; however, becoming a good researcher requires the same commitment that excellence in any other endeavor requires. In short, if you want to be a good researcher, then you must make a commitment of time and thought on a regular basis.



Analyze Research Needs and Resources

Before you go to the library, you should have a clear idea of what needs to be proved and where you will begin to search for that proof. This requirement is analogous to buying a map and constructing a trip itinerary for a drive from New York to Los Angeles; you could (given enough time and resources) probably find Los Angeles by continually heading west until you reached an ocean and then turning left. This approach would be grossly inefficient, even if you finally arrived in Los Angeles; wandering into a library without a clear research agenda is equally inefficient and frustrating. How can you construct a good research agenda?

1. Decide which arguments need to be researched. This means that you should list new affirmative cases against which you are unprepared, look at your affirmative case's performance to find weak spots that the negative is exploiting and look at newly-emergent arguments which may give you trouble in the future. List all of those areas where more evidence is needed.

2. Prioritize your research list. Of the hundred things that need research, which is the most pressing and which is the least pressing? Since it is unlikely that you will be able to meet all of your research needs in a short time, start with arguments which are going to be needed a lot. For example, you may decide that plan solvency evidence for your affirmative has a higher priority than any negative assignment and that, of all the negative needs, three stand out. Plan to research these first.

3. Analyze the elements of your research list. Your research list will probably be made up of fairly broad needs; e.g., "the President's Central America policy is good" or "court overcrowding is not a serious problem." These are too general to be researched; rather, you will need to list all of the different arguments which support these general claims. With regard to Central America policy, you would list supporting warrants like: U.S. weakness encourages military coups, restraint has failed in the past, a strong U.S. presence encourages democratic government, and so on. You may even need to further sub-divide these arguments, but the essential point is that you must know what your needs are before going to the library.


Accumulate Research Resources

Once you go to the library, you need to locate and duplicate (either by photocopying or hand writing) the articles and portions of books which are relevant to your research. How can you locate the greatest amount of relevant material in the shortest time?

1. Work in shifts. There are many tasks involved in researching (reading indexes, copying down citations, finding articles, copying articles, and so on) and you should do as much as you can in one category before moving on to the next. For instance, you should copy down as many relevant article citations as you can before you go off to locate any and you should locate as many as you can before you copy any. By doing this, you minimize wasted motion and maximize productivity.

2. Use Facts on File and the New York Times Index to focus research. It is often important to know the exact date upon which an event occurred and it is often helpful to understand the basic facts of a problem before trying to research it. If you know the year of the event, you can look in either the Facts on File (a weekly reference service) or the New York Times Index to get the important details that will tell you how best to focus the rest of your research.

3. Become familiar with periodical indexes. Most periodical indexes are now available on CD-ROM, a computerized format. Placing these indexes on CD has not materially altered the strategies for searching them.

Debaters make a grave mistake when they become overly reliant on a single computerized index, such as InfoTrak or the Academic Abstracts. These indexes are seductive because of the speed and ease of their use and the illusion of completeness which they present. None of the computerized indexes is, however, universal: like paper indexes, each covers only a small fraction of the material available on a given question.

Different indexes are published to cover different types of magazines, so that if your research agenda calls looking at (for example) a particular legal doctrine, you need to know both that a Legal Periodicals Index exists and how to use it. Luckily, most of the indexes which you are most likely to need are published by the H.W. Wilson Company and all H.W.W. indexes are organized in the same way. Some of the most useful include:

The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, which indexes 100 general interest magazines (such as Time, Science, Business Week and Newsweek). This is often the only index available in high school and public libraries and it indexes articles by subject and by author.

The Social Sciences Index, which provides author and subject entries from over 300 journals in such fields as environmental sciences, law, political science, psychology and economics. This index gives you access to somewhat more technical articles from publications like the Journal of Legal Studies and the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The Legal Periodicals Index, which indexes about 460 law journals and reviews. These publications are produced by law schools and lawyers' professional associations; while these articles always focus on the law, these journals are very helpful because each article begins with a quick, footnote-laden examination of the nature and scope of the problem being addressed and often end with detailed plans for solving the problem.

The Business Periodicals Index, which covers around 200 business and trade publications. The articles covered by this index are often good for explaining the financial and economic aspects of the various problems that relate to business; the journals indexed range from the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News through Iron Age to the Harvard Business Review.

The Public Affairs Information Service, an amazing index which surveys over 6,000 publications (including government documents, technical journals, newspapers and books) and then selectively indexes only those articles which have a bearing on public affairs. As such, you will find Time, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Law Review, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the U.S. House of Representatives' hearing on Acid Rain all covered in this same index.

Of course, not all indexes are published by the H.W. Wilson Company, so that you may need to experiment a bit in order to learn how to use some of the more obscure resources. At the very least, you should know that many newspapers (including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Times of London and the New Orleans Times-Picayune) are regularly indexed.

Of special interest are the indexes to government publications. Congress frequently holds formal hearings to help it assemble the facts needed to design good laws and executive branch agencies often issue studies on the problems with which they are dealing and on the ways in which they are acting. These publications are indexed in two places: the Congressional Information Service Index (CIS) and the Monthly Index to Government Publications (GPI). The CIS indexes all the hearings held by the Congress and the various reports submitted to or produced by the Congress; to use the CIS, you would look up your subject in the Index volume, which would then refer you (by way of a reference number, like H52-17.2) to an entry in the accompanying Abstracts volume. The Abstracts entry would give you the name and date of the publication, as well as its government publications call number and a short description of its contents. The GPI covers all the publications of the federal government and it is used in about the same way as the CIS. The key differences between the two are that CIS covers only Congressional publications (and not those of the executive agencies like the Department of Defense or Environmental Protection Agency) and the GPI does not provide any description of the contents of its publications. The GPI is also available on CD-ROM.

4. Locate and record relevant descriptor-terms. These are the subject headings used by the various indexes and, since a given article might appear under a variety of possible subject headings, it is most efficient to keep a list of those headings which have consistently helped you to locate useful articles. Also, most indexes provide a list of alternate descriptors to follow; for example, when you check under "Pollution," you will find a long list of related subject headings before any of the articles are listed. You should check these headings as well.

5. Assemble a bibliography. Once you have decided which index to start with and what the relevant subject headings are, you should make a list of all the articles available. Be sure to note the article's title, journal name, exact date and page number; while many debaters try to save time by omitting one or more of these, it generally ends up costing time in the long run because it undercuts your ability to rapidly locate articles and to edit out less important-sounding articles if your time is running short. Save this list, since it will provide a useful reference source as you continue research through the year.

6. Search out your articles or books--and stray, just a bit. You will often "unintentionally" find very good evidence by straying a little bit from your intended course. For example, if you are after a book with the Library of Congress call number TK9023 F67 you should also look at the other books in the immediate vicinity since they will be dealing with the same general subject. This same rule holds true for journal articles--the presence of one highly-useful article in a journal should suggest the possibility of more of the same. So you should flip through other issues of the same journal to see if related articles are available. Beware! Do not go too far afield. Don't get immersed in an article about the Dallas Cowboys or about some aspect of the problem area which cannot possibly be relevant to your assignment. Similarly, do not go wandering off through 10,000 books on a browser's expedition or you will never get your work done.

7. Photocopy. Whenever it is economically and physically possible, make photocopies of the articles you have found. Then, before you do anything else, write the full citation (including the author's qualifications) on the copy. There are many advantages to this approach: you can mark on photocopies whereas writing in library materials is both illegal and immoral, you can take the copies home to reflect upon, you save valuable library time since you avoid the tedious task of hand-writing the evidence, you can share the photocopies with other team members (who may find uses for the article which had not been immediately apparent) and so on. Save these photocopies to form a personal library which can be re-researched periodically. Most good researchers know that (especially early in the year) we all miss quotations which turn out to be extremely helpful. By maintaining a photo-library, you have the opportunity to quickly and easily find these additional quotes whose relevance develops as the season progresses. While many debaters cut-and-tape their photocopies, you should not do this to affirmative articles since their greatest long-run value requires that they be kept whole and available.


Cut the Evidence

Once you have a stack of copied articles or checked-out books, you need to decide what portions of them constitute useful evidence and what portions are irrelevant. One successful process for cutting evidence includes the following steps:

1. Scan the article and then read the conclusion. Scanning lets you get a good "feel" for the value of the article by helping you to rule out hopelessly technical articles or articles which are so poorly written as to be valueless. By reading the conclusion first, you can better understand the end toward which the author is building and can sort out basically negative articles from those supportive of the affirmative. If you laboriously plow through each word of each article, you are likely to quickly become discouraged and are unlikely to produce much useful evidence.

2. Indicate potential evidence with pencilled-in brackets. Writing in library materials can get you into deep trouble; writing in them with permanent ink is unforgivable. Whenever possible, work with photocopies and pencils. By placing brackets (which look at this: [ ]) at the beginning and end of quotations, you indicate where to cut the evidence without wasting time underlining or highlighting. Also, if you change your mind, it is far easier to erase one bracket than ten rows of underlining. For ease of tracking, you might want to pencil-in little stars in the margins next to your evidence.

3. When looking for quotations, continually assess the relevance of what you are reading. You need to develop a split brain, part of which reads the article while the other part continually asks, "What could I use this for?" Trying to find evidence requires imagination. After every few sentences, you must ask a number of questions: "Does this help our affirmative?" "Does this apply to some other case being run?" "Is this a powerful indictment of our affirmative?" "Does this help one of our stock negative arguments?"

It is very hard to prescribe clear rules for what is "good" evidence, since so many variables are involved. Some general factors which tend to make for good evidence include:

- the statement should be recent enough that the phenomenon it describes (the President's attitudes, the rate of inflation, or the number of people in poverty) has not had time to change much;

- the source of the statement should have sufficient expertise to make the statement and should be sufficiently objective that the credibility of the statement is not crippled;

- the statement should be clear and positive, rather than vaguely worded, phrased as a question and/or expressed in very tentative terms; and,

- the statement should be concise enough that you can make your point without wasting valuable time and boring the judge.

There are some common practices in cutting evidence which you must avoid; these involve border-line ethical violations which may cost you rounds and respect lost. Specifically,

- do not quote "straw man" arguments. Authors often explain a series of arguments and then go on to refute them. Do not quote these preliminary arguments, since you will be assigning the authors' credibility to a position which they clearly reject. If, however, the authors footnote the argument to another source, you may want to go back to the original source and quote directly from a proponent of the position.

- do not misattribute "internal quotations." Often one author will quote another during the course of an article. Depending on the writing style, this quotation may only be indicated by the sudden appearance of quote marks and a footnote number while other articles provide long indented quotes from other sources. In these case, you must indicate the original source and date of the quotation and not just the identity of the person doing the quoting.

The general rule of ethics is that you may never cut a quotation in such a way as to alter the author's initial intention; a good test is to ask: "If the authors heard me read this card, would they be upset?"

4. Type the evidence. There is a long-running dispute between coaches who advocate typing or word-processing each card and those who support cutting and taping photocopies (the "slash and burn" method). The arguments in favor of word-processing are: 1) it maximizes your understanding of your files by forcing you to pay close attention to each card as you type it; 2) it makes it easy to revise blocked arguments by simply changing the text file; 3) it allows font enhancements (such as underlining, bold type or larger letters) which make the evidence more readable; 4) it allows the same card to be used on as many different blocks as necessary; and, 5) for teams with Internet access, it allows easy incorporation of downloaded materials and easy uploading of files for transmission to other locations. The arguments in favor of cutting and taping are: 1) it eliminates any question of the debaters modifying the words of the card since the original is there; 2) it encourages debaters to cut longer cards - since they don't need to put in the extra effort to type the extra text - which preserves more of the original context of the quotation; and, 3) it makes it easy to produce huge numbers of cards with little time and effort. Augustana's teams have, recently, tended toward more typing after years of cutting and taping.

The typed card should contain three elements:

- the label. This is a short, descriptive statement written across the top of the piece of evidence to describe its contents and allow it to be quickly differentiated from other, similar evidence. As such, you should avoid labels like "inflation harms" and "status quo" since they give very little idea of the content of the evidence; instead, use a concise argumentative label like "1% inflation = 50,000 unemployed" or "status quo evolving pollution tech."

- the citation. This must always provide enough information to evaluate the qualifications of the source and to re-locate the evidence. This will generally require: the name of the author (except when the author is just a staff writer for the publication, in which case the name of the publication is enough), the author's qualifications, the name of the book or magazine, the exact date and the page number. Many teams also require the initials of the debater who cut the evidence. It is not necessary to include the article's title.

- the quotation. This should be a direct quotation from the article, although some clarifying changes are permitted when they do not materially affect the substance of the quotation. You may, for example, add explanatory material in brackets; an original which reads "they believe this to be so" could be amended to read "they [the Congressional investigators] believe. . ." or, simply, "[the Congressional investigators] believe...." If any information is deleted from the original, the deletion must be signalled by use "..." which are called ellipses. If the original reads "Dr. Johnson, as we mentioned in Chapter Two, believes that," you could amend it to read "Dr. Johnson...believes that.... " These changes are never acceptable when they alter the meaning of the original quotation and the use of internal ellipses is forbidden by the National Forensic League.

A cut and taped card contains the same elements, though changes to such cards (for example, deletions of unwanted words) are more commonly done by use of a Hi-liter . You may choose to highlight only those words which you do not want to read since, on photocopies, the highlighted section becomes more difficult to read. Highlighting unwanted words then preserves the clearest possible text for the words you wish to emphasize.


Prepare for the Second Round of Research

Research is a never-ending cycle in which old and ineffective evidence is continually replaced with newer and more effective quotations. While the second (or third or hundredth) cycle of research follows the same basic pattern as the first, there are some ways of becoming increasingly efficient as a year progresses.

1. Use the footnotes and bibliographies in your original articles. Scholarly articles and books will almost always contain a gold mine of information in the form of footnotes (which tell you where the author found specific proofs) and bibliographies (which contain general references which the author found helpful). Think of it! Every time you find one publication dealing with the subject that you are looking for, you immediately have five or ten or thirty additional citations to information dealing with the same subject.

2. Keep track of good authors. Especially when an author is supportive of your affirmative, it is useful to invest some time to find out what else this person has written; check under the author's name in the card catalog and the various indexes mentioned above.

3. Follow the "tracings" of good books. If you have one particularly good book but are having difficulty in locating other books on the same subject, go to the author entry in the card catalog; at the bottom of this entry should be a list of all of the subject headings under which the book is indexed. By checking those headings, you should be able to find other useful books.

4. Use evidence handbooks as a bibliography. Beyond the general wisdom of always checking on the authenticity of handbook evidence, the handbook can serve the useful function of directing you to articles on your research assignment. And, since few handbooks publish all of the evidence from any given article (as little as a fifth of all the researched evidence reaches print), you will have a very good lead to much more evidence.

Computerized Research

The debate community is poised on the brink of an information revolution which has the potential to make revolutionary changes in the forensic activity. This challenge is posed by the Internet (or, the Net), a system of linkages between personal computers that allows instantaneous access to hundreds of thousands of networked sites. For the purpose of debate, there are two kinds of services available through the Net.

The first service is community-building through electronic mail (e-mail) and discussion lists. E-mail can be sent to single individuals, to specified groups of individuals or to publicly accessible billboards. E-mail is virtually instantaneous and can contain anything from a quickly typed note to a 140-page computerized evidence file. One pioneering venture was Arnie Madsen's Internet case list. Dr. Madsen explains:

A few weeks into the [1993-94 NDT] season, a couple of individuals at other schools requested [my] case list which contained details on the affirmative cases and negative arguments of various schools around the country. This quickly evolved into what became known as the Internet Case List. Participating individuals would send updated information to [me] on a weekly basis ... [I] would "cut and paste" that new information ... into the master case list through use of a word processor. The updated master list would then be sent back to all participating individuals, through use of a distribution list and electronic mail. By the end of the season ... over 20 schools regularly contributed to the list, and the overall case list was over 140 single spaced pages.

Community-building also occurs through discussion lists, which are sort of electronic billboards on which subscribers post their questions, exchange information and engage in lively discussions about debate. Such discussion lists exist for both the NDT and CEDA.

The second service is research, through both proprietary and free services. The most famous proprietary service is Lexis/Nexis, a database containing the complete text of every article in each of several thousand publications (e.g., The New York Times, the Supreme Court Reports and The Washington Quarterly). Using Nexis, you would be able to find every instance in which the terms "immigration reform" and "global nuclear war" occur in the same sentence; you could then read and record each of those articles (a process called "downloading"). Such services are open only to subscribing institutions, who pay a fee for this access. Lexis/Nexis has been zealous in pursuing abusers of their system (debaters who, for example, sign in using a law student's account) and at least one high school debate program has been terminated when Nexis presented a multi-thousand-dollar bill to a surprised school district.

Fortunately, an ocean of free information also exists on the Internet. These include both the text of conventionally published sources (such as Time), the text of journals which exist only on the Internet (such as Cross-currents), and the contents of discussion groups on thousands of subjects (from current events in Russia to the history of Vienna since 1500).

Madsen and others have pointed out that such sources pose to challenges to the debate community:

1. the question of access and locate-ability become paramount; Internetted evidence needs to contain adequate information to allow other teams to track through the electronic jungle to find it. Just indicating "Internet" as a place of publication would be meaningless; "Usenet;news.russia.current" would give enough information to find the quotation.

2. the question of source qualifications becomes increasingly important. Because the Internet is accessible - without censorship or screening - by tens of millions of people, it is possible to find statements from individuals whose qualifications run from absolute zero to unimpeachable. Debaters will need to be trained to distinguish between the ravings of individuals who may or may not be able to claim institutional affiliations (for example, "I work at NASA") from the statements of people with demonstrable expertise.

Because the Internet increases the number of readily available sources from a few hundred on-going publications to hundreds of thousands of "postings," any debater or coach with Internet access needs to carefully consider the ethical and pedagogical consequences of their actions.


Cross-examination refers to the three minute period of questions and answers which follow each constructive speech. Virtually every textbook on debate offers the same suggestions for effective cross-examination: pursue a short series of questions on the same subject, do not ask a question unless you can afford to hear the answer, abandon unproductive lines of questioning, think before you speak, be willing to admit when you do not know the answer to a question, use those answers in your speeches and so on. Rather than reproduce those lists, I will make two sorts of observations: the first concerns the distinctive types of cross-examinations and the second concerns the psychology of cross-examination.


Types of Cross-examinations

The questions asked in cross-examinations fall into three broad categories:

Informational questions, which predominate at the novice level of debate, often seek to correct deficiencies in flowing and lapses in attention. They are, as such, connected only indirectly to the arguments being advanced. Examples of such questions are: what was your third answer to the observation? and, how much did you say the plan would cost?

Tactical questions, which predominate at the junior varsity level, focus attention on the weakest arguments in the preceding speech. They reflect a dawning consciousness about the usefulness of cross-ex and an awareness of weaknesses in an opponent's claims. Such questioning is often typified by extended and aggressive attacks. The weakness of tactical cross-examination is that it focuses on the most flawed arguments presented, which are often the arguments which require the least time and attention. Example of such questions are: isn't it true that your 1984 link evidence assumes the Soviet Union still exists? or, isn't it true that your link evidence specifies federal regulation which isn't in the plan?

Strategic questions, which are most common in the best varsity cross-examinations, focus attention on the most important arguments (the so-called "voters") from the preceding speech. Strategic questioning requires considerable maturity on the part of the questioners, since they can ask strategic questions only if they have some vision of which issues will ultimately decide the round. Strategic questioning focuses on those issues which, in all probability, were the strongest in the preceding constructive. The function of strategic cross-examination is, either directly or indirectly, to weaken the other team's potential voting issues.

Effective cross-examinations can use all three question types. Very sophisticated cross-examinations can, for example, use simple informational questions to calm and disarm an opponent and use tactical questions to distract the answerer from the significance of the strategic questions. Nonetheless, strategic questions lie at the heart of the most productive questioning.


The Psychology of Cross-examination

Good cross-examinations can serve your interests in two ways. The most obvious way is by their answers: cross-ex allows you to elicit damaging admissions which you can incorporate into your own arguments. A second, less well-understood way is by your questions: cross-ex presents an unparalleled opportunity for you to signal your dominance of the debate to the judge.

Warning! This is not an argument in favor of being a know-it-all abrasive twit in cross-ex. This is an argument in favor of the opposite of that. Please read carefully.

Here's the argument: a number of factors conspire to make most varsity debates exceedingly close. These include a coach's ability to choose the appropriate tournaments and divisions for a given team, the number and complexity of arguments in a round and a tournament director's ability to power-pair debates (that is, to have teams with roughly equal records compete against each other). At the end of many debates, the judges could justify voting for either team; this is illustrated by the number of "split" decisions rendered by judging panels during elimination debates. Many judges render their decisions abductively. This term is borrowed from the philosopher C.S. Peirce, who used it to describe a reasoning process that was not a linearly rational as we like to pretend it to be. In the debate context, judges decide based on their overall or holistic sense of who won and then they go back to search for the arguments which legitimate their conclusion. This is not to say that judges aren't listening to the arguments. It does say that judges build interim conclusions or impressions or presumptions as they listen to the debate and that these feelings carry considerable weight in the decision.

This observation is germane to cross-ex, because the cross-examinations provide an excellent opportunity to shape the judge's impressions of the round. Unlike speeches, cross-examinations proceed at a leisurely rate and are built on the analytic ability of the debaters, rather than on the extensiveness of their files. Debaters who are able to control effectively the pace and direction of cross-ex markedly increase their chances for victory.

This observation can be translated into a series of specific behaviors:

1. Act professionally during cross-ex. These are behaviors designed to let that judge know that you are calm, experienced, and unruffled. Stand, rather than sit. Give your full attention to the cross-ex, rather than rummaging through files or writing responses. Know, and use, your opponents' names. Never offer negative value judgments about your opponents' arguments (e.g., avoid phrases such as "your so-called links"). Use all of your time.

2. Remember that it's a game. If you lose sight of this simple fact, you're apt to take things far too seriously. You'll get nervous and anxious. You'll find it difficult to keep the big picture in mind. You won't enjoy yourself and you will, as a result, become prone to making mistakes. The most effective debaters are those who develop a sense of comic perspective: they can perceive the basic silliness of some of the things they're forced to say and they can still laugh at themselves. These are the sorts of debaters whom judges want to vote for.

3. Prepare your opponents. These are ways of calming or disarming your opponent. They begin with the premise that people who feel threatened, no matter how inexperienced they are in debate, will be able to effectively stonewall during cross-ex. At best, you will win some small psychological edge during such an exchange. At worst, you'll convince both the judge and the other team that you're a detestable bully. To increase the productivity of cross-ex, be nice. During cross-ex, note what they've done well. Smile. Refer to them by name. Start with simple, informational questions. Compliment them on clear answers.

4. Signal intellectual dominance. These are behaviors designed to give the judge confidence in the fact that you are better informed on the issues and more reflective than are your opponents'. Achieving this end requires that you to read widely and thoughtfully; the objective of cross-ex is to signal your understanding, not to fake it. Preface your questions with short, declarative statements which reflect your ability to grasp the big picture (e.g., "If, hypothetically, we granted your disadvantage, the impact evidence from Evans in '94 says we'd get 'instability.' What examples of instability does Evans discuss in that article?"). Ask about word choices and distinctions (e.g., "Your impact label refers to 'global economic collapse,' but your actual evidence refers to a much less severe outcome, 'instability.' Could you point to a place where your source supports your more apocalyptic claims?"). Let them know that you've read their sources ("You read the Evans 'instability' card to support a global economic collapse. But doesn't this passage, in the original article, occur in the context of a discussion of a single sector of the economy?"). Ask about assumptions ("You read the Evans evidence on instability, which is okay. But isn't Evans, in the original, referring to what would have happened in '94 if the steel price decline of the late '80s had continued?"). Ask about other works ("You quote the Evans steel industry essay, which was published in early '94. But, if I understand correctly his summer '94 article on the state of the economy, he admits that he had underestimated the strength of the recovery. Given that, how do you justify reliance on the earlier source?). If you disagree with the factual basis of an answer, make the source of your disagreement clear ("You've just said that Evans is applicable to the whole global economy. But isn't the data he uses is exclusively from the Commerce Department's report on the domestic steel industry?").

5. Avoid self-inflicted injuries. It's easy to become frustrated by opponents who are either actively obstructionist in cross-ex or merely too nervous to make an intelligible response. It is essential to avoid being drawn down to the level of your opponent. If an opponent becomes rude or aggressive, it's okay to ask gently about the rudeness ("That seems like an awfully nasty answer. Is there a reason you're upset?") but do not become rude in response. If an opponent is evasive on a subject, it's better to move on to an entirely different line of questioning rather than to make cheap editorials ("Well, it's obvious that you're unwilling to answer my questions, so let's move on.") or continuing on a subject where your opponents will never give you the answer you seek. If an opponent surprises you with either a question or an answer, it's better to make a neutral comment ("That's interesting.") rather than to signal your shock and panic by becoming evasive or aggressive. You should realize that judges are as sensitive to rudeness or evasion as you are; you don't need to make a big deal about it and you certainly don't need to resort to it. Leave the cross-ex with your dignity and sense of humor intact.

Flow Sheeting

Flow sheeting refers to the skill of taking accurate notes during a debate. These records serve two functions: first, they allow you to construct effective speeches during a debate and, second, they allow you to reconstruct those speeches after the debate. This second function is essential if you want to avoid repeating your mistakes. You can't improve quickly if you pursue a style of flowing which merely allows you to get through a round but which doesn't help you to dissect arguments later and to generate new response strategies.

In order to understand how to flow well, you need to consider why you flow poorly. There seem to be three recurrent problems: 1) you don't know what to write down, 2) you're flustered, and/or 3) you take too long to write your answers. The different problems call for slightly different responses.

If you don't know what to write: remember the functions of flowing and write down the stuff which helps you give a good speech and reconstruct the round during subsequent strategy sessions. Generally:

1. Write down everything which follows a letter or a number - those are generally the most important.

2. Prioritize - get the argument label first; that will allow you to look a lot better during your speech and will allow you to use prep time more efficiently. After that, get the substance of the quotation even if it's only a few key words. Finally, get the name & date.

3. Use cross-ex to complete your flow - if the responses are from a written block, ask to borrow the block to fill in your flow. You can ask informational questions during cross-ex ("what was your third response"), though this is a relatively inefficient strategy. If your local judges permit it, you can use prep time to confer with your opponents and complete your flow.

A second, common cause is being flustered: you don't know what the other team is saying or you don't know how you're going to respond. As a result, your brain melts down.

1. Spend more time speculating strategically before the tournament. The ideal is to be able to anticipate all possible contingencies, talk them through with your colleagues, and plan strategies to respond to them. This differs from the too-common practice of working on your own arguments in a vacuum, where you keep accumulating more evidence about your arguments without worrying about what strategies your opponents might try in response to you.

2. Discipline yourself to keep flowing. Don't try to think up answers immediately to new arguments. Clear your mind and work on flowing the argument exactly, which is the key to understanding it.

A final cause is the inability to write quickly enough: debaters either write far too much or they take time searching for appropriate abbreviations.

1. Practice - take flows of classroom lectures, of news broadcasts, of colleagues reading blocked arguments, of elimination and practice rounds.

2. Develop a set of standard flowing abbreviations and symbols. There are five types of terms you need:

- for common debate terms, such as solvency (S), million (M), impact (I) or uniqueness (U).

- for relations between objects, such as causes ( ), increases ( ), changes (_), checks or controls (_), doesn't lead to ( ), therefore (\ ), or decreases ( ).

- for topic-specific terms, such as Eastern Europe (EE) or immigration (IM).

- for source qualifications, such as professor (pf) of political science (PS) at Harvard (Hvd).

- for developments in the round, such as challenged evidence ( ) and dropped ( ) or grouped (}) arguments.

Choose whatever abbreviations or symbols meet these criteria: they make sense to you, they make sense to your partner (who might need to read them), they are short, and they easy to remember.

3. Pre-flow as much as possible. If there's a set of arguments which you make every round, they should be briefed. And, if they're briefed, you should pre-flow the arguments onto a Post-it note (and attach the Post-it to the brief). Then, when you go to present the argument, you merely attach the Post-it note to your flow in the right spot rather than writing out the answers. When the round is over, re-attach the pre-flow to the brief.



Bahm, Kenneth. "The Impractical Characterization of Intrinsic Justification." Argumentation and Advocacy 30 (Summer 1993): 43-49.

Branham, Robert. "The Counterplan as Disadvantage." Speaker and Gavel (Summer 1979): 61-66.

Corsi, Jerome. "Zarefsky's Theory of Debate as Hypothesis Testing: A Critical Re-Examination." JAFA 19 (Winter 1983): 158-170.

Dempsey, Richard and David Hartmann. "Mirror State Counterplans: Illegitimate, Topical or Magical?" JAFA 21 (Winter 1985): 161-166.

Edwards, Richard. "In Defense of Utopia." JAFA 24 (Fall 1987): 112-118.

Frankena, William. Ethics. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1973. This is a very broad and readable account on the different ethical systems under which arguments might be assessed.

Goodnight, Thomas, et al. "The Problem of Inherency: Strategy and Substance." JAFA 10 (Spring 1974): 229-240.

Hample, Dale. "What is a Good Argument?" Dimensions of Argument: The Second Summer Conference on Argumentation, Ziegelmueller and Rhodes, eds., 1981, 875-893.

Herbeck, Dale. "A Permutation Standard of Competitiveness." JAFA 22 (Summer 1985): 12-19.

Herbeck, Dale and John Katsulas. "The Affirmative Topicality Burden: Any Reasonable Example of the Resolution." JAFA 21 (Winter 1985): 133-145.


Hollihan, Thomas, et al. "Debaters as Storytellers: The Narrative Perspective in Academic Debate." JAFA 23 (Spring 1987): 184-193.

Katsulas, John, et al. "Fiating Utopia: A Negative View of the Emergence of World Order Counterplans and Futures Gaming in Policy Debate." JAFA 24 (Fall 1987): 95-111.

Leeman, Richard and Bill Hill. "The Impracticality of Intrinsic Justification." Argumentation and Advocacy 30 (Summer 1993): 50-57.

Lichtman, Allan. "Competing Models of the Debate Process." JAFA 22 (Winter 1986): 147-151.

Lichtman, Allan and Daniel Rohrer. "The Logic of Policy Dispute." JAFA 16 (Spring 1980): 236-247.

Madsen, Arnie. "Surfing the Net: Applications of Computer Networks to Competitive Forensics." Eastern Communication Association Convention. Washington, DC, April 1994. Dr. Madsen discusses how to access dozens of resources through the Internet. Copies of this paper are available by writing him at Communication Studies Department, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0357.

Madsen, Arnie and Richard Dempsey. "Variability in Debate Theory." National Forensic League Journal 4 (1994): 13-24.

Madsen, Arnie and Allan Louden. "Jurisdiction and the Evaluation of Topicality." JAFA 24 (Fall 1987): 73-83.

Maneli, Mieczyslaw. Juridical Positivism and Human Rights. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1981. Chapter 7, "The New Theory of Argumentation and American Jurisprudence," discusses Perelman and the rationality/reasonability dichotomy.

Panetta, Edward and Steven Dolley. "The Topical Counterplan: A Competitive Policy Alternative." JAFA 25 (Winter 1989): 165-177.

Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct. New York: Morrow, 1994. An essay by Pinker, "The Game of the Name," appeared on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, April 5 1994.

Rescher, Nicholas. Risk: A Philosophical Introduction to the Theory of Risk Evaluation and Management. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1983.

Rhodes, Jack and Michael Pfau. "Resolution or Example: A Reply to Herbeck and Katsulas." JAFA 21 (Winter 1985): 146-149.

Rowland, Robert. "The Debate Judge as Debate Judge: A Functional Paradigm for Evaluating Debates." JAFA 20 (Spring 1984): 183-193.

Rowland, Robert. "On Argument Evaluation." JAFA 21 (Winter 1985): 123-132.

Solt, Roger. "Negative Fiat: Resolving the Ambiguities of 'Should'." Argumentation and Advocacy 25 (1989): 121-139.

"Statutes." American Jurisprudence, 2d ed., 1974. This legal encyclopedia explains the ways in which judges interpret words and phrases in a law; it can provide useful insights into the meaning of resolutions.

Ulrich, Walter. "An ad Hominem Examination of Hypothesis Testing as a Paradigm for the Evaluation of Argument." JAFA 21 (Summer 1984): 1-8.

Unger, James J. "Counterplans: Theory and Practice." Rostrum 68 (December 1993): 5-9.

Zarefsky, David. "Reflections on Hypothesis Testing in Response to Ulrich." JAFA 21 (Summer 1984): 9-13.

Ziegelmueller, George, et al. Argumentation: Inquiry and Advocacy. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1990.


Augustana is an independent, residential liberal arts college located on 115 wooded acres in Rock Island, Illinois, 165 miles west of Chicago. Augustana is among the better private colleges in the nation.  The Comparative Guide to American Colleges rates us "highly selective plus." Augustana was one of Edward Fiske's original "best buys in college education" and we are profiled in Barron's Best Buys in College Education (as a "fine academic program, reasonable price and a diverse social setting"), in Peterson's Competitive Colleges: Top Colleges for Top Students 1993-94 and in Pope's Looking Beyond the Ivy League (which covers good schools without "big names"). The latest Cass & Birnbaum described our preprofessional programs as "outstanding." A federal report identified us as the leading college in Illinois (and one of the top fifty in America) in the percentage of its graduates earning Ph.D. degrees.


About Augustana Debate: Augustana's debate program is one of the oldest and most successful in the history of intercollegiate debate. Only five out of the 390 colleges and universities have qualified more teams to Nationals. Augustana has won over 1000 debates in the last decade and has reached the final round of forty tournaments. Augustana is committed to making debate accessible to all students and has a tradition of helping students, regardless of their backgrounds, achieve excellence. Augustana teams qualifying to the N.D.T. have included debaters with no high school debate experience, as well as students who finished in the top ten at the N.F.L. national championships. The Augustana squad is typically comprised of 10 - 15 debaters from around the nation competing at all levels. Debate scholarships of up to $2,000 per year are available. For information, contact the Office of Admissions, 800-798-8100.


About the author: David Snowball is Director of Debate at Augustana College and has been coaching intercollegiate debate since 1978. He received his doctorate from the University of Massachusetts and is the author of a variety of published works in the field of rhetoric and public address.