Lincoln Douglas Debate

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Lincoln Douglas Debate
What is LD Debate?
Based on the seven debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858, high school Lincoln
Douglas (LD) involves the philosophical analysis and debate of a resolution that has no definite answer. Two
debaters argue in opposition to each other in a round, with one representing the affirmative side and the other
representing the negative side. The affirmative must prove the resolution true; the negative must simply prevent
the affirmative from achieving this goal. Most debate events recognize two levels of competitors: Junior Varsity
and Varsity, while some tournaments include a Novice division.
Debate Structure
In standard LD debate structure, each side presents two kinds of speeches. The first is the constructive speech,
where each side will present a prepared speech arguing for or against the resolution. The second is the rebuttal
speech, used to refute arguments made by the other side and to make a final attempt to gain the judge's vote. Note,
however, that because the negative is trying to disprove the affirmative's position, the negative's constructive
speech will ordinarily contain elements of rebuttal as well. Additionally, each debater has one opportunity to ask
direct questions of the other in the cross-examination period. The only binding rules are the time limits placed on
the debaters for each speech they make. The commonly accepted time structure is as follows:
1. Affirmative Constructive (AC)- 6 minutes
2. Cross Examination of Affimative by Negative- 3 minutes
3. Negative Constructive with 1st Negative Rebuttal (NC)- 7 minutes
4. Cross Examination of Negative by Affirmative- 3 minutes
5. 1st Affirmative Rebuttal- 4 minutes
6. 2nd Negative Rebuttal- 6 minutes
7. 2nd Affirmative Rebuttal- 3 minutes
Constructive Speeches
In the first two speeches debaters present cases, or pre-written defenses of or attacks against the resolution. The
affirmative debater spends the entire six minutes presenting the constructive since the negative has not yet spoken.
The negative's constructive will be in the first speech as well, and usually take between two-and-a-half and threeand-a-half minutes. The rest of the first negative speech will contain rebuttal arguments that respond to the
affirmative's case. Although there are no set rules about how a debater must present his or her case, most debaters
use a generic structure to ensure they present their arguments in the clearest way possible. This structure includes:
o Definitions- Explanations of key terms that the debater feels will be important in his or her advocacy of
the resolution.
o Framework- A collection of observations and resolutional analysis, given near the beginning of a
constructive speech, which narrows the debate and possibly frames the resolution in a manner that
improves the debater's chances of winning.
o Standards- Concepts or rules used to evaluate the round.
o Value- A moral premise that represents the most important goal for the round. Values are usually
nebulous and somewhat vague; for example democracy, liberty, justice, and societal welfare generally
make good values, depending on the resolution.
o Criterion- A conceptual mechanism presented by the debater to achieve and uphold the value. For
example, supposing the value of liberty successfully upholds the side of a particular resolution, an
appropriate criterion could be free speech, so long as the debater argues that that is the most important
aspect of liberty and that possessing it will allow society to criticize government thereby maintaining
other types of liberty.
o Contentions- The actual arguments of the case, which usually contain both evidence and inductive
reasoning to prove the point. Each contention begins with a short tagline summarizing the argument
(called a claim), followed by logical and evidence based justification (the warrant), as well as the effect of
achieving these standards (the impact).
Cross- Examination and Rebuttal
Following each debater's constructive speech, the opponent is given a three-minute period to ask questions
regarding the constructive that was just given. Any questions may be asked, and debaters are encouraged to use
the time to clarify any confusing points made by their opponent as well as ask specific questions that weaken the
other debater’s standing.
The rebuttal speeches are the speeches in the latter half of the debate. In this portion, most debaters focus on
attacking their opponents' arguments and defending their own in a way that will cement a victory in the round.
Toward the end of the final speech, the debaters will reduce their arguments to a few core voting issues that they
want the judge to focus on when deciding the winner (this process is known as "crystallizing").
Past Resolutions
o Resolved: The abuse of illegal drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal
justice.
o Resolved: Economic Sanctions ought not be used to achieve foreign policy objectives.
o Resolved: In the United States, the principle of jury nullification is just a check on government.
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