HKSSDC Debating Handbook (updated Sep 2013)

HKSSDC Debating Handbook
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(updated Sep 2013)
If your team is affirmative, you’ll need to host the debate so you will need:
a room in a quiet area of school along with a chairperson, a timekeeper, an
audience, an adjudicator, a timer, a bell and 10 bottles of water.
You’ll also need to set up the room as shown below. If you’d like to use the
Powerpoint board slides, make sure your timekeeper can use the computer to fill in
the speaker’s time right after each speaker’s delivery.
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1. The chairperson should ensure that the room is correctly arranged for the
debate and that the stopwatch, bell, and water bottles are provided.
2. The Chairperson should bring the team and Adjudicator to the room, record their
names and show them to their seats.
3. Before the debate begins, the Chairperson introduces the teams to the audience
and explains the format of the debate following the “Chairperson’s Form.”
4. After each speech, the Chairperson should wait for a signal from the Adjudicator
indicating that he or she is ready to continue, before introducing the next
5. At the conclusion of the debate, the chairperson should wait until the Adjudicator
is ready, then invite the Adjudicator to deliver the adjudication. After the
adjudication, the Chairperson should close the debate.
6. The chairperson must ensure that there is silence before each speaker is
introduced and that noise is kept to a minimum for the duration of the debate.
Since the Chairperson is responsible for keeping order during the debate, a
confident, reliable student should be selected.
the timekeeper’s duties are:
to time each speaker accurately
ring the bell clearly at the correct time
record the total time taken by each speaker and put this time on the board
slide right after each speaker has spoken.
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CHAIRPERSON’S FORM for a 3 min 15 sec debate.
I welcome you to the _____ round of the ______________ Hong Kong Secondary Schools
Debating Competition.
This debate is between _____________ School and _______________ School.
The Affirmative team, from ___________ School is:
1st Speaker
2nd Speaker
3rd Speaker
Team Advisor
The Negative team, from _______________ School is:
1st Speaker
2nd Speaker
3rd Speaker
Team Advisor
The Adjudicator for this debate is _________________________
Each speaker may speak for 3 minutes. There will be a warning bell at 2 min 30 sec with two
bells at 3 min to indicate that the speaker’s time has expired. A bell will be rung three times if a
speaker exceeds the maximum time by more than 15 seconds, at which point the speaker must
The motion for this debate is
THAT ___________________________________________
The 1st Affirmative Speaker,
_____________________ will begin the debate.
The 1st Negative Speaker,
_____________________ will begin their case.
The 2nd Affirmative Speaker,
____________________ will continue their case..
The 2nd Negative Speaker,
_____________________ will begin the debate.
The 3rd Affirmative Speaker,
_____________________ will conclude their case.
The 3rd Negative Speaker,
_____________________ will conclude the debate.
The Adjudicator, ________ will now deliver the adjudication and announce the result of this
Members of teams shake hands and photos are taken.
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CHAIRPERSON’S FORM for a 4 min 15 sec debate.
I welcome you to the _____ round of the ______________ Hong Kong Secondary Schools
Debating Competition.
This debate is between _____________ School and _______________ School.
The Affirmative team, from ___________ School is:
1st Speaker
2nd Speaker
3rd Speaker
Team Advisor
The Negative team, from _______________ School is:
1st Speaker
2nd Speaker
3rd Speaker
Team Advisor
The Adjudicator for this debate is _________________________
Each speaker may speak for 4 minutes. There will be a warning bell at 3 min 30 sec with two
bells at 4 min to indicate that the speaker’s time has expired. A bell will be rung three times if a
speaker exceeds the maximum time by more than 15 seconds, at which point the speaker must
The motion for this debate is
THAT ___________________________________________
The 1st Affirmative Speaker,
_____________________ will begin the debate.
The 1st Negative Speaker,
_____________________ will begin their case.
The 2nd Affirmative Speaker,
____________________ will continue their case..
The 2nd Negative Speaker,
_____________________ will begin the debate.
The 3rd Affirmative Speaker,
_____________________ will conclude their case.
The 3rd Negative Speaker,
_____________________ will conclude the debate.
The Adjudicator, ________ will now deliver the adjudication and announce the result of this
Members of teams shake hands and photos are taken.
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Conflict or Initiative Debating is the style used in all competitions organized by HKSS Debating
and is a common style for other competitions.
The essence of debating is effective communication and conflict of ideas and arguments. These
elements are judged in three categories:
40 marks
40 marks
20 marks
100 marks per speaker
The two teams are called the AFFIRMATIVE and the NEGATIVE.
The Affirmative team supports the subject with factual arguments and examples. The Negative
team must disprove the Affirmative team’s argument and present a valid case to disprove the
Both teams must prove their own argument (line) and disprove the argument presented by the
opposing team.
The First Affirmative is the only speaker who enters the debate with a fully prepared speech. All
succeeding speakers must first disprove the opposing team’s case with rebuttals before further
developing their own team’s case. Persistent conflict is vital to effective debating. It is through
refutation at the beginning of a speech that this conflict is created and the initiative of the debate
is captured.
Conflict is crucial to debating. It is what distinguishes debating from six public speeches on the
same subject.
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Matter refers to what is said in the debate. It counts for 40 marks of each speaker’s possible 100
marks. Matter incorporates:
the Definition and its justification
the statement and explanation of the team’s line of argument (Team Line ) and Allocation
factual examples closely linked in support of the line of argument
rebuttal of the opposing team’s case
The interpretation of the subject, the Definition, must be carefully considered and linked to the
team’s line. As First Speaker in the debate, the First Affirmative has a special responsibility to
present a clear Definition. Though the Affirmative does not have the right to insist (assert) that
their Definition is accepted and is correct just because they are the Affirmative, they do have the
first opportunity to define the subject. They should not throw away this opportunity by defining
A very general, broad definition by an Affirmative team may leave the initiative for the Negative to
seize. A very specialized, narrow definition may leave a team with an impossible case to argue.
The reasons behind the team’s interpretation of the subject or choice of definition must be
explained i.e. it must be justified. Teams should not rely totally on a definition taken straight from
a dictionary. Claiming that a definition is infallible and cannot be challenged because it appears
in the Oxford Dictionary is not acceptable. The dictionary may be used to find the meanings of
unfamiliar words but the subject should be defined in words that are readily understood by the
audience and the adjudicator. Examples of words or phrases from the subject as they are used
in everyday speech may help in justifying the Definition and establishing its meaning.
Look for phrases in the subject and define them as a whole. Splitting phrases into individual
words is not always necessary and often leads to an over-complicated or literal definition. Look
for key-words and phrases, point them out and show their significance in the subject. Beware of
placing too much emphasis on words such as “the” or “a” in the subject.
General subjects should not be defined too literally. For example, in the subject, “that a bird in
the hand is worth two in the bush”, teams should not adopt the approach of defining a “bird” as a
small, feathered, flying creature. To find a real meaning for metaphorical subjects, a word-byword definition is unworkable and a general interpretation of the whole statement is required.
With the same subject, the interpretation could be, that something you possess (“a bird in the
hand”) is of more value (“worth”) than what you have not yet achieved (“in the bush”).
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MATTER (cont’d)
Affirmative teams should aim to define a subject correctly and reasonably rather than in a way
calculated deliberately to give them an unfair advantage. An unusual Definition which is
deliberately chosen to try to surprise the opposing team may work against an inexperienced
team. However, if the opposing team successfully attacks this Definition, it could leave the
Affirmative team in a difficult or impossible position.
If the teams disagree about the meaning of a subject as a whole or words within, they should use
the “Even If” technique (explained later) and not simply re-assert their own Definition.
In defining a subject, room must be left for argument. A truism is an irrefutable fact or a
statement trusted by definition. A truism therefore cannot provide an issue for debate.
The Team Line is the basis of an argument. It is a statement that sets up a team’s affirmative or
negative stance by offering, in a general way, the reason for the stance. It is the thing which
structures the team’s ideas and examples into an argument. Once a team has decided how to
interpret the subject, it can ask why the subject is true (Affirmative) or false (Negative) – the
answer is the Team Line.
The Team Line is a simple and straightforward sentence which all members of the team must
support, so that it becomes the keystone of each speech. It will thus give a sense of focus and
uniformity to the three speeches, as well as causing a conscious awareness of any form of
Special care should be taken to ensure that the Team Line is not a simple restatement of the
Definition. It must always offer a reason explaining why the subject is true or false.
In formulating a Team Line, a team should be conscious of the need to isolate an issue that they
will argue about in the course of the debate. The Issue is used to provide focus for single words
such as “responsibility” or “censorship” or in opposed teams, for example “imagination versus
practicality” in the debate “That heads are better than hands.”
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MATTER (cont’d)
TEAM LINE (cont’d)
As the team Line is an answer to the question “Why? / Why not?” about the subject, it should be
a single sentence that will in itself, in a very general sense, prove / disprove the subject. It
should be substantiated by relevant, appropriate and concrete examples that are always related
to and consistent with the line. After a speaker has presented a series of examples, the
reiteration of the Team Line should seem logical, as if making sense of and unifying the ideas
and material presented. Repetition of the Team Line in each speaker’s summary is advisable as
it gives both perspective and a sense of coherence and unit.
The most common variation to the Team Line occurs in the more senior levels when experienced
teams may use a line that is structured in a more complicated way. Typical of this is the Team
line that offers more than one reason, usually taking the form of a “two-pronged” attack. Such a
device requires a great deal of competence in execution and while it can prove very effective,
care must be taken to support both “prongs” equally and consistently.
The Allocation or Team Division is an important structural device. While the Team Line serves to
provide the framework for the entire team case, the Allocation provides a framework for the
team’s Matter. The statement of Allocation is needed to divide the Matter to be presented
between first and second speakers. By outlining the framework of the team’s Matter, its
relevance is given even before it is introduced and its place in the overriding development of the
case is identified. Allocation is therefore both a tool of team consistency and case development.
The Allocation must come in the First Speaker’s speech so as to explain what is to follow and
should occur after the Team Line has been explained and before the Matter is developed. It is a
general classification of Matter, not a list of the examples to be discussed by each speaker and
not an outline of the roles of the speakers.
It is inappropriate to allocate to third speakers and to state that they will “sum up our case and
refute the arguments presented by our opponents”. This is a description of the third speaker’s
role in the debate, not the matter to be presented in their speech.
The Allocation should outline the general areas to be discussed by the first two speakers and
show the direction in which the case will develop. It should neither be too specific nor so general
and clichéd that it is almost meaningless and can be applied to every debate. Some of the
popular approaches to Allocation are:
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MATTER (cont’d)
Hong Kong / Asia / The World
Individual / Society
Historical / Modern
Political & Economic / Social & Moral (or any combination of these)
While these divisions satisfy the requirements of an allocation, they are fairly arbitrary and
Matter should be carefully divided between first and second speakers ensuring that both
speakers have their share of strong examples and that these are organized carefully within the
individual speeches. It is wise to present the Allocation in order of speakers, allocating to first
and then to the second.
For the motion “That this is the age of lapsed responsibilities”, when outlining the case, the First
Speaker describes the nature of responsibilities and explains that “in today’s society there are
two types of responsibilities, those that we accept voluntarily and those that are forced upon us
by society”. This break up of the types of responsibilities provides an excellent basis on which to
divide the case:
1st Speaker – Voluntary Responsibilities
2nd Speaker – Enforced Responsibilities
For the motion “That the USA is an Evil Empire”, the First Speaker explains that to assess the
evil nature of the US Empire, the team will examine how the USA interferes in and adversely
affects the politics and way of life in countries throughout the world. This takes two forms, one is
covert and the other is overt, and this division will form the basis of the team’s allocation of
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MATTER (cont’d)
Debaters should always aim their rebuttal at the argument, not at the speaker. When rebutting,
speakers should refer to the point expressed by the opposing team and then give the reasons
that make it questionable, in a clear, logical way. Rebuttal of isolated examples presented by the
opposing team will do little to destroy their case. Teams should always attack the line of
argument of the opposition and then their examples in their order of importance. Third speakers
may classify the opposing team’s examples into categories (e.g. politics, sport, environment) to
organize their rebuttal.
Speakers should be wary of attacking “red herrings”, that is points that are only marginally
relevant to the debate.
Pedantry will not score marks. That is, it is not advisable to spend a great deal of time correcting
factual errors, unless the error is a material one, that is, goes to the real issue.
As well as rebutting what the opposing team has said, speakers should listen carefully for a
change in their opposition’s definition, shifts in their line of argument and any other contradictions
or inconsistencies between their speakers. Be ready to point out assertions presented by the
opposing team which are unsupported by facts or rest upon generalizations or contain flaws in
Total proof is not required. The Affirmative is required to show that a subject is “generally true”
i.e. true in a significant number of cases. The Negative is required to show that the subject is
“generally false” i.e. false in a significant number of cases.
The quality of the Matter presented is more important than its quantity.
Avoid faulty reasoning e.g. just because B follows A in time, B is not necessarily the result of A.
Avoid fictitious examples e.g. “Little Johnny”, imaginary people or situations.
Avoid arguments based on personal examples and experiences.
Avoid invalid generalizations e.g. “A detective has been found guilty of accepting bribes. This
proves that the whole police force is corrupt.”
Avoid relying on quotations and statistics to prove an argument.
Avoid basing an argument on assertion. Simply stating an argument is not proof.
Avoid using irrational arguments because the more reasonable you are, the more convincing you
will be to the audience.
Avoid false analogies.
Regardless of the quality of the Matter presented by a team, it will be allowed to stand unless the
opposing team exposes its weaknesses. When attempting to expose the weaknesses in the
opposing team’s case, a speaker must attack what has been said, never the speaker who said it.
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MATTER (cont’d)
The use of the ‘Even If’ technique applies in a debate where a definitional conflict occurs i.e.
when one team defines a subject in one way and the opposing team disputes this interpretation
of the subject totally or disputes the meaning of one or more words of the subject.
This situation does not automatically mean that both teams will or should employ the ‘Even If’
strategy. The teams may simply assert that their interpretation of the subject is more reasonable,
practical and logical and move on to argue the merits of their case and refuse the opposition’s
case. This often happens in a debate where the definitional conflict is minor and teams decide to
concentrate on the arguments in the debate.
However, where the definitional conflict is important, both teams should use the ‘Even If’ strategy
in the following ways:
1. Look at the opposition’s Definition and analyse what is wrong with it.
2. Substitute your definition and show how it is more reasonable and appropriate in the context of
the debate.
3. Show what is wrong with the opposition’s case on their own grounds, i.e. accept their definition
for a moment and show that “even if” the grounds for their interpretation were correct, the
argument they are using is incorrect through refutation of their team line and the examples
they have used to support it.
4. Then outline your argument based on your own definition and substantiate it with appropriate
examples. Basically each team must argue on their opposition’s “own grounds” as well as their
Take the subject “That we are going the wrong way.” The Affirmative interpret this to mean that
“Hong Kong people are pursuing the wrong moral values” and they point to the crime rate, drug
abuse etc. as proof. The Negative interpret the subject o mean that “Hong Kong citizens are
politically disorientated and imbalanced” and they say this is not true because Hong Kong has
many and varied allowances with different countries and this shows that Hong Kong is heading
the right way.
Consider how the Negative should present the “Even If” strategy.
1. Show why the Affirmative definition is inappropriate viz. morality is too subjective, and there is
no such thing as “right” or “wrong” and hence the only reasonable interpretation is a political
2. Establish the Negative’s interpretation, viz. when discussing “we” as Hong Kong people,
political orientation is the most obvious national characteristic and so it is the most obvious
aspect to discuss. Also, it is more reasonable to talk about politics because it is something that
does have direction. It is easier to compare two political systems than it is to compare moral
3. Examine the Affirmative case on its own grounds, viz. even if the subject did concern morality,
there is nothing to suggest that Hong Kong is on a moral decline. Admittedly drug and crime
problems are on the increase, but so is the population and the standard of living, so an
increase in the incidence of crime and drug abuse does not prove that there is a decline in
morality. The majority of people in Hong Kong are heading in the right direction morally
although a small minority may not. So the Affirmative are wrong on their own grounds.
4. Establish the Negative interpretation and line, viz. having shown the Affirmative are wrong on
their own grounds (i.e. the moral issue) it is important to remember that the better interpretation
is to discuss the political orientation of Hong Kong and when you do this it becomes clear that
politically we are sufficiently diverse and impartial to be going the right way.
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Manner relates to the way in which speakers deliver their speeches and use their personality to
communicate their ideas to the audience. Manner is allocated 40 marks.
Speakers should present their speeches in a way which is convincing and sincere. It is the
overall impact of the speaker’s presentation on the audience which is important. Speakers are
expected to be natural and to deliver their speeches in a conversational manner, avoiding slang
and colloquialisms. The level of language should be appropriate to the audience and to the
subject of the debate.
A well planned, clever argument loses impact if it is delivered ineffectively. What is said (Matter)
and the way it is said (Manner) are inter-related. While debaters should aim to win the
arguments, it must be remembered that superior Manner of one team is a justified reason for an
adjudicator to award the debate, if there is no significant difference between the two teams in
Matter and Method.
Manner relates to:
Visual presentation
Vocal qualities
Verbal skills
(how you look)
(how you sound)
(how you use language)
Stance, use of hands and arms, notes and “body language” come under the heading of gesture.
An audience may be distracted by unusual, repetitious or inappropriate gestures. If a speaker
begins to wander around the room, is forever flicking back their hair or shuffling their feet, the
audience becomes more interested in their movements than the arguments being presented.
Speakers should be made aware of any distracting mannerisms and encouraged to use gesture
to add life to their presentation.
Stance should be fairly confined. It may be effective to take a step forward to emphasise a point
but will lose its impact if done too often or inappropriately. It is often very compelling to use
hands and even arms to emphasise certain points – hands may be clenched for aggression,
upturned in questioning or limp in bewilderment. If palm cards are too large they will inhibit the
use of the hands. Speakers should be encouraged to use gesture to whatever degree is
appropriate to the Matter and their own personality.
The face is an extremely valuable asset because it can be used to express so many emotions
without speaking a word. Eye contact is extremely important. When speakers look at the
audience, they communicate confidence and almost compel the audience to listen. Speakers
should show the emotions associated with the Matter and the situation in the debate – anger, joy,
calm, outrage, sincerity, humour, surprise etc. This will hold the interest of the audience, make
the speaker more convincing and entertaining and above all, capture the audience with the
speaker’s own personality.
Notes should be kept to a minimum, remain unobstrusive and be well organized. Avoid reading!
A speaker who has the entire speech written on cards will be tempted to read it. This will be
avoided if only the important headings, words, phrases and ideas are written on cards. Reading
an entire speech will be heavily penalized through loss of Manner marks.
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Method refers to how Matter is organized within an individual speech and throughout the team’s
argument. Method is worth 20 marks.
Although Method is worth half the marks allocated to Matter and Manner, it may be the deciding
factor in a debate between two capable teams.
Debaters often find it difficult to think of very good Matter, and nervousness detracts from
Manner, but it is always possible for them to gain high marks for Method. There is no excuse for
an experienced debater to make basic errors in Method. New debaters should learn exactly
what is required of them in their role as first, second or third speaker and in their team approach
to debates. Method is something every debater can get right every time.
Method is the organization of a speech;
 within itself
 as part of the overall team case
 as part of the refutation of the opposing case
It concerns itself not only with what is planned before the debate begins, (the prepared material)
but also with what has to be dealt with as the debate develops (the rebuttal).
A good Introduction should capture the audience’s attention, assist the speaker to gain the cooperation of the audience and prepare them for the discussion that is to follow.
Remember to address the Chairperson and audience before the speech begins. “Chairperson,
Ladies and Gentlemen” and “Chairperson, Members of the audience” are both acceptable.
In Case Development each point should follow naturally and purposefully from the one before.
No material should be inserted inappropriately, such as fresh material after a final summary.
The Conclusion of the speech should focus the thoughts of the audience on the speaker’s central
theme and purpose, leave the audience in agreement with the speaker and convey a sense of
The use of time is very important. A speech which is seriously over time, (concludes well after
the 3 final bells) or under time (before the single warning bell has sounded) will lose marks for
Method. Accurate timing comes with practice, but from the outset, each speaker should devote a
suitable amount of time to each task. For example, a lengthy and detailed Allocation at the
expense of developing the team’s case, will result in a loss of marks for Method (and/or Matter).
A very long and detailed amount of refutation at the expense of furthering the Team Case will
result in a loss of Method marks.
Speakers should always present their rebuttal at the beginning of their speech in order to capture
the initiative in the debate. The first Affirmative is the only speaker who should begin their
speech with their own material.
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METHOD (cont’d)
To organize a speech, each speaker needs to understand the specific duties of the individual
speakers in the debate.
First Affirmative is concerned with definition and its justification, explanation and
development of a basic theme or line of argument, allocation of aspects of the team’s case
to first and second speakers, presentation of ideas and concrete examples from within the
allocated areas and reaffirmation of the team’s case.
First Negative must accept or amend the Affirmative’s Definition, justify any amendments,
show why the Affirmative’s line is unacceptable and/or the structural, logical, factual flaws
within it, present the negative line of argument and then proceed from Allocation to
summary as outlined for the first Affirmative.
Second Affirmative must be concerned with any matters of dispute over the definition
which need to be resolved. The speaker must first attack the basic Negative case,
showing why it is unacceptable and highlighting its flaws, before developing the
Affirmative case within the areas allocated by the First Affirmative.
Second Negative must renew and develop the attack on the Affirmative line and
arguments. The speaker’s aim should be to recapture the initiative before developing the
negative’s argument.
Second speakers should beware of spending too much time on refutation at the expense of case
development; refutation and case development should each occupy approximately half of a
second speaker’s allocated time (Affirmative and Negative Second Speakers).
Third Affirmative must remember that the other team will have the final say in the debate,
so speakers should organize their material carefully and precisely. There should be a
review of both cases with the Affirmative advantage being shown through comparison and
contrast and a mixture of general and specific rebuttal. It will usually be a good idea to
end the speech with a restatement of the Affirmative position, to leave it fresh in the
Adjudicator’s mind.
Third Negative should follow a similar approach to the third Affirmative Speaker. Third
Negative is not permitted to introduce new material in order to invite a reply which can no
longer be given. Third speakers must not introduce any new content material unless it is
part of a rebuttal.
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METHOD (cont’d)
This is a simple concept, unnecessarily clouded in the past. First and second speakers are not
only allowed, but expressly encouraged to introduce new material.
Third Speakers
Third Speakers are active participants within the debate. They should bring to the debate
original ideas and arguments in Rebuttal. It is, however, the duty of the first two speakers to
provide the case development for their side. Further case development by the third Speaker
exposes a failing by the previous two speakers on their side, and is therefore methodologically
Any ideas or examples raised by a third speaker, even if it has not been previously raised, is not
considered “new material” if it goes to disproving the argument of the opposition as part of their
rebuttals. As one would expect, any idea or example raised by a third speaker to prove their own
case will be considered new material, if it has not been previously raised and would attract a
mark penalty.
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1. Try to be relaxed. The more nervous you are, the less clearly your speech comes across and
the less impact you have.
2. If you can, bring a little humour to the debate. Not only does it play a useful role in relaxing
the audience, but it makes the debate more enjoyable. Remember that it must be appropriate
and relevant to the matter of the debate.
3. Do not be too repetitive.
4. Rebuttal for First Negative and second speakers should not be too long, since their role is
also to support and develop the team’s argument. Rebuttal may be roughly three or four
minutes in an eight minute speech, and four or five minutes in a ten minute speech, although
it can vary widely depending on the nature of the debate.
Rebuttal for Third Speakers is effective if it comes in a compare / contrast format. The final
summary should be commenced roughly just before the first bell, but this too may vary.
5. The best Manner is that which is not too dramatized but lets the personality of the speaker
6. The best way to prove a subject and win the debate is to take a simple line and defend it
rigorously. Do not try and win the debate in definition. Choose a definition which is
reasonable and balanced.
7. Don’t forget that you are speaking to an audience, so try to keep them interested.
8. Always try to write down the definition and team line of your opponents, word for word, so that
you can use it faithfully in rebuttals.
9. If you believe the opposition have altered their case line, tell us! The adjudicator cannot
“infer” what they think you think or what you would like to say.
10. As a team, try to ensure at least one person is always listening to the person speaking while
the others are involved in discussion.
11. Never misquote or exaggerate examples of your opposition.
12. Never let your argument fall into “truism”. A “truism” is something that is irrefutably true.
13. Do not change your Case Line between speakers. This internal failure often leads to the loss
in the debate if it is picked up by the opposition. They will gain marks for detecting this
important loss of logic and you will lose marks for the lack of internal consistency.
14. When using examples, try not to bombard the audience with a vast number. Select the more
forceful ones and use one or two to support the points that make up your Matter. Don’t forget
to tie each example back to the team line and show how it is relevant to your case.
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15. As you become more experienced, aim to show a little more flair in your speech. Particularly
in the first speeches, use the standard methodology of definition, justification, team line,
explanation, allocation and proof, but try to present it in a novel/interesting way to capture the
attention of the audience.
16. When commencing a speech, try not to begin with “The subject for today’s debate is…” or “I
shall now rebut the Negative…” or “The First Speaker got up and said….” If possible, vary
your opening comments / .introduction before launching into the rest of your speech. This
has the effect of capturing the audience’s attention and interest immediately and will make
them more receptive to your arguments. Some say that the time when the audience is
listening most intensely is at the beginning and at the end (when they know you are about to
finish) – so use this time effectively! Plan your introduction and conclusion!
17. The best Matter is interesting Matter. If you have particular knowledge, flaunt it! The use
of topical examples and good historical matter makes the whole debate more enjoyable and
more credible. Nothing is weaker than hypothetical examples, recounting an example of
“John down the road” or “I have a friend…,” “My father….” Though they may be true
examples, they are not common knowledge and for each “Johnny” one team uses, the other
team can “create” a “Tommy” to prove the opposite.
18. Be confident and convincing!
19. Always be ready to accept constructive criticism from your coach and the adjudicator as well
as from the other members of your team. Always be ready to learn and always talk to the
adjudicator after the debate and seek advice about how you can improve.
20. Finally, try to enjoy yourself! Nothing is more monotonous than spending a couple of hours
doing something that is not fun. Stretch your mind and show style in presentation.
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The marks awarded to each speaker in a debate should reflect the general overall impression of
the speaker’s performance in relation to the other speakers in the debate, while also reflecting
the speech’s significance to the debate as a whole and its role in capturing or maintaining the
initiative of the debate.
Marks are awarded on the basis of the three areas:
(40 marks)
(40 marks)
(20 marks)
To maintain a sense of relative values, adjudicators must compare the mark given to each
speaker with those given to the previous speakers in the debate and alter the marks accordingly
as the debate progresses. These marks will reflect the adjudicator’s judgement of the relative
merits of each speaker and so determine the outcome of the debate. A major reconstruction of
marks at the conclusion of the debate should not be necessary.
Marks should be neither very high nor very low between 70 and 80 marks (with an exception for
a penalty if a speaker goes seriously under or over time). 2 marks should be deducted from a
speaker’s Method mark for each 5 seconds under or overtime. Adjudicators should keep in mind
that a good speech at any level of debating should gain:
30 marks for Matter
30 marks for Manner
15 marks for Method
75 marks in total
The relative merit of each section may vary of course, say 29 – 31 – 15, but 75 gives an
appropriate basis for marking. It can be expected that sometimes marks will rise to the eighties
or fall to the sixties. With this standard in mind, the winning margins in debates should not be
greater than 10 unless there is a huge difference in the relative abilities of the teams. A close
debate should be awarded on a margin from 1 – 3, a good win on a margin from 4 – 7, and a
very obvious win on a margin from 8 – 10.
The main purpose of assigning numerical values to a speech is to assist an adjudicator in
keeping track of the relative strengths of each speech.
Adjudicators usually give the marks for each team after the debate showing the margin between
the teams, but they are not required to disclose other details of marks.
Speakers must not be penalized for errors for which they are not responsible, such as the
Chairperson’s failure to announce the subject, or the inaccurate timing of the debate by the
Timekeeper. Allowance should be made for the fact that speakers may be affected by a partisan
audience or by unforeseen interruptions (such as announcements on the school’s public address
Page 19 of 20
Adjudicators should pay particular attention to the time of speeches. Faulty time keeping by
timekeepers can be a problem in debates and speakers should not be penalized for this.
Adjudicators could time the speakers themselves so that they are aware not only of faulty time
keeping but also of the structure of the speech in relation to the utilization of the time allowed. If
a speaker continues speaking for more than 15 seconds after the maximum time allowed (i.e. the
second bell) the bell should be rung three times (at 3min 15 sec). Method marks should be
deducted if a speech continues for longer than 15 seconds after the maximum time allowed, i.e.
past the three bells at 3 min 15 sec.
While the Matter introduced after the second bell should not be considered as contributing further
to the speaker’s argument, it should be noted by the adjudicator in case the opposing team
makes reference to it in subsequent speeches.
It is not reasonable to award a close debate against a team on a minor Method point, such as
slight overtime (slightly longer than 3 min 15 sec / 4 min 15 sec) or under time (slightly shorter
than 2 min 30 sec / 3 min 30 sec), or for not keeping voices down while others are speaking.
Adjudicators should not award a debate on a subjective point such as their personal dislike of a
team’s Case Line. A team’s Case Line and arguments must be judged in relation to how they
are handled by the opposing team.
Page 20 of 20
For ADJUDICATION SHEETS, please click on the separate button.
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