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The main benefits from participating in debate:


- stimulation of one’s interest in current issues;

- development of one’s critical thinking;

- sharpening of one’s communicative skills; 

- improvement in research abilities.


The purpose of formal debate is to determine the set of arguments which seem more convincing by testing both sides under pressure.

Debate is restricted to issues that have only two sides. Example: A question such as “What should be done about inflation” is not debatable.

Debate issues are stated in the form of a proposition. Proposition –is a statement that can be answered by yes or no.

The main features of a well-worded formal debate proposition:


· It is worded as a statement, not a question;

· It is worded to permit only a for and against response;

· It is not slanted (=to write or present (news, etc.) with a bias) to favor one side;

· It is worded to address a current, controversial issue;

· It is worded to call for a change from present policy;

· It is worded using specific, concrete language that does not make judgments about the topic.


Two sides in a formal debate:

- affirmative; (The main task is to prove that a problem exists and that the solution stated in the proposition would work better than the present system). This affirmative responsibility is called the burden of proof)

- negative. (The basic task is to disprove, as well as to prove that the plan for change proposed by the affirmative side will not work).

In some debates both sides are also given the chance to cross-examine, or question, the other side about their statements.

Preparing to debate:


1. The first step in preparing for any debate is to begin with the proposition; (analyze carefully, decide upon words and phrases which need to be defined etc.)

2.  Focus on the issues –are the major points of disagreement, the key arguments;

3. Build the case –a team’s total argument on any given proposition, set down in writing. A brief –is a full outline of your case, written in complete sentences. The brief includes all the debater’s analysis and reasoning. Affirmative teams usually find it easier to prepare a case in the form of a brief than negative teams do. The second method of preparing a case is to outline it on evidence cards. Evidence cards contain only the evidence. This method consists of numbering the individual pieces of evidence (one on each card).  This method is usually used by negative teams.

4. Teamwork in preparation and consistency in the team’s presentations are very important.


Support your case:


- Working with Evidence. Example: quotations, statistics, and examples;

- Using reasoning –is the mental process of forming logical conclusions from one’s evidence.  Among these: induction –reasoning from specific facts or cases to general principles; deduction –from general principles to specific cases. Cause to effect –if you show that one event will take place as a result of another event; Effect to cause –if you show that the excellent record in this country is largely due to the jury system. An analogy is a comparison.


Using different strategies:

For affirmative team:

1. A prima facie case (=at first sight; as it seems at first= с первого взгляда; по первому впечатлению; при отсутствии доказательств в пользу противного) means an overall argument that would convince any reasonable judge who has not yet heard the response of the other side.

2. Comparative advantage case. This affirmative case consists of agreed goals →plan→ comparative advantages.


For negative team:

1. Need-plan wedge case. When using this approach the negative does not attack the affirmative’s need or plan directly’;

2. Running-refutation negative case. Example: the negative side attacks all parts of the affirmative case.


Debate formats:


· Standard format –two different kinds of speeches are made by each of the two speakers on each team;

· Constructive speeches are lengthy, usually ranging from eight to ten minutes each. They are used to present and develop the major points of each team’s case;

· Rebuttals (=(опровергающая аргументация) refutation, disproof). They are used the opposition’s arguments and to answer objections to one’s case.

· The cross-examination format. In this format, cross-examinations follow immediately after each constructive speech. A member of the opposite team attempts to expose weaknesses in each speaker’s arguments by asking questions for the speaker to answer.

· Lincoln-Douglas format. It gets its name from the famous debates between senatorial candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. In this type of debate each side is represented by only one speaker, this format is little more than a modification of the standard cross-examination format.


Meeting the opposition:


- Test your opponent’s evidence and reasoning;

- Take careful notes on a flow sheet [1];

- Never ask a question during cross-examination if you know there is a strong arguments;

- Keep questions brief and clear, and demand brief answers;

- Respondents should always be on guard. They should keep their answers brief and admit immediately if they do not know an answer.


[1] It is your own summary outline written in a continuous manner to show how the arguments on each issue progress throughout the debate. The essence of each opponent’s arguments is included in the flow sheet.

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