Basic Debating Rules

Basic Debating Rules: Starting with an Explanation of What is a Debate?

A debate is basically an argument with strict rules of conduct.  It is not a shouting match between two sides with different points of view.

Topic Sides

There are 2 sides in a debate:

  1. The Affirmative agrees with the topic
  2. The Negative disagrees with the topic

The Team Line

Three speakers work together as a team.  The Team Line is the basic statement of “why the topic is true” (for the affirmative team) and “why the topic is false” (for the negative team).  It should be a short sentence, presented by the first speaker of each team and used by the other two speakers to enforce the idea of teamwork.

The Debate Announcer and Time Keeper

  1. The Debate Announcer introduces the topic and the students on each team
  2. The Debate Announcer mentions that each speaker will be timed, the minimum speech is 3 minutes and the Time Keeper will tap on the desk when the 3 minutes has elapsed so the Speaker knows
  3. Each team will have the same allowance for time

Speakers

Each side has 3 speakers who speak in order:

First Speaker of the Affirmative Side Must

  • define the topic
  • present the Affirmative team’s line
  • outline briefly what each speaker in their team will talk about
  • present the first half of the Affirmative case

First Speaker of the Negative Side Must

  • accept or reject the definition.  If you don’t do this it is assumed that you accept the definition.
  • present the Negative team’s line
  • outline briefly what each of the Negative speakers will say
  • rebut a few of the main points of the First Affirmative Speaker
  • the First Negative Speaker should spend about one quarter of their time rebutting
  • Present the first half of the Negative team’s case

Second Affirmative Speaker Must

  • reaffirm the Affirmative team’s line
  • rebut the main points presented by the First Negative Speaker
  • the Second Affirmative Speaker should spend about one third of their time rebutting
  • present the second half of the Affirmative team’s case

Second Negative Speaker Must

  • reaffirm the Negative team’s line
  • rebut some of the main points of the Affirmative’s case
  • the Second Negative Speaker should spend about one third of their time rebutting
  • present the second half of the Negative team’s case

Third Affirmative Speaker Must

  • reaffirm the Affirmative team’s line
  • rebut all the remaining points of the Negative team’s case
  • the Third Affirmative Speaker should spend about two thirds to three quarters of their time rebutting
  • present a summary of the Affirmative team’s case
  • round off the debate for the Affirmative team

Third Negative Speaker Must

  • reaffirm the Negative team’s line
  • rebut all the remaining points of the Affirmative team’s case
  • the Third Negative Speaker should spend about two thirds to three quarters of their time rebutting
  • present a summary of the Negative team’s case
  • round off the debate for the Negative team
  • neither Third Speaker may introduce any new parts of their team’s cases

Importance of Rebuttal

In debating, each team will present points in favour of their case.  They will also spend some time criticising the arguments presented by the other teamThis is called Rebuttal.

There are a few things to remember about Rebuttal:

  1. Logic – to say that the other side is wrong is not enough.  You have to show why the other side is wrong.  This is best done by taking a main point of the other side’s argument and showing that is does not make sense.  A lof of the thinking for this needs to be done quickly and this is one of the most challenging aspects of debating.
  2. Pick the important points  – try to rebut the most important points of the other side’s case.  You will find that after a while these are easer to spot.  One obvious spot to find them is when the first speaker of the other team outlines briefly what the rest of the team will say.
  3. Play the ball – do not criticise the individual speakers, criticise what they say.

The Manner of how you present your debate is important

The manner is how you present what you say and the best manner style is definitely not to shout and thump the table but to keep calm and present your points with a clear speaking voice.  Here are a few tips that might come in handy with your debating style:

  1. Use Cue Cards – debating is a lively interaction between two teams not just reading a speech off notes.  Use cue cards like a prompt in a play as a reference if you lose your spot or train of thought.
  2. Use Eye Contact – if you look at the audience you will hold their attention.  If you spend the whole time reading from your cue cards or looking at a spot away from the audience, they will lose concentration very quickly.  Keep the audience in your sight and their minds will follow your logic.
  3. Your Voice – you must project your voice so that you can be heard but definitely do not shout.  Use the volume, pitch and speech of your voice to emphasise important points of your speech.  Sometimes a loud burst will grab the audience’s attention while a period of quiet speaking will draw the audience in and make them listen more carefully to what you are saying.
  4. Your Body – Make your body work for you by using hand gestures with confidence.  Move your head and upper body to maintain eye contact with all members of the audience.  Stand straight up, definitely do not slouch over the desk or let the audience know you might be nervous.
  5. Nervous Habits – avoid them like the plague.  Playing with the cue cards, pulling strands of your hair, fiddling with your watch or bouncing up and down on your feet will all distract from what you are saying.  Don’t let any one thing detract from your ability to persuade the audience.
  6. Using Big Words – try to avoid going overboard with big words and confusing people.  If you don’t understand the big words yourself then the chances no one else will understand what you are saying either.  It would be a huge mistake to debate and get stuck on a word that you are not sure what it means but also one that you can’t pronounce.

The Marking Scheme in a Debate

Every adjudicator marks to a standard.  You will get a mark out of 40 for matter, manner and method with a total mark out of a 100.

Private Home Tutoring of English Not an On-Line Free Tutoring Service

I am NOT an on-line free tutoring service.  My resources on this website are for general use only.  I do not write student’s essays for them or give advice on essay prompts. However, for more intensive tutoring in a specific area of English, I will visit students in their own homes for private tutoring sessions that are paid on an hourly basis.