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Debate. Terms. Debate: formalized public speaking in which participants prepare and present speeches on opposite sides of an issue to determine which side has the stronger arguments. terms.

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  • Debate: formalized public speaking in which participants prepare and present speeches on opposite sides of an issue to determine which side has the stronger arguments.


  • Proposition or resolution: a statement that asserts a fact, makes a value judgment, or recommends a policy. Starts with the word “Resolved.”

    • Proposition of fact:makes a statement about what has happened, is happening, or will happen.

      • Example: RESOLVED, that the world will end on December 21, 2012.

    • Proposition of value: expresses judgments about the relative merit of a person, place, or thing.

      • Example: RESOLVED, that academic extra-curricular activities are more valuable than athletics.

    • Proposition of policy: focuses on specific plans of action.

      • Example: RESOLVED, that the United States government should abolish the death penalty.


  • Status Quo: the existing state of affairs.

    • EXAMPLE: Currently, capital punishment is legal in 33 states.

  • Burden of Proof: obligation to present arguments for changing the status quo. Affirmative side’s responsibility

  • Contention: an assertion maintained in a debate

    • EXAMPLE:

      • “Our first contention is that the death penalty is unconstitutional.”

      • “Our second contention is that capital punishment kills the innocent and mentally ill.”

      • “Our third contention is that there are more disadvantages than advantages to the death penalty.”


  • Constructive Speech: speech which builds an argument

    • Given by both affirmative and negative.

    • Establishes reasons for the superiority of their side.

  • Rebuttal Speech: speech which rebuilds an argument

    • Rebuilds arguments that have been questioned.

    • Attacks arguments that have been raised by the other side.


  • Cross-Examination Debate: form of debate which involves two affirmative speakers and two negative speakers who argue a proposition of policy.

    *In our class, to save time, the cross-examination format will be as follows:

    • 1stAffirmative: 5-minute constructive speech

    • 1st Negative: 5-minute constructive speech

    • 2nd Affirmative: 3-minute constructive speech/refutation

    • 2nd Negative: 3-minute constructive speech/refutation

    • 1st Negative: 2-minute rebuttal

    • 1st Affirmative: 2-minute rebuttal

    • 2nd Negative: 1-minute rebuttal

    • 2nd Affirmative: 1-minute rebuttal


  • With a partner, write a proposition of fact, a proposition of value, and a proposition of policy.

  • Then, using your proposition of policy, write down:

    • The status quo

    • Three contentions to support your proposition/resolution

  • Each partner needs their own piece of paper; turn it in to the tray when finished.


  • Key Issues: points of disagreement in the debate

    • Questions that a speaker must answer in order to justify the adoption/rejection of the proposition.

    • Affirmative must answer “yes”

    • Negative must answer “no”

    • Example:

    • Are there more disadvantages than advantages to the death penalty?

    • Is the death penalty unconstitutional?


  • Stock Issues: formula of set questions that are adapted to the particular debate topic

    • Ill: Is there a problem with the current situation?

      • EXAMPLE: Is capital punishment causing a problem?

    • Blame:Is the current policy responsible for the problem?

      • EXAMPLE: Is the current policy on capital punishment responsible for the ill?

    • Cure:Will the proposition solve the problem?

      • EXAMPLE: Are there facts to support the statement that abolishing capital punishment will solve the problem?

    • Cost: What are the costs of the proposition?

      • EXAMPLE: What are the consequences of abolishing the death penalty?


  • Proof: the reasons and evidence given to answer the questions in the stock issues

  • Reasons: statements that justify the proposition

  • Evidence: facts and opinions to support each reason

    • Is the evidence recent enough to be relevant?

    • Is it well documented?

    • Is it reliable/credible?

    • Is it objective?


  • RESOLVED, that the United States government should abolish the death penalty.

  • Stock issue: Is capital punishment causing a problem?

  • Affirmative reason: Capital punishment is violating the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens.

    • Affirmative evidence: The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

  • Negative reason: Capital punishment is not a violation of constitutional rights.

    • Negative evidence: According to historian Eva Lynd, an expert on the Founding Fathers, the intent of the eighth amendment was to prevent drawn-out torture.

  • Terms8

    • Case: consists of the reasons and evidence on which you base your position

    • Affirmative case:presents reasons and evidence that support a proposition.

    • Prima facie case:one that contains enough reasons and evidence to win a debate if the other side presented no argument.

    • Problem-solution pattern:organizes information to present both a problem and a solution to that problem.

    • Comparative advantages pattern:organizes information to demonstrate that the proposal would have significant advantages over the status quo.


    • Negative case:gives reasons and evidence that act as straight refutation of the affirmative case, defend the status quo, and/or present a counterplan

    • Straight refutation: the entire negative case will be a denial of each affirmative argument stated

    • Counterplan: a different solution.


    • Get together with your partner from yesterday and take out your propositions of policy and contentions.

    • Switch papers with another group. Your job is to look at their contentions. Acting as the negative, write a straight refutation and a counterplan together.


    • Refutation:attacking the argument of the opposition

    • Rebuttal:rebuilding your argument after it has been attacked

    • Generalization: conclusion based on one or more specific instances

    • Causation Argument: provides a conclusion that is a direct result or effect of one or more particular sources or conditions

    • Analogy: comparison of something with a similar event, state, or set of circumstances

    • Sign Argument: draws a conclusion based on certain signs or indicators.

    How to refute an argument
    How to refute an argument

    • State clearly and concisely the argument you are going to refute.

    • State what you will prove.

    • Present the proof completely, with documented evidence.

    • Draw a conclusion.

    How to develop a rebuttal
    How to develop a rebuttal

    • Restate the argument you made originally.

    • State what your opponent said against your original point.

    • State your position on your opponent’s attack.

    • Present the proof completely, with documented evidence.

    • Draw a conclusion.


    • Activity: As a class, identify these arguments. Then come up with two questions that we need to ask about that kind of reasoning.

    • Most of us got our best golf scores on the fifth hole. The fifth hole must be the easiest.

    • We think it’s the measles. He has a fever and has broken out in a rash.

    • The plan worked well for Sartell’s junior class. Since our school is approximately the same size, it will probably work for our junior class.

    • We’re probably going to have a bad storm. The sky is filled with dark clouds, the wind is blowing, and lightning is flashing.

    • Your friend Heather told you that she studies math at least one hour a night; you conclude that she will get good grades.

    Ethos pathos logos

    • Ethos

      • Relates to ethics

      • Example argument: Jane Smith, a professor of education at Harvard University, is a champion of year-round school as a system for continuous learning.

    • Pathos

      • Relates to emotion

      • Example argument: In 1990, Jesse Joseph Tafero was put to death in the electric chair. Six-inch flames shot out of his head. He was later found innocent.

    • Logos

      • Relates to logic

      • Example argument: LGBT marriages, at 85%, have a higher success rate than heterosexual marriages (72%).