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Rebuttal . Rebuttal is an essential element of debating. It provides the “clash of ideas” that makes debating different from public speaking. Rebuttal requires debaters to listen to what is being said by the other side and respond to their arguments.

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Rebuttal is an essential element of debating.

It provides the “clash of ideas” that makes debating different from public speaking.

Rebuttal requires debaters to listen to what is being said by the other side and respond to their arguments.

An audience member or more importantly, a judge, might be listening to a point made by the other team and think “that’s a good argument” and find themselves convinced by the other side.

In this sense, it’s important to deal with all the major points being made by the other side. But for the purpose of this first rebuttal debate you need only pick one of three reasons given.



Debate, without rebuttals, would merely be a series of speeches with no relation to each other.

Like ships passing in the night, there will be no clash, no conflict and ultimately, no debate.

Rebuttal, like argumentation, is one of the foundations of debate.

What is rebuttal then?

It is a speaker saying that an opponent's argument is not valid and showing why it is not valid.  If argument is about building logic links in a case, then rebuttal is about the breaking of these links.

1 st of 5 attacking relevance

1st (of 5) – attacking relevance

With this rebuttal, Debaters attack the relevance of their opponent’s arguments and show that these arguments do not support the opponent's stance.

This type of rebuttal can destroy the entire argument by showing that it does not even support the opponent’s stance.

For instance, in a debate, the negative states: “The Internet is a dangerous force,”

The Opposition delivers arguments noting how useful the Internet has been in facilitating communication and education.

The Proposition of dangerous place is rebutted by the benefits of the Internet and thereby invalidating the dangerous by showing how safe and useful it is

2 nd way attacking assumption

2nd way – attacking assumption

With this rebuttal, Debaters attack a particular way in which their opponents had described an assumed trait of the subject.

For instance, for “China is Dangerous,’’ - The affirmative argues that China is a Communist country and that this leads to a conflict between Beijing and the Capitalist West.

However, the Opposition can rebut by counter-arguing that China is nominally Communist but has wholeheartedly  embraced Capitalism, thus having less reason to find conflict with Capitalist countries.

3 rd way attacking the impact

3rd way – attacking the impact

With this rebuttal, debaters attack the presumed impact of the subject's assumed trait.

For instance, for “We should dissolve the UN,” the affirmative speaker points out that the veto system in the UN has caused unhappiness between the world.

However, the Opposition speaker can rebut this by saying that the veto system has actually facilitated cooperation between the countries and an example is how smaller countries often cast their veto to protect the smaller countries’ interests. Thereby the presumed impact of unhappiness is challenged by the cooperation of smaller countries to protect each other’s interests.

4 th way attacking leaps of logic

4th way – attacking leaps of logic

With this rebuttal, the debaters attack the lack of logical links between the assumed traits of the subject and its presumed impact.

For instance, for, “We should ban gay marriage,” the affirmative could argue that everyone should have the right to marry regardless of their sexual orientation

Here, the Opponents can rebut that there is a lack of a link between gay and traditional marriage by the very fact that one has opposite sex marriage and the other has same sex marriage. The link is broken by rebutting that all marriages are the same which is the leap of logic in the proposition

5 way hung arguments

5 way – hung arguments

Hung arguments are arguments which are contingent on another argument to survive.

With this rebuttal, Debaters can take two arguments out with one attack.

For instance, for “Many states censor the arts,” the affirmative first argues that extremist messages are found in art. Next the affirmative argues that the viewers of art should be protected from such extremist messages.

The Opposition could rebut that there are no extremist messages in art these days and that art itself was value-neutral. With this argument taken down, the point about needing to protect viewers of art has little impact, as it is a hung argument.

6 th way attacking examples
6th way – attacking examples
  • In general, Debaters should attack the logic of an argument before moving on to attack the examples.
  • Attacking the example first is usually not advised, as it allows the opponent to just refer to another of the already mentioned examples and the argument will remain standing.
  • The only time debaters should attack the example is when the opponent had used one example as the only basis for the argument. 
  • The proposition states: “Out of 12 million arrests in the United States last year, only 400 deaths occurred during an arrest of a suspect.
do attack new arguments first

Debaters should prioritize by rebutting the latest arguments from their opponents FIRST.

These arguments are fresh and attacking them quickly ensures that they will not linger in the minds of the judges.

Furthermore, these arguments are the only ones which have not have been addressed thus far in the debate.

So the debaters MUST attack these points first. If these arguments are left for the later parts of the speech, they may not be given sufficient time for proper rebuttal.

do complete the attack
Do complete the attack

Some debaters tend to only point out the shortcomings of an argument without actually attacking its logic in full.

For instance, Debaters  often describe an argument as lacking examples or not having any strong links but fail to do anything more.

Instead, Debaters should always attack the logic of the argument in order to complete the attack.

do not do one liners
Do not do one-liners

Some Debaters also tend to use only a single line or two to make a rebuttal. 

This is not considered a complete attack and will usually not be rewarded much content score by the judges.

In order to rebut effectively, Debaters will have to dedicate sufficient time to properly explain why a particular argument falls.

do not just list rebuttals
Do not just list rebuttals

Some Debaters have a habit of merely listing several “responses” to a particular argument.

However, if these were proper rebuttals, they will have taken way too much time to be articulated in full.

Thus, each “list” tends to consist of one-liner counter-arguments.

This habit should be avoided, as it signals to the judges that the Debater is unable to make a decision on which rebuttal is the strongest for the argument.

It may also compromise the ability of some speakers to demonstrate their ability to generate new points.

do not use rhetorical questions
Do not use Rhetorical Questions

Debaters should also avoid using rhetorical questions as a substitute for rebuttals.

If these questions are to be used, they must at least be answered by the Debaters themselves.

Otherwise, the judges are left to answer the question for them and they will not necessarily agree with Debaters. For instance, if Debaters merely ask “but how will the opponent’s policy work?” and leave it at that, the judges may well end up thinking of several ways it could work.

Further it merely provides an opening for the opponents to answer the question later and show how the policy will work!!

develop rebuttals
Develop rebuttals

In order to successfully attack an argument, it should be rebutted more than once.

Ideally, an Argument will be attacked at its core logic first and then attacked again from a different angle.

Speakers should avoid merely repeating the rebuttals that have already been delivered.

In this case, they are wasting time while not really adding value to the debate.

push to the end
Push to the end

Wherever possible, Debaters should try to rebut an argument by taking the opposite stance.

This will allow for the greatest degree of clash and the highest degree of differentiation between the two teams.

For instance, for the affirmative “We should ban handguns,” the negative can argue that handguns make communities more dangerous by empowering criminals.

The Opposition can make a “neutralizing” rebuttal by saying that handguns do not make communities more dangerous.

However, it will be best if the Opposition can make an “attacking” rebuttal by saying that handguns make communities less dangerous and more safe since the citizens are protected against criminals.

  • This is known as the chain debate.
  • By luck of the draw we determine who goes first
  • Everyone pick a number. Starting with #1 right here
  • Next two and so on around the perimeter of the room
  • I will give a topic and every person based on what number you have will follow with one of two option
  • And for support – example: The death penalty is controversial and I think frying those who deserve the death penalty is a great way to get rid of the bad people or
  • And for rebuttal: - example: The death penalty is controversial but I think frying people is inhumane.
  • And we continue until someone repeats a point or can not think of a point (no more than 15 seconds)


Lets take a look at the handout: On the front page you will see a sample of a point by point argumentative essay. On the back you will see a blank outline.

Remember you never write on my handouts

On a separate piece of line paper, please replicate the outline

I do not care if you draw the lines or not but make sure everything is clearly highlighted like it is on the outline

Using your already completed research, please complete this outline

Your three reasons will go in the “Opp argument 1, 2, and 3 blocks,

You must finish the rebuttal with examples and/or reasons

written requirements for debate
  • There are no exact number of sentences required for this debate. However it must include the following:
  • Opening statement (grabbing the audience)
  • Thesis statement (stating your position)
  • Best three reasons to support your position
  • Closing statement
  • Separately but on same piece of paper – top three reasons you think your opponent will use and a rebuttal to each of them
debate reminders
  • You will be graded on all elements of last debate
  • Rebuttal and Presentation are two added elements
  • Rebuttal is how well you counter one of the three reasons given by your opponent
  • Presentation is how well you prepared, your tone, level of confidence and overall demeanor