by Elizabeth Childs.  

Hello Everyone,

In last year’s MALAT and DipLAT fully online cohort we had someone who in a previous life had been a debater smile

After going through the debate experience in LRNT 521, he created a lovely “quick guide” about debating that he shared with us and, with his permission, I have included it below. You may find it useful as you begin to think about how to approach the debate.

Have a great day and enjoy your week! Be well.



Quick Guide to Debate: Written Style

                Most individuals think of a debate as an argument where there is an individual attempting to prove their position as right, while the other individual attempts to prove their position as right, or simply, the other person wrong. Although there is truth to this, formal debate is more intensive in that it is not simply argumentation, but a forum in which two opposing sides seek to persuade an audience, or panel of judges, that their position is better to agree with than the other. In fact, the debater need not even agree with the position they must argue as true. There are two sides in a debate, the proposition (PRO - or affirmative) and the opposition (CON - or negative). The proposition seeks to persuade the judges that the resolution or proposition is true and the opposition seeks to persuade that the resolution is not true. Most debate is in a theatre setting where the two sides debate each other verbally and are given ‘X’ amount of time for the initial statements, rebuttals, and conclusions. However, in written debate, it is de facto written style only with no speeches or voice to be heard. This can make written style debate difficult in that one must use words on paper to create emphasis and persuasive argument without the benefit of verbal speech which can be augmented in tone, volume, diction etc…

                In the initial arguments, both sides will define terms and layout their initial persuasive arguments. Evidence is presented to support arguments usually in the form of current literature available, expert testimony, statistics and other forms of information. The initial posts by both proposition and opposition should follow a logical flow in that: the topic is first introduced, terms are well defined, and subsequent arguments are presented seamlessly. If a team does not define their terms well, it can give the opposing side ammunition in which to counter their position. Arguments should be easily and well understood and not overly complicated, as this can hinder your persuasiveness. The conclusion should be a short-summarized block of information that readdresses the introductions and overall arguments laid out in the paper.

                Rebuttal posts should reaffirm your team’s position and support previous arguments made in the initial papers. Arguments put forward by the opposing team should be addressed in a well-presented manner. The rebuttal should seek to dissuade the audience or judges from agreeing with the opposing team’s arguments. In written style, a good way of countering an argument is by utilizing evidences used by the opposing team as ammunition to counter the argument made. This could be in the form of using an opposing team’s references against them. Another way to counter would to make the argument that the references used are out-of-date or not applicable to the current public. E.g. If a team used a reference from 1970, your team may use a reference from 2018 to show a more current understanding of an issue being raised. Moreover, a team may use references from 1970 and 2018 to seek to persuade the audience or judges that the point they are making is valid from 50 years ago to the present. A good debater is adept at dissuading the audience or judge to consider the opposing team’s arguments.

                All-in-all, remember the purpose of your team is to persuade, not provide absolute truth. The team that is the most persuasive wins the debate. A persuasive team: is skilled in how they have written and presented their papers; have used good evidence; presented their arguments well; addressed the other teams arguments to bolster their own; introduced and concluded papers well. Pay attention to assignment marking rubric to get more detailed overview of how the judgement team will be determining the result. Have a fun time debating.

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