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Have you ever talked over something with your friends? Were there ever differences of opinion? Did to bring up evidence (quotes, etc.) to prove your position? Show how the other person's ideas were weak or faulty? If so, you have participated in a debate. A formal definition of debate by Websters New Collegiate Dictionary 2010 is, "a contention by words or arguments".

Debate is normally done under formal conditions. Most high schools and colleges have debate teams that travel around to other colleges and high schools to debate on pre-specified, "resolutions".

There are two major forms of debate known as the Lincoln Douglas style, and the Team Policy style. The Lincoln Douglas debate has only one competitor per side, each person is on their own. The resolution usually deals with values (pragmatism over idealism; which is best?). Each person prepares for both sides of the case because they do not choose which they will do. Team Policy debate deals with policy issues, teams of two work together to support their view and break down the opponent's. Again, each team prepares for both sides of the case.


Below are several possible debate topics:

The IssuesEdit

Motions and resolutions

A motion, also known as a proposition or resolution in other formats, is a statement that usually sets the topic for the given debate. Usually, this is an unambiguously worded statement that is general in terminology in order to be understood by not only the debaters themselves but also by the general audience.

In any debate, the motion is always supported by the government and opposed by the opposition, regardless of how the motion is worded.

Types of motionsEdit

Parliamentary debateEdit

There are three types of motions in any parliamentary debate, depending on how specific or broadly defined it is. These are known as open, semi-closed and closed motions, of whom regardless of the type of motion, the terms are always defined by the Prime Minister.

An open motion is a motion or resolution that is broad and can be defined quite liberally. For example, a motion like This house would pay can be defined on a wide range of topics, from African countries paying their debts to lender countries to paying one's personal debt to a friend to the German government paying compensation for atrocities committed during the Nazi regime. However, given that open motions are so ambiguously worded that they tend to lead to much confusion among teams and debaters, as well as the propensity for abuse (such as defining the motion based on personal experience), they are rarely given in tournaments today.

A semi-closed motion, like an open motion, is also broad in scope. However, the context for which the motion is set is more limited than in an open motion. Such a motion could be worded as This house would pay compensation to victims of abuse. In such a motion, the terms compensation and victims of abuse would still have to be defined, while clearly stating that the motion calls for the compensation of abuse victims.

Lastly, a closed motion, unlike the previous two types of motions, is a motion that is usually specific in scope while still leaving room for interpretation. For example, This house would make Germany compensate victims of Nazi atrocities is a closed motion. In this case, the motion is specifically defined as forcing Germany to compensate victims of Nazi atrocities, although the term Nazi atrocities is still left to interpretation.

Within those types of motions include policy and value-judgment motions, which respectively are about policies and values. In some cases, these types of motions overlap each other, forming motions that have semblances of both the policy and value-judgment types. An example of this is This house believes that the government should fund exclusively homosexual schools. In the motion, while it is worded to that of a value-judgment motion, it also calls for a proposal.

Policy debateEdit

In policy debate, a proposition is usually related to that of a closed motion in parliamentary debate. However, policy debate resolutions are worded as Resolved: followed by the subject of the debate. An example would be Resolved: That the United States federal government should establish a foreign policy substantially increasing its support of United Nations peacekeeping operations, which was used in the 2004-2005 National Speech and Debate Tournament of the National Forensics League. This naming format is also shared with the Oregon-Oxford, Lincoln-Douglas and classical debate formats.

There are generally three types of propositions, namely propositions of fact, of value and of policy.

A proposition of fact is an objective statement containing a fact. It is the most specific and least controversial (although not completely free of controversy) of the three types of propositions as their verifiability can be objectively affirmed by using other facts or statistics. An example of this would be Resolved: That freedom of speech is an inviolable right. Usually, only a few issues are involved in a proposition of fact, which are the following:

  1. What occurred
  2. What information is required to verify such
  3. What information is available

A proposition of value expresses judgment about the qualities of the person, place or object being pointed to in the proposition. This would consider current opinions and attitudes of people based on the issue, which are neither true nor false, while still being backed by facts, which are either true or false. However, debates based on propositions of value can be challenging as there are no set values being defended or detracted in the debate, as well as because personal values always conflict with each other. An example of this type of proposition would be Resolved: That restraint is better than brute force.

Lastly, a proposition of policy expresses a course of action that should be considered for adoption. There are three general categories of propositions of policy:

  1. Formulation of new policies to guide decisions not covered by existing policies
  2. Recommendation for the amendment of existing policies that are no longer satisfactory to the given context
  3. Repeal or abolition of existing policies

In the course of the debate, each team would present their arguments for or against the proposition, of which is usually judged based on the merits of the case. An example of such a proposition would be Resolved: That the United States pull out of Iraq by 2008.

Definitional challenges Technicalities
Motions and resolutions
Points of Information

Points of Information

POIs or Points of Information are questions or statements made by opposing side speakers to a speaker delivering his speech or to the adjudicators or the general audience in a Parliamentary Debate format.

As opposed to other debate formats where the speaker whose turn it is to speak holds the floor completely by himself throughout his alloted time to speak, in Parliamentary Debate formats, opposing side speakers are allowed opportunities to pose questions or counter-arguments within an opposing debater's speech by raising a Point of Information.

To raise a POI, the formal way is to stand up, place one hand on top of the head, extend one hand towards the speaker speaking and say "Point of Information". This practice derives from the practice in British Parliaments. Members of Parliament wore white wigs when in Parliament was in session and in order to keep their wigs from falling off in a burst of emotion when raising a POI, the solution was to make placing one hand on top of the head standard practice. In current practice, this is no longer strictly imposed. In fact, many debaters have distinct styles and manners when raising POIs although the usual practice of standing up to show respect to the speaker holding the floor is still universally practiced.

POIs are used for a variety of purposes. They may be used to clarify an unclear point, to reinforce a counter-argument, to question a key aspect of the argument being discussed by the speaker holding the floor, to debunk or rebut the argument being discussed, etc., with the overarching objective being to gain the upper hand in the debate even while an opposing speaker is holding the floor.

In the Asian Parliamentary format, POIs may be raised by any of the members of the team opposing the speaker holding the floor within the second minute to the sixth minute of the opposing speakers speech. These are usually marked by gavel knocks -- i.e. a timer knocks the gavel once one minute into a speaker's speech to indicate that POIs may now be raised by the opposing team and again knocks the gavel once at the sixth minute mark to indicate that POIs may no longer be raised. During reply speeches, POIs are not allowed.

The speaker holding the floor may choose to allow or deny opposing speakers from raising a POI. If allowed, the opposing speaker raising the POI is expected to deliver his/her POI within twenty seconds. The speaker holding the floor and accepted the POI is expected to immediately address the POI raised. POIs make parliamentary debates dynamic in that it allows for constant clash between the opposing teams.

There are no limits to the number of POIs that any speaker may accept when delivering his/her speech. There are also no limits to the number of attempts an opposing speaker may make in raising POIs although debate courtesy dictates that once declined, one is expected to wait at least twenty seconds before attempting to raise a POI again. The mark of a good debater is one who tries to raise as many POIs as possible to give the impression that he is "in" the debate and is ready to debunk the argument of the speaker holding the floor, and who accepts just the right number of POIs during his/her speech to show that he is ready and able to answer all questions with regards the argument he is discussing.