Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Debating 101

by Christa Mary Uy Dabalos 
Graduate of BA Development Studies
Incoming first year student of UP College of Medicine
Debating Coach

Debate is defined as a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides (Merriam Webster).

There are different types of debates used in competitions.

The commonly-used type in scholastic debate competitions is the British Parliamentary debate.

Some debate topics are assigned on the spot, as well as your stand in the debate. Therefore, it is important to read on current events and know the pros and cons of most issues.

If debate topics are assigned beforehand, research both sides, not just your own. Knowing the pros and cons of an issue can help in anticipating the possible arguments of the other side. You could also anticipate the other side’s rebuttals of your own argument.

Good research also prevents panicking during a rebuttal. If you know your topic and arguments well, you will surely be able to back up your arguments.

It is very important to stick to your assigned roles in debate. Fulfillment of roles is necessary in winning a debate. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the stand you have been given, you must properly defend your arguments.

The opening government (pro-side) is usually tasked with the definition of terms used in the debate, as well as the boundaries the debate is set in.

For example, in the premise:

“This house believes that underage criminal offenders must be placed in usual correctional facilities along with other offenders.”
The opening government should set :
What age an offender is considered underage?
Is this premise set in the Philippines only? Asia? Worldwide?
What is considered a normal correctional facility?
However, the opening government must be careful in setting parameters to the debate. The premises must be realistic so as still to foster a healthy debate atmosphere.

Build on your argument first before moving on to your next argument. Focusing on 3 solid arguments is better than presenting 10 incoherent arguments.

Make sure to structure your speech well.

If your speech follows a rival speaker’s speech, state the rebuttals to his/her arguments first before proceeding to your own argument.

Debaters usually speak fast so as to be able to explain more points as possible. However, make sure that you speak audibly and clearly.

A well-modulated and well-enunciated voice can give an impression of confidence and makes your arguments seem even more believable.

No matter your assigned roles, it is important to take notes. This way, you could easily spot inconsistencies in the opposite side’s argument. You could also easily pair up the opposite side’s argument with your own rebuttals.

If debating is done by team, even if one has already presented arguments, take notes so that you help in building up your team member. You can point out ways he/she could strengthen his/her argument, as well as point out possible rebuttals he/she could use against the other side.

Use phrases such as “I strongly believe” to establish confidence in your own arguments.

If debating is done by team and you are the last one to present, summarize why your team did a better job of defending their side. In British Parliamentary debate, the “swing” (closing government/closing opposition) usually isn’t assigned to present arguments but rather to strengthen his/her side’s case. This is done by pointing out your arguments, stating how you countered the other side’s rebuttals, and pointing out your rebuttals to the other side’s arguments.