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Debating 101


Calmness under pressure


Rigorous Critical thinking


Ability to resolve complex difficulties on short notice

Ability to think outside the box


All debates consist of constructive and rebuttal speeches from each side.  The Special TI Debate Format works well in the club setting because it includes prepared speeches and a cross-examination period. In this case, the timing has been revised to 31-33 minutes.

1. Constructive Speeches (5 minutes each):

Affirmative #1, Negative #1, Affirmative #2, Negative #2

Each debate begins with the first affirmative speaker. Affirmative speaker (#1) presents the proposition and defines unclear or controversial terms contained in its wording, then presents the affirmative’s team line and the first half of the affirmative case.

The first negative speaker (#1) brings out any disagreement on the wording, generally rebuts the points of the affirmative #1, presents the negative team line and presents the first half of the negative team’s case.

The second affirmative and negative speakers each reaffirm the team line and present the second half of the case.  Typically they address practical issues such as cost and unforeseen consequences.  They often assume that the resolution is in place and discuss benefits and benign consequences, after shooting down the best of the opposition’s counter arguments.   Affirmative 2 rebuts the points of Negative 1, and Negative 2 rebuts the points made by Affirmative 2.

2. Cross-examination and Refutation

The constructive speeches are followed by a period of cross-examination or refutation and rebuttal.  Cross-examination (2 minutes each) involves all four speakers:

Negative #1 cross-examines Affirmative #1

Affirmative #2 cross-examines Negative #2

3.  Interval

This time is reserved for team members to collaborate and prepare the rebuttal (1-3 minutes).

4. Final Refutation & Summary

This section Involves just the first speaker from each team.

–Negative #1 and Affirmative #1 (3 minutes each)


The burden of proof is on the Affirmative team…the one who wishes to bring about change and who introduces the proposition, wanting to prove that present conditions require a change from the status quo.  The Affirmative team must show that a problem exists, explain its nature, and indicate its causes. They must show how their proposed solution will better meet the problem than is currently demonstrated, or as proposed by the negative’s alternative solution.

If the Affirmative does not present a strong persuasive case, even if the Negative isn’t really that good, the winner would be the Negative. The negative must show that the present solution is more advantageous than the affirmative solution.

The negative may also argue that no problem exists.  During the last affirmative rebuttal, the negative cannot offer a refutation.  This means the judges should be wary of last-minute attempts by the affirmative to answer negative arguments that the team has not previously attempted to refute.


BC Debate Society  <http://www.bcdebate.org>

Pro / Con books or website… <http://www.procon.org> 


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