Order of Operations Formalities of Debate (Adapted from debateable org) The Order

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Order of Operations

Formalities of Debate

(Adapted from debateable.org)

The Order:

Round 1-First Proposition Speaker: PRO- Argument introduced (what is the topic up for debate and what is your team’s position?) and outline of case presented.

Round 1- First Opposition Speaker: NEG- Argument introduced and outline of case presented. Rebuttal.

Round 2- Second Proposition Speaker: PRO- Case presented and rebuttal.

Round 2- Second Opposition Speaker: NEG- Case presented and rebuttal.

Round 3- Third Proposition Speaker: PRO- Rebuttal/Attack.

Round 3- Third Opposition Speaker: NEG- Rebuttal/Attack.

Round 4- Reply/Summary Speaker: PRO Evaluate & Conclusion

Round 4- Reply/Summary Speaker: NEG Evaluate & Conclusion
Case: The topic being debated, your team’s main points supporting the position taken, and the evidence supporting your position.

Rebuttal/Attack: In an argument or debate, the presentation of evidence and reasoning meant to weaken or undermine an opponent’s claim.

Substantive Argument: One that can be backed up with research and that is based on real facts.

Evaluate: Speaker will review and sum up key moments of clash and use this information to determine and state WHY his or her team has won the debate.

What role does each person play in the group?
Round One- First Proposition Speaker:

  • Provides the team’s position and main points that will be addressed.

  • Outlines how the case will be broken up by proposition teammates.

  • Delivers 2-3 substantive arguments in support of team’s position

The first speakers of the debate are critical because they establish the tone and outline the direction for the debate. This action creates the foundation for a good debate to build upon. The First Proposition Speaker then has the responsibility to provide a fair and reasonable outline of the debate and for the First Opposition Speaker. Without this foundation, arguments tend to be delivered in a vacuum and poor debates general ensue.

  • The First Proposition Speaker has an additional challenge: He or she must inject the necessary energy into the audience and the room in order to bring the debate to life. This speaker should be fairly assertive in his or her delivery.

  • First Proposition Speakers usually take advantage of the ability to open the debate by delivering the strongest arguments for the Proposition’s side. These speakers also use the opportunity provided by not needing to rebut to put forward strongly developed substantive arguments with multiple examples to win the audience and the judges over as soon as possible.

First Opposition Speaker:

  • Accepts/challenges/expands the proposition’s points, as necessary

  • Rebuts First Proposition’s substantive arguments

  • Outlines case for Opposition

  • Delivers 2-3 substantive arguments opposing the issue

The First Opposition position can be challenging as this speaker has the least amount of time to prepare to respond to two major components, i.e., the Proposition’s position and the First Proposition’s substantive arguments. However, if teams have done their jobs, each will be anticipating the position of the other and be ready accordingly.

  • The First Opposition Speaker will have to be ready to prove why the Proposition’s position and points are wrong and how they are to be challenged.

  • The First Opposition Speaker will also have the responsibility of delivering the Opposition’s strongest arguments against the issue.

  • These speakers will also be responsible for providing the first attack on the Proposition’s strongest arguments within the debate.

Round Two-Second Speakers:

Second Proposition:

  • Rebuts First Opposition’s substantive arguments

  • Defends First Proposition’s substantive arguments (if necessary)

  • Delivers 2 new substantive arguments in support of the issue

Second Opposition:

  • Rebuts Second Proposition’s substantive arguments

  • Rebuts First Proposition’s substantive arguments (if necessary)

  • Defends First Opposition’s substantive arguments (if necessary)

  • Delivers 2 new substantive arguments opposing the issue

The Second Speaker’s position is special as it provides an ideal opportunity to evaluate the overall stance taken by the opposing team and provide critique on the general approach taken by the opponents. This evaluative process is especially useful for the Third Speakers in framing their rebuttals and for the Summary Speakers to frame their Reply speeches.

  • Second Speakers are in good position to add new dimensions to the debate by developing their argumentation further.

  • This allows their team to broaden the scope of the debate and demonstrate that its approach does not rest on a single line of argumentation or logic.

Round Three- Third Speakers:

Third Proposition:

  • Rebuts the Opposition’s substantive arguments

  • Defends the Proposition’s substantive arguments (if necessary)

  • Provides a quick summary of the Proposition’s case

  • Has the option to deliver another substantive argument (if necessary), but the focus should be on attacking the Opposition.

Third Opposition:

  • Rebuts the Proposition’s substantive arguments

  • Defends Opposition’s substantive arguments (if necessary)

  • Provides a quick summary of the Opposition’s case

The Third Speaker’s primary role is to attack the substantive arguments raised by the opposing team. Although the Third Proposition Speaker has the option of delivering a new substantive argument, it is more useful to devote the time allocated to attacking the Opposition’s case.

  • The Third Opposition speaker is not allowed to bring up new arguments as the Proposition will no longer have an opportunity to rebut these points.

  • Third Speakers should focus primarily on rebutting their opponent’s substantive arguments.

  • Although some of these substantive points may already have been rebutted by the Second Speakers or the First Opposition Speaker, the Third Speaker can add value to the debate by developing the rebuttals further.

  • Third Speakers should also address the key examples in their opponents’ cases while adding more examples in their own rebuttals.

  • This does not mean that the Third Speaker should hoard examples. The best examples should be given to the First and Second Speakers. Third Speakers should be able to generate new examples and not appear as though they are only regurgitating the points rather than adding value to the debate.

  • Third Speakers should avoid merely listing the arguments in chronological order. They should re-organize the points into logical sets.

Round Four- Reply/Summary Speakers:

  • Summarize the key points raised by both teams

  • Focus on the key areas of clash between the two teams

  • Analyze and evaluate why the debate was won by their team

  • (Usually only given by the First or Second Speaker on each team. We’re changing this for this project)

Although this is commonly known as the “Summary” Speech, students should not take the view that it will be enough to merely list the arguments and rebuttals presented in the debate. Given the short amount of time available, it will not be possible to do this.

Reply/Summary Speakers will add value to the debate in the following two ways:

  • First, they demonstrate their understanding of the core issues of the debate by summarizing and grouping the arguments into logical sets. In other words, this is not a “roll-call” of points.

  • Second, Reply/Summary Speakers bring the biggest value to the debate with evaluative analysis. This means that these speakers look at the debate with a critical eye and describe HOW the debate was won by their team. They will have to highlight the flaws in their opponents’ approach, arguments, and rebuttals while pointing out the strength of their own case and refutations.

  • One trick Reply/Summary Speakers use is to imagine that they are describing the debate to someone who has just walked into the room and missed all of the previous speeches. The Reply/Summary Speaker will describe what happened in the debate and how victory was attained.

  • Reply/Summary Speakers should know that no new arguments or refutations may be brought up during their speeches.

Sample Debate Videos:


WSDC 2007 Rd 6 Ireland vs Korea (Legalize all drugs)


WSDC 2002 SF vs AUS (Civil Lib vs Sec)


WSDC 2010 Prelim Round 6 Canada vs Korea (short version)


High School Debate Championship Ohio 2011

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