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Questions to ask yourself while debating

Have you ever been involved in a debate and wondered how to come up with more ideas these questions checklists will help you develop the arguments you need at particular times in the run up to, and during, a debate., preparation time.

The time you spend in the run up to a debate thinking about your ideas (‘prep time’) is absolutely crucial to your success in the debate. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Generating arguments for the opposition

During a debate, rebuttal is the name given to the responses by each team to their opponent’s arguments. It’s an exciting challenge to think on your feet in this way; these questions will help you develop your rebuttal skills.

With the next three tactics, even if they have  tried  to prove these things, it is still often really effective to argue against these attempted proofs.

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Literacy Ideas

How to Write a Winning Debate Speech

how to make debate introduction questions

What Is a Debate?

A debate is a formal discussion on a specific topic. Two sides argue for and against a specific proposal or resolution in a debate.

Debates have set conventions and rules that both sides or teams agree to abide by. A neutral moderator or judge is often appointed to help regulate the discussion between the opposing sides.

Debating is a form of persuasive communication. We complete a complete guide to persuasive writing, which will form the backbone of your debating speech that can be accessed here.

Visual Writing Prompts


Debate Speech,debating | class debating unit 1 | How to Write a Winning Debate Speech |

This unit will guide your students to write excellent DEBATE SPEECHES and craft ARGUMENTS that are well-researched, constructed and ready for critique from their classmates.

Furthermore, this EDITABLE UNIT will provide you with the TOOLS and STRATEGIES for running highly engaging CLASSROOM DEBATES.

How Is a Debate Structured?

Debates occur in many different contexts, and these contexts can determine the specific structure the debate will follow.

Some contexts where debates will occur include legislative assemblies, public meetings, election campaigns, academic institutions, and TV shows.

While structures can differ, below is a basic step-by-step debate structure we can look at with our students. If students can debate to this structure, they will find adapting to other debate structures simple.

1. Choose a Topic

Also called a resolution or a motion, the topic is sometimes chosen for each side. This is usually the case in a school activity to practice debating skills. 

Alternatively, as in the case of a political debate, two sides emerge naturally around contesting beliefs or values on a particular issue. 

We’ll assume the debate is a school exercise for the rest of this article.

The resolution or the motion is usually centered around a true or false statement or a proposal to make some change in the current state of affairs. Often the motion will start, ”This House believes that….”

2. Form Two Teams

Two teams of three speakers each are formed. These are referred to as ‘The House for the Motion’ or the ‘Affirmative’ team and ‘The House Against the Motion’ or the ‘Negative’ team.

Preparation is an essential aspect of debating. The speech and debate team members will need time to research their arguments, collaborate, and organize themselves and their respective roles in the upcoming debate.

They’ll also need time to write and rehearse their speeches too. The better prepared and coordinated they are as a team, the more chance they have of success in the debate.

Each speaker takes a turn making their speech, alternating between the House for the Motion, who goes first, and the House Against the Motion. Each speaker speaks for a pre-agreed amount of time.

The debate is held in front of an audience (in this case, the class), and sometimes, the audience is given time to ask questions after all the speeches have been made.

Finally, the debate is judged either by moderators or by an audience vote. 

The aim of the teams in a debate should be to convince a neutral third party that they hold the stronger position.

How to Write a Debate Speech

In some speech contest formats, students are only given the debate topic on the day, and limited time is allowed for preparation. Outside of this context, the speech writing process always begins with research.

Thorough research will help provide the student with both the arguments and the supporting evidence for those arguments.

Knowing how to research well is a skill that is too complex to cover in detail here. Fortunately, this site also has a detailed article on Top Research Strategies to help.

There are slight variations in the structure of debate speeches depending on when the speech is scheduled in the debate order. But, the structure and strategies outlined below are broadly applicable and will help students to write and deliver powerfully persuasive debate speeches.

The Debate Introduction

As with many types of text , the purpose of the introduction in a debate speech is to do several things: grab the attention of the audience, introduce the topic, provide a thesis statement, and preview some of the main arguments.

1. The Attention Grabber

Securing the attention of the audience is crucial. Failure to do this will have a strong, negative impact on how the team’s efforts will be scored as a whole.

There are several tried and tested methods of doing this. Three of the main attention grabbers that work well are:

a.) Quotation From a Well-Known Person

Using a quotation from a well-known person is a great way to draw eyeballs and ears in the speaker’s direction. People love celebrities, even if that celebrity is relatively minor. 

Using a quotation to open a speech lends authority to what is being said. As well as that, usually, the quotation chosen will be worded concisely and interestingly, making it all the more memorable and impactful for the audience.

b.) Statistics

Numbers can be very convincing. There’s just something about quantifiable things that persuades people. Perhaps it’s because numbers help us to pin down abstract ideas and arguments.

The challenge here is for the speaker to successfully extract meaning from the data in such a way as to bolster the force of their argument.

c.) The Anecdote

Anecdotes can be a valuable way to ease the audience into a complex topic. Anecdotes are essentially stories and can be used to make complicated moral or ethical dilemmas more relatable for an audience.

Anecdotes are also an effective way for the speaker to build a rapport with the audience, which, in turn, makes the task of persuading them an easier one.

2. Introduce the Topic

Once the audience’s attention has been firmly grasped, it’s time to introduce the topic or the motion. This should be done in a very straightforward and transparent manner to ensure the audience understands the topic of the debate.

For example, if the topic of the debate was school uniforms, the topic may be introduced with:

“Today, we will debate whether school uniforms should be compulsory for all high school students.”

3. Provide the Thesis Statement

The thesis statement should express the student’s or the team’s position on the motion. That is, the thesis statement explains which side of the debate the speaker is on.

This statement can come directly after introducing the topic, for example:

“Today, we will debate whether school uniforms should be compulsory for all high school students. This house believes (or, I believe …) that school uniforms should not be compulsory for high school students.”

4. Preview the Arguments

The final part of the introduction section of a debate speech involves previewing the main points of the speech for the audience.

There is no need to go into detail with each argument here; that’s what the body of the speech is for. It is enough to provide a general thesis statement for each argument or ‘claims’ – (more on this to follow).

Previewing the arguments in a speech is especially important as the audience and judges only get one listen to a speech – unlike a text which can be reread as frequently as the reader likes.

  Practice Activity

After explaining the different types of attention grabbers and the format for the rest of the introduction to your students, challenge them to write an example of each type of opening for a specific debate topic. 

When they’ve finished writing these speech openings, discuss with the students which of these openings works best with their chosen topic. They can then continue by completing the rest of the introduction for their speech using the format as described above.

Some suggested debate topics you might like to use with your class include:

The Body of the Speech

The body paragraphs are the real meat of the speech. They contain the in-depth arguments that make up the substance of the debate. 

How well these arguments are made will determine how the judges will assess each speaker’s performance, so it’s essential to get the structure of these arguments just right.

Let’s take a look at how to do that.

The Structure of an Argument

With the introduction out of the way, it’s time for the student to get down to the nitty-gritty of the debate – that is, making compelling arguments to support their case.

There are three main aspects to an argument in a debate speech. They are:

1. The Claim

2. The Warrant

3. The Impact

The first part of an argument is referred to as the claim. This is the assertion that the argument is attempting to prove. 

The warrant is the evidence or reasoning used to verify or support that claim.

Finally, the impact describes why the claim is significant. It’s the part of the argument that deals with why it matters in the first place and what further conclusions we can draw from the fact that the claim is true.

Following this structure carefully enables our students to build coherent and robust arguments.

Practice Activity

Present your students with a topic and, as a class, brainstorm some arguments for and against the motion.

Then, ask students to choose one argument and, using the Claim-Warrant-Impact format, take a few moments to write down a well-structured argument that’s up to debate standard.

Students can then present their arguments to the class. 

Or, you could also divide the class along pro/con lines and host a mini-debate!

The Conclusion

This speech section provides the speaker with one last opportunity to deliver their message.

In a timed formal debate, the conclusion also allows the speaker to show the judges that they can speak within the set time while still covering all their material.

As with conclusions in general, the conclusion of a debate speech provides an opportunity to refer back to the introduction and restate the central position. 

At this point, it can be a good idea to summarize the arguments before ending with a powerful image that leaves a lasting impression on the audience and judges.

The Burden of the Rejoinder

In formal debates, the burden of the rejoinder means that any time an opponent makes a point for their side, it’s incumbent upon the student/team to address that point directly.

Failing to do so will automatically be seen as accepting the truth of the point made by the opponent.

For example, if the opposing side argues that all grass is pink, despite how ridiculous that statement is, failing to refute that point directly means that, for the debate, all grass is pink.

Our students must understand the burden of the rejoinder and ensure that any points the opposing team makes are fully addressed during the debate.

When preparing to write their speech, students should spend a significant proportion of their team collaborating as a team. 

One good way to practice the burden of the rejoinder concept is to use the concept of Devil’s Advocate, whereby one team member acts as a member of the opposing team, posing arguments from the other side for the speaker to counter, sharpening up their refutation skills in the process.


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Debate: the keys to victory.

Research and preparation are essential to ensure good performance in a debate. Students should spend as much time as possible drafting and redrafting their speeches to maximize their chances of winning. However, a debate is a dynamic activity, and victory cannot be assured by pre-writing alone.

Students must understand that the key to securing victory lies in also being able to think, write (often in the form of notes), and respond instantly amid the turmoil of the verbal battle. To do this, students must understand the following keys to victory.

When we think of winning a debate, we often think of blinding the enemy with the brilliance of our verbal eloquence. We think of impressing the audience and the judges alike with our outstanding oratory.

What we don’t often picture when we imagine what a debate winner looks like is a quiet figure sitting and listening intently. But being a good listener is one of our students’ most critical debating skills.

If students don’t listen to the other side, whether by researching opposing arguments or during the thrust of the actual debate, they won’t know the arguments the other side is making. Without this knowledge, they cannot effectively refute the opposition’s claims.

Read the Audience

In terms of the writing that happens before the debate takes place, this means knowing your audience. 

Students should learn that how they present their arguments may change according to the demographics of the audience and/or judges to whom they will be making their speech. 

An audience of retired school teachers and an audience of teen students may have very different responses to the same arguments.

This applies during the actual debate itself too. If the student making their speech reads resistance in the faces of the listeners, they should be prepared to adapt their approach accordingly in mid-speech.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The student must practice their speech before the debate. There’s no need to learn it entirely by heart. There isn’t usually an expectation to memorize a speech entirely, and doing so can lead to the speaker losing some of their spontaneity and power in their delivery. At the same time, students shouldn’t spend the whole speech bent over a sheet of paper reading word by word.

Ideally, students should familiarize themselves with the content and be prepared to deliver their speech using flashcards as prompts when necessary.

Another important element for students to focus on when practising their speech is making their body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures coherent with the verbal content of their speech. One excellent way to achieve this is for the student to practice delivering their speech in a mirror.

And Finally…

Debating is a lot of fun to teach and partake in, but it also offers students a valuable opportunity to pick up some powerful life skills.

It helps students develop a knack for distinguishing fact from opinion and an ability to assess whether a source is credible or not. It also helps to encourage them to think about the other side of the argument. 

Debating helps our students understand others, even when disagreeing with them. An important skill in these challenging times without a doubt.


Debate Speech,debating | opinion writing unit 1 | How to Write a Winning Debate Speech |



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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.  A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here.  Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.

NO PREP REQUIRED A ready-made unit on Class Debating awaits you.

How to Begin a Debate

Last Updated: September 16, 2022 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Lynn Kirkham . Lynn Kirkham is a Professional Public Speaker and Founder of Yes You Can Speak, a San Francisco Bay Area-based public speaking educational business empowering thousands of professionals to take command of whatever stage they've been given - from job interviews, boardroom talks to TEDx and large conference platforms. Lynn was chosen as the official TEDx Berkeley speaker coach for the last four years and has worked with executives at Google, Facebook, Intuit, Genentech, Intel, VMware, and others. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 51 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 848,420 times.

Opening a debate the right way will make your audience more interested and help you win your argument. Before your debate , take the time to prepare a solid opening that will win people over.

Grabbing the Audience's Attention

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Beginning the Debate

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Presenting the Debate

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The best way to start a debate is to open with a bold rhetorical question, a touching personal story that’s relevant to your argument, or a shocking statistic. Once you have your audience’s attention, define the key terms you’ll be using in your debate and summarize your case. For tips on presenting your argument, like how long to maintain eye contact with audience members, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Debate Writing

Debate Speech

Cathy A.

Debate Speech - Ultimate Writing Guide for Students

19 min read

Published on: Jan 25, 2019

Last updated on: Dec 18, 2022

debate speech

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A debate speech is a structured argument about a particular topic. It is conducted according to the set of rules designed to give each team a fair chance. Therefore, following a proper structure in  debate writing  is essential for the debater and the audience.

Similarly, there are also some other methods to write an effective debate. By understanding them, you will increase the chances of your success. Moreover, setting a tone and correct word choice is also essential to grab the audience’s and judges’ attention.

We have drafted this detailed guide to help students with their debate speeches. Continue reading to get an idea about the complete format and template.

Debate Speech Definition

A debate speech is a formal discussion on a particular topic between two opposing sides. One side speaks in favor of the given topic, while the other one speaks against it. The main aim of a debate speech is to convince the audience that your opinion is right.

Also, the two main factors that determine the definition of a debate speech are:

It involves three basic elements given below.

Similarly, debate speech allows us to think about different perspectives and improves public speaking skills. It can further make you learn the basics of creating a persuasive argument.

Debate Speech Format

A debate speech format follows the below pattern.

Opening Statements and Clarification

This section includes the opening sentences by using three arguments along with clarifying questions.

Rebuttals (No New Arguments)

Here, the debaters repeat the opponent’s arguments and analyze what is wrong with his position.

It allows the debaters to summarize their positions after detailed arguments with the opponents. Moreover, they will also explain why their position is the best.

Lastly, each team will be expected to answer the questions in a 20-minute long session.

Have a look at the below document to get an idea of the debate speech structure.

Debate Writing Speech Template

How to Start a Debate Speech?

Starting your debate in the right way will make your audience more interested. Thus, take enough time to prepare a solid opening that will help you win the debate.

Follow the below prewriting steps to start a debate speech.

how to start a debate speech

Below given is a detailed description of these steps.

Begin with an Impressive Greeting

The first and foremost step is to start your debate speech with an amazing greeting. It is much more than a simple introduction of a topic and gives an idea of the main argument.

Similarly, it also alerts the audience on whether the debate speech is going to be interesting or not. Remember, a compelling greeting will help you gain maximum attention from the listeners.

An example of the greeting is stated below.

“A very cheerful good morning to all. Honorable juries/adjudicators, respected teachers, and my fellow competitors. Today I would like to light my views supporting (if you are in favor) /opposing (if you are against) the motion/topic (say your topic).”

Tell a Personal Story

You can also tell a personal story from your experiences. It will help you connect with the audience emotionally. Moreover, being authentic and genuine will also make your debate stand out.

For Example:

“When I was a child growing up in rural England, I came to accept how clean and unpolluted it was. It was when I moved to the city where I enrolled in a University. Little did I realize that air pollution and excessive waste was a big problem…”

State an Amazing Fact

Stating the facts and statistical data will also grab the audience’s attention. Similarly, it can also improve your position by strengthening the arguments.

“The economy does not work for everyone. The average person in the UK only has 12 weeks’ worth of their income saved in the bank…”

Use a Powerful Quotation

You can also summarize a topic or idea by using the words of other people. It is a great way to add weight and reputation to your argument.

“Over the last 20 years, the number of people who are keenly changing their diet is steadily on the rise. Ellen DeGeneres notably became a vegan, as she said in her own words after seeing “footage of what goes on in the slaughterhouses and on the dairy farm.” The notion that eating meat is becoming less important…”

Ask a Rhetorical Question

Starting a debate speech with a question will engage people and make them think in a specific mind frame.

“Have you ever wondered how important the ocean is in our lives? The oceans provide half the oxygen we breathe and feed more than 2 billion people each day…”

State a Problem

A debater can give a clear picture of the main argument by stating a problem.

“The internet is a danger to society. It’s clear that our global civilization is coming of age. We are communicating faster, doing business quicker, and learning volumes.

Even the trade in black market goods and services is not diminishing. What we choose to do with the internet can change the world.”

Share Your Opinion About the Topic

Lastly, a debater must share his opinion on the topic while starting a debate speech. It will help the audience to comprehend the side we are going to argue about.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to talk to you today about exams. The exam system that we have followed is the British system has been reformed many times. A big exam at the age of eleven determined a child’s whole future.

Here, I will argue that the problem is that exams, besides being stressful, are ineffective in assessing student learning.”

Refer to the example to learn more about how to start a debate speech 1st speaker.

Debate Speech Example for 1st Speaker

How to Write a Debate Speech?

Follow the steps given below to write a debate speech.

Understand the Debate Speech

Understanding the debate speech and its nature is the first step in the writing process. Here, both the opposing teams will be given a topic. Choose the stance, either affirmative or negative, to the resolution.

Sometimes you will be given a stance, and other times you will be asked to take a position. Also, select the  types of debate  that you want to pursue. It can be a team policy debate, cross-examination, or parliamentary debating.

Research the Topic Thoroughly

The next step is to brainstorm and research the topic thoroughly. It will help you understand all the aspects of the resolution to write a perfect speech.

Make a list of the key points on both sides of the topic. Try to cover each in your debate speech. However, make sure to use credible sources such as newspapers, books, and scholarly journals.

Also, do not ignore the counter-arguments as they can weaken your debate.

Develop a Debate Speech Outline

Develop an outline for your debate speech to organize your main ideas. A basic speech outline consists of three main sections, i.e., introduction, body, and conclusion.

A detailed explanation of these sections is given below.

Debate Speech Introduction:  It is the first section of a debate outline. Below are the four main parts that must be included in a debate speech introduction.

The example of a debate speech introduction is given below.

Debate Speech Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs are the main section of your debate speech. Here the judges will take notes of your significant arguments to compare them with the opponents at the end.

Each paragraph must include a statement to discuss the ideas that you want to make. Also, add a reason to support your thesis and explain more about the argument. However, do not forget to add evidence from credible sources to strengthen your argument.

Finally, explain the significance of your argument. It should discuss why the argument is important to the debaters and the judges. Moreover, it must also provide logical reasoning for the audience to choose your side.

Below is an example of a debate speech body paragraph.

Debate Speech Conclusion

The conclusion of your debate speech is the last chance to demonstrate the major arguments. It includes an attention-grabbing sentence and a thesis statement that connects the entire speech. Also, summarize the main body by adding emotion and drama to our words.

It is good to conclude your speech & debate with a message or quote that clarifies your position and arguments to the judges. Finally, add a closing sentence similar to the attention grabber to leave a lasting impression on the audience.

The following is an example of a good debate speech conclusion.

Structure for Debate Speech

Writing the Debate Speech

After deciding on the outline format, start writing the final draft of your debate. It is better to combine the elements of persuasion to explain the effects of the topic in real life. These are:

Furthermore, use  transition words  to maintain a logical flow between arguments. Never make the mistake of copying information from any other source. It is the best tip to avoid plagiarism.

Lastly, edit and proofread your work to identify any common errors. It may include grammatical, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.

You can also hire a professional proofreader or ask your friends or colleagues to proofread it. This is how you will be able to produce an amazing debate speech.

How to End a Debate Speech?

It is better to end your debate speech by identifying whether you have incorporated all the elements. Here is a checklist for you to access your speech with the help of the following questions.

Follow these  debating techniques  to write a perfect one in no time. Check the example for a detailed understanding of the concept.

Examples to End a Debate Speech

Debate Speech Examples

The following are some debate speech samples and examples for you to get a better idea.

Sample for Debate Speech

Example for Debate Speech

Debate Speech Text Example

Debate Speech Example - Second Speaker

Debate Speech Example - Last Speaker

Get more  debate examples  by going through our blog.

Debate Speech Topics

Here are some unique topic ideas for you to write a debate on.

If you are looking for more ideas, here is a list of interesting  debate topics .

The Key to Winning a Debate

To do well in a debate, you need to research and prepare. This means spending a lot of time writing and rewriting your speeches.

However, you can't just prewrite everything and expect to win. You also need to be able to think on your feet, write quickly, and respond promptly if you want to win.

To do this, you need to understand the keys to victory.

Always Listen to the Opponent Carefully

Being a good listener is one of the most important debating skills our students can have. When we think of winning a debate, we often think of dazzling the audience with our brilliance. But, being quiet and listening to others is often more important.

If students do not listen to the other side, they will not know what the other side is saying. They will not be able to refute the claims of the opposition effectively if they do not know what those claims are.

Understand the Audience

Before giving a speech, it is important to know who your audience is. Students should learn that the way they present their arguments may be different depending on the demographics of the audience and/or the judges they will be speaking to.

People who have retired from teaching and people who are still in school might have different reactions to the same arguments. This is also true during a debate.

If the person giving the speech sees that the listeners are not reacting well, they should change their approach during the speech.

Practice is the Key to Success

The students should practice their speech before the debate. There is no need to learn it by heart entirely.

Usually, there is no expectation to memorize a speech entirely. Doing so can lead to the speaker losing some of their spontaneity and power in their delivery. However, students should not spend the whole speech reading off a piece of paper word by word.

Students should be familiar with the content of their speech and use flashcards as prompts if necessary.

They should also focus on making their body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures coherent with the verbal content of their speech. One way to do this is to practice delivering their speech in front of a mirror.

The above guide will help you understand the writing process of a debate speech. But, despite that, not everyone can draft perfect content. Therefore, many students end up taking writing help online.

However, due to a lack of resources, they often get stuck with unprofessional services. Most of them offer low-quality content at cheap prices.

If you are tired of these online scams, go for our legit  essay writing service .  guarantees the best service and top-quality debates at budget-friendly rates.

Similarly, the expert writers have years of experience to deliver the work within the given deadline. They will also help you to choose engaging speech and debate topics.

Avail of reliable debate writing help by placing your  order  now.

Cathy A. (Literature, Marketing)

Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.

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177 Questions to Inspire Writing, Discussion, Debate and Reflection

Here are all of our Student Opinion questions from the 2019-20 school year. A New York Times article, interactive feature or video is the jumping-off point for each question.

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Each school day, we publish a new Student Opinion question. The questions explore everything from family, school and friendships to race, gender and social media. Not surprisingly, this past year, many of our Student Opinion prompts also touched on how the coronavirus pandemic affected nearly all aspects of our lives.

During the 2019-20 school year, we asked 177 questions, and you can find them all below or here as a PDF . The questions are divided into two categories — those that provide opportunities for debate and persuasive writing, and those that lend themselves to creative, personal or reflective writing.

A New York Times article, interactive feature or video is the jumping-off point for each question, and students can view each linked Times article without a digital subscription.

These questions are used by some teachers as a way to spark class discussion and debate, while other teachers use them as an entry point for practicing narrative or persuasive writing. Our Student Opinion questions offer an authentic audience for student voices as well as a way to encourage students to engage with current events and peers from around the world.

We also have a free, on-demand webinar that offers other ideas on how to use our writing prompts in the classroom for everyday low-stakes writing practice across the curriculum.

Questions for Debate and Persuasive Writing

1. Should Students Get Mental Health Days Off From School? 2. Do Video Games Deserve the Bad Rap They Often Get? 3. Should College Be Free? 4. Where Should We Draw the Line Between Community Health and Safety and Individual Liberty and Privacy? 5. Does the United States Owe Reparations to the Descendants of Enslaved People? 6. What Topics Do You Wish You Could Learn About in School? 7. Should Parents Track Their Children? 8. When Do You Become an Adult? 9. Is the Mona Lisa Bad for Art? 10. Would You Return a Lost Wallet? (What if It Had Lots of Money in It?) 11. Do You Believe Aliens Exist? 12. Is Animal Testing Ever Justified? 13. Should Gifted and Talented Education Be Eliminated? 14. Do Films Like ‘Joker’ Endorse (or Even Promote) Violence? 15. Why Is It Important for People With Different Political Beliefs to Talk to Each Other? 16. What Rules, if Any, Should There Be About Phone Use During Live Performances? 17. Should Stay-at-Home Parents Be Paid? 18. Should We Feel Guilty When We Travel? 19. Are Some Youth Sports Too Intense? 20. Can Social Media Be a Tool for Learning and Growth in Schools? 21. Should Students Be Required to Take the SAT and ACT to Apply to College? 22. Should Your School Day Start Later? 23. Should Facebook Fact-Check Political Speech? 24. Should Blowouts Be Allowed in Youth Sports? 25. Should the Week Be Four Days Instead of Five? 26. Should Sports Journalism ‘Stick To Sports’? 27. Should Students Be Punished for Not Having Lunch Money? 28. Should Schools Test Their Students for Nicotine and Drug Use? 29. Is Racial and Economic Diversity in Schools Important? 30. Should Texting While Driving Be Treated Like Drunken Driving? 31. Why Do Bystanders Sometimes Fail to Help When They See Someone in Danger? 32. Are Comic-Book Movies Ruining Film? 33. How Do You Think American Education Could Be Improved? 34. Should All Schools Teach Cursive? 35. What Suggestions Do You Have for Improving Lunch at Your School? 36. Should Musicians Be Allowed to Copy or Borrow From Other Artists? 37. What Do You Think About Prince Harry and Meghan ‘Stepping Back’? 38. What Role Should Textbooks Play in Education? 39. Should Public Transit Be Free? 40. How Should We Punish Sports Cheaters? 41. Is There a ‘Right Way’ to Be a Tourist? 42. Do the Grammy Awards Represent the Best in Music Today? 43. Do You Think the World Is Getting Closer to Securing the Promise of ‘Never Again’? 44. Should the Adults in Your Life Be Worried by How Much You Use You Use Your Phone? 45. Is It Offensive for Sports Teams and Their Fans to Use Native American Names, Imagery and Gestures? 46. Should Facial Recognition Technology Be Used in Schools? 47. In the Age of Digital Streaming, Are Movie Theaters Still Relevant? 48. Do Memes Make the Internet a Better Place? 49. Is Childhood Today Over-Supervised? 50. How Do You Decide What News to Believe, What to Question and What to Dismiss? 51. Should Plastic Bags Be Banned Everywhere? 52. Do You Think Online Conspiracy Theories Can Be Dangerous? 53. What Should #MeToo Mean for Teenage Boys? 54. Is It Immoral to Increase the Price of Goods During a Crisis? 55. Should Public Preschool Be a Right for All Children? 56. What Are Your Reactions to the Impeachment Inquiry of President Trump? 57. Is the Impeachment Inquiry a Teachable Moment? Or Should Politics Stay Out of the Classroom? 58. What Is Your Reaction to the Results of the Iowa Caucuses? 59. How Do You Think the Primaries and 2020 Presidential Election Should Proceed? 60. What Role Should Celebrities Have During the Coronavirus Crisis? 61. Should Schools Change How They Grade Students During the Pandemic? 62. Should We All Be Able to Vote by Mail? 63. Is It OK to Laugh During Dark Times? 64. When the Pandemic Ends, Will School Change Forever? 65. What Makes a Great Leader? 66. Should Students Be Monitored When Taking Online Tests? 67. Should National Service Be Required for All Young Americans?

Questions for Creative and Personal Writing

68. How Is What You Are Studying in School Relevant to Your Life and the Larger World? 69. How Much Racism Do You Face in Your Daily Life? 70. Do You Ever Laugh at the Misfortune of Others? 71. How Much Has Your ZIP Code Determined Your Opportunities? 72. What Weaknesses and Strengths About Our World Are Being Exposed By This Pandemic? 73. What Have You Learned About Yourself During This Lockdown? 74. What’s the Most Memorable Thing That Happened to You This Summer? 75. Does Your Life Ever Feel Too Busy? 76. How Do You Feel About Active-Shooter Drills in Schools? 77. When Have You Either Forgiven Someone or Been Forgiven Yourself? 78. How Do You Deal With Self-Doubt? 79. What Are Your Hometown’s Shortcomings? 80. Have You Ever Had a Significant Friendship End? 81. Are You Going to a Youth Climate Strike? 82. How Well Do Your Parents Deal With Sibling Conflicts? 83. How Similar Are Your Political Views to Those of Your Parents? 84. Have You Ever Read a Book You Weren’t Supposed to Read? 85. What Do You Eat for Dinner on a Typical Weeknight? 86. What’s Your Favorite Punctuation Mark? 87. Do You Get an Allowance? 88. Have You Ever Encountered Racist or Extremist Content Online? 89. What Do You Think of the Field of Democratic Presidential Candidates? 90. What Is Your Favorite Rivalry? 91. Who Do You Turn To in a Crisis? 92. Are You a Worrier? 93. What Grievances Do You Have With Your Local Community? 94. What’s Your Favorite Halloween Costume, Past or Present? 95. How Good Are You at Spending Time Alone? 96. What Could You Read, Listen to or Watch to Stretch Your Cultural Imagination? 97. Do You Read Reviews? 98. Do You Want to Get Married Someday? 99. Do You Seek Out New Experiences? Or Stick With the Things You Know and Love? 100. How Well Do You Read Other People? 101. What Does Thanksgiving Mean to You? 102. Do You Have Any Close Friends? 103. Have You Ever Tried to Make Money Online? 104. Do You Feel Safer When You Know You’re Being Watched? 105. What Are Your Experiences With Meditation? 106. How Will You Remember the 2010s? 107. Do You See Yourself in the Books You Read? 108. What Were the Best and Worst Things About 2019 for You? 109. Are You Good at Giving Gifts? 110. What Is Your Choice for Word of the Year? 111. How Have You Coped With the Death of an Idol? 112. Who Are the Ordinary Heroes of 2019? 113. What Are Your Predictions for the New Year and the New Decade? 114. What Era Do You Wish You Had Grown Up In? 115. Would You Want to Live and Breathe Creating Content for Social Media? 116. Do You Complain Too Much, Too Little or Just the Right Amount? 117. How Would You Rate Your Listening Skills and Those of the People Around You? 118. Would You Consider Serving in the U.S. Armed Forces? 119. Have You Ever Quit Something? 120. What Are You Doing to Change Your School? 121. What Does Kobe Bryant’s Death Mean to You? 122. Did You Watch the Super Bowl? What Did You Think? 123. How Have You Learned About Slavery? 124. Would You Ever Consider Becoming Vegetarian? 125. Do You Turn to Your Parents for Advice? 126. What Role Have Coaches Played in Your Life? 127. How Would You Design Your Ideal Museum? 128. Are You Able to Be Your Whole Self at School? 129. Do You Have More Good Habits Than Bad? 130. We Document Life’s Milestones. How Should We Document Death? 131. How Concerned Are You About the Coronavirus Outbreak? 132. Are You a Good Person? 133. Would You Allow an Ex-Prisoner to Live With You? 134. How Would Your Life Be Different if You Didn’t Have Wi-Fi and Cellular Service? 135. Stress, Worry and Anxiety Are All Different. How Do You Cope With Each? 136. Is the Diversity of Your School Accurately Reflected in Its Promotional Materials? 137. What Is Your Reaction to the Latest News About the Coronavirus Outbreak? 138. What Role Does Poetry Play in Your Life? 139. How Can We Help One Another During the Coronavirus Outbreak? 140. What Songs Matter to You Now? 141. How Is the Coronavirus Outbreak Affecting Your Life? 142. What Are You Reading, Watching, Listening To, Playing and Cooking? A Place for Recommendations 143. How Are You Staying Healthy and Fit? 144. What Questions Do You Have About the Coronavirus? 145. Has Your School Switched to Remote Learning? How Is It Going So Far? 146. How Do Animals Provide Comfort in Your Life? 147. Is the Coronavirus Pandemic Bringing Your Extended Family Closer Together? 148. What Are Some Ways to “Travel” Without Traveling During the Pandemic? 149 Holidays and Birthdays Are Moments to Come Together. How Are You Adapting During the Pandemic? 150. How Has the Coronavirus Changed How You Use the Internet? 151. How Are You Getting Your Sports Watching Fix? 152. What Acts of Kindness Have You Heard About or Participated In During Coronavirus? 153. When Has Starting Over Worked for You? 154. Is Your Family Experiencing Greater Conflict During a Time of Self-Quarantine? 155. How Are You Feeling About Missing Prom? 156. How Can You Tell a Story About Your Life Right Now Through a Few Simple Numbers? 157. What Does Your Accent Say About Who You Are? 158. How Do You Greet Your Friends and Family? 159. What Are Your Favorite Games? 160. What Do You Miss Most About Your Life Before the Pandemic? 161. What Are Your Hopes for Summer 2020? What Are Your Worries? 162. How Do You Connect With Your Parents? 163. Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist? 164. What Do the Objects in Your Home Say About You? 165. What’s the First Thing You Plan to Do After Quarantine? 166. Do You Enjoy Going On a Walk — Especially Now? 167. What’s the Best Book You Ever Read for School? 168. What’s the Craziest Thing You Did as a Kid? 169. How Is Your Family Dividing Responsibilities During the Quarantine 170. How Has Social Distancing Changed Dating for Teenagers? 171. Do You Believe in Ghosts? 172. What Issues in the 2020 Presidential Race Are Most Important to You? 173. Do You Prefer to Dwell in the Past, Live in the Present or Dream of the Future? 174. Does the Future of Robots Get You Excited, or Fill You With Dread? 175. How Do You Practice Self-Care? 176. How Will We Remember the Coronavirus Pandemic? 177. What Is Your Reaction to the Days of Protest That Have Followed the Death of George Floyd?

Want more writing prompts?

You can find even more Student Opinion questions in our 550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing and 130 New Prompts for Argumentative Writing . We also publish daily Picture Prompts , which are image-centered posts that provide space for many different kinds of writing. You can find all of our writing prompts, added as they publish, here .

DEBATE CENTRAL Debating Resources for the World since 1994


Advice for International Debaters

Alfred C. Snider

Edwin Lawrence Professor of Forensics

University of Vermont

Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico

Segundo Torneo Hispanoamericano de Debate


I feel honored to be asked to participate in this prestigious event. As a teacher with over 30 years of experience I would like to share with you some ideas that might improve your experience as a debater, judge, and coach now and in the future.

Please excuse me if you are already familiar with many of these concepts, but I want to make sure that I reach every student at their level of knowledge. For those of you who are interested in more detailed and advanced approaches to these issues, please see the resources listed at the end of this piece.


It is useful to understand the conceptual processes involved in a debate. Once again, this is a prescriptive approach to what a “good” debate should involve as opposed to the depths to which many debates can sink. These conceptual components are development, clash, extension and perspective.

Robert Branham, one of America’s leading debate proponents, originated this distinction in 1991:

If debate is “the process by which opinions are advanced, supported, disputed, and defended," the fulfillment of these actions in turn requires that the arguments of the disputants possess certain attributes. Thus, true debate depends on the presence of four characteristics of argument:

1. Development, through which arguments are advanced and supported;

2. Clash, through which arguments are properly disputed;

3. Extension, through which arguments are defended against refutation; and

4. Perspective, through which individual arguments are related to the larger question at hand (22).

In a debate ideas and positions are developed. This development involves description, explanation, and demonstration. In a debate about universal health coverage one does not simply state that it is a good idea, there is also an obligation to explain why we need this policy, what that policy will be and how it will operate successfully. Some specificity is always called for in a debate as advocates outline what it is they are in favor of and what it is they are opposed to.

In a debate ideas are refuted. This is the concept of clash. Those ideas presented by opposing advocates need to be examined with a critical eye, locating weaknesses, faults and inconsistencies in these ideas. We call this “clash,” in that opposing advocates must not just disagree, but must demonstrate the specific reason why they reject the specific ideas of opponents. In a useful debate the ideas of the other side cannot be ignored, but must be critiqued.

In a debate ideas are defended. This is the process of extension. When an opponent has criticized an advocate’s ideas, these criticisms should be answered. Arguments against an idea cannot be ignored, but must be answered. This process creates a cycle of critical analysis, where ideas are presented, refuted, defended, refuted again, and then defended again until the debate has concluded. This process creates a rich interchange of ideas that audiences and participants find to be some of the most intellectually stimulating experiences of their lives.

Finally, each debate should call for a decision. This is the process of perspective. The decision is the sum of the arguments and ideas presented. Some ideas are more important than others, and ideas in a debate can relate in complex ways. Debaters should assist the audience in weighing the ideas and issues so that a logical decision can be made.

The danger is that a debater will fulfill only some of these roles, and thus deliver an inferior performance. It is essential to present your ideas, defend your ideas, and clash with the ideas of others. Most importantly, it is essential for the debater, near the end of the debate, to weigh the issues and show that even if there is some merit to the ideas of the other team, the audience and judges should still agree with you.


One description I have found useful for students and judges is a simple checklist of behaviors that distinguish the good debater.   I was asked by several of the New York Urban Debate League coaches to come up with a list of characteristics that describe a good debater as well as those that describe a poor debater.   Since the debate is supposed to be won by the team who did the "better job of debating," these rather abstract and symbolic characteristics very often translate directly into competitive success. I also think they translate into success later in life.

The “Better” Debater

·       Is a gracious winner and a respectful loser

·       Gives strong rhetorical reasons for the probative force of his or her arguments.

·       Makes needs of and benefits to others the focus of the debate through their arguments, instead of focusing on his or her own competitive triumph

·       Argues through excellent evidence, but always makes argument the focus, not evidence.   These good debaters use evidence to support their own arguments and do not assume the audience recognizes the importance of their arguments.

·       Debates dynamically, with enthusiasm and commitment

·       Sees the big picture, is aware of how ideas influence one another, and uses those relationships to enhance analysis in the debate

·       Knows the value of having a working command of the knowledge base. There is no substitute for knowing what it is you are debating about

·       Understands the need for organization in order to identify the critical tipping points in the debate

·       Portrays an image of an intelligent person who is seeking to understand and discover the truth

The “Less Skilled” Debater

·       Becomes frustrated when debate success isn’t easy or automatic and loses the benefits of debating through lack of determination

·       Whines that everything is against her or him: judges, situations, other teams, fate

·       Fails to show respect to all participants -- opponents, judges, audience, and hosts.

·       Speaks from a position of privilege - demanding that you trust and accept their ideas over those of others without demonstrating why

·       Fails to make connections between various issues and arguments in the debate

·       Speaks only in generalities or only in specifics, not understanding that both the big picture and the minutiae are important at all times

·       Fails to have fun in the debate because of an overly competitive nature or disinterest

·       Fails to pay rigorous attention to the judge’s critique, learning neither from failure nor successes

·       Fails to focus during the debate at hand, allowing their mind to wander and be distracted by outside events


The terms “government,” “affirmative,” and “proposition” all refer to the team that agrees with the topic statement, and “opposition” and “negative” refer to the team that disagrees with the topic statement.

Building a case

         Teams advocating the government or proposition side of the topic should conceptualize and organize their research into the format of the case.   The case is a cohesive set of arguments that justify the side of the topic that they have been assigned.   More importantly, the case allows debaters to choose the ground that they would like to defend.   The debate case allows debaters to focus in on the arguments that they think are important and how they get to interpret the topic of the debate to defend these arguments.   The case is important because it sets up the framework for the rest of the debate.  

         Usually the government or proposition team will present their case in the form of three or four major arguments, which are clearly labeled and introduced to the audience in a clear fashion. Making a debate case composed of such major arguments depends in large part on the kind of topic being debated.  

For a policy based topic or when calling for a change or advocating some transformation, then the problem and solution format works best.   In this situation they want to clearly outline the problem that calls upon us to make a change, their specific plan, and the reasons why their solution will solve the problem.   Students may also want to aware of the reasons why the solution is yet undone (ignorance, lack of political will) and be aware of any additional benefits that might stem from their advocacy.

An example is a debate on the topic of “Educational reform is justified”.   An affirmative side might want to argue that the educational system should support same-sex based educational institutions.   If this were their case, then the affirmative team might want to outline the harms of a co-educational system, particularly outlining the damage done to women.   They might propose that the government provide funding for women-only educational institutions.   Then they would want to present arguments that proved that the solution they have chosen would solve the problem they outlined.

For a value resolution, it is generally accepted to have a criteria-based case.   In this case, one would want to provide a way to evaluate the values in the round.   Because debates of value are extremely subjective, it is important to establish a way for everyone to think about the arguments in the debate.   This means providing criteria for judgment.   This might be as simple as suggesting that the debate round be judged on a particular value.  

Consider a debate on the topic “The body is sacred”.   An affirmative team might want to use this to argue that against recreational tattooing and piercing of the body.   In which case they might want to frame the debate using the criteria of bodily integrity.   They would build their case by defining the notion of bodily integrity as the highest value in the debate round.   They would talk about religious traditions that hold the body to be a gift from a higher power, and the practical dangers associated with piercing and tattooing (infection, disease).   A negative team can present a counter-criterion that clashes with the affirmative’s chosen criteria.   In this example, a negative team might want to argue in favor of personal freedom as being the highest value in the debate.   After providing the importance of personal freedom, they would then analyze the debate about tattooing and piercing through the lens of this criterion.

For a resolution of fact , the least common type of debate topic, debaters should organize your ideas to support your position.   Because resolutions of fact contest our perceptions of truth, the debates are most easily conceptualized through a case that might prove the resolution.   Within this framework, debaters might want to organize their arguments chronologically, or based on the topic being debated.  

Critical analysis of opposing viewpoints

         It is vital in a debate that each team is prepared to respond to the arguments made by the other side.   The easiest way for students to do this is to brainstorm the best arguments on both sides and then during the preparation phase use composing answers, keeping track of these ideas.  

Students should make a list of all the arguments they would use if they were on the other side of the debate.   Debaters should put such an opposing argument at the top of an index card or the top of a piece of paper and then they should think of arguments that respond to each one. Then, if and when these arguments are made in the debate, you will already have thought of answers to those arguments.

         This is critical thinking – exposing and challenging an opponent’s ideas. Critical thinking is an inherent part of the debate process. McBurney, O’Neill and Mills describe the components of critical thinking and relate them to debate:

Skill in critical thinking is a fourth general objective which in part comprehends the others. It is useful in speaking, listening, writing, and reading. A critical thinker habitually applies the precepts of argumentation: discerns propositions; discovers issues; knows how to study a subject; is aware of the proof requirements of a proposition; applies the tests of evidence; distinguishes between valid and fallacious reasoning; identifies implicit assumptions; recognizes the non‑logical means of persuasion. This skill in critical thinking is no mere by‑product if the debating is based upon the sound principles of argumentation (266).

Discovery, analysis and preparing to defeat opponent’s arguments are fundamental parts of debate.


In a competitive debate the goal is to gain the votes of the judges. Here are three ideas that might assist you in this task.

         My consistent experience demonstrates that judges prefer dynamic speakers. A dynamic speaker presents an image of energy, enthusiasm, commitment to an idea, and sincerity. This is usually communicated through changes in volume, tone, and pitch of the voice as well as through active and expansive hand and body gestures. Facial expressions of concern, hope, and determination can also be useful. This does not mean that the presentation is more important that the argument being made, because a very dynamic presentation of a weak argument might damage the credibility of the speaker more than a less dynamic approach.

Weigh the issues

         It is inevitable in almost any debate that each side will have some good ideas and make some strong arguments. The way to win the debate is for the last speaker for each side to weigh the arguments of the two sides against one another and show that when that is done their side of the debate is most advantaged. For example, you might say that “even if” there were some validity to what the other side is saying, the audience would still vote for your side in the debate “because…” .

         When you admit that there is some validity to what the other side is saying, but still show that you have won the debate, you gain credibility with the judges and the audience and you show them an easy way to make their decision.

Show the personal relevance of issues in the debate

         The audience and the judges are more likely to consider an issue to be important if it is personally relevant to them. If you show those personal connections, they will reward you for it. Illustrations of how the issues at hand have an effect on those in the room during the debate can be very useful for this. Also, do not be afraid to indicate a personal relationship with the topic that you, as a speaker, may have. In speech supporting the rights of homosexuals it can be useful to mention friends, neighbors, and family members who are homosexual and should be given their full rights as citizens. Narratives from your own life experience, especially if they build sympathy for you, can also be effective.


         This tournament has an innovative approach to questions and answers to be exchanged by the two teams in the debate. This is an example of how increased international competition can create new and innovative approaches to debating. I applaud the organizers for this format. However, there are certain ideas that the debaters might want to keep in mind so that they can take advantage of this format.

Have a prepared question statement

         The time period allocated for each team to ask a question is considerable, and far longer than it takes to ask a simple question. Therefore, the debaters should prepare the questions statement before the debate, and practice it as well. The question statement should highlight what you believe to be the greatest weakness in supporting their assigned side of the topic.

Structure your question statement properly

         One danger is that the long question statement will be a disorganized and random collection of sentences. The question statement should be properly structured so that, for example, it establishes a favorable background for the introduction of an issue, it explains what the issue is, it explains why this issue is so important, and then it poses this issue to the other team as a strongly worded question. There are other types of organization that could be used, but the important thing is to have an organizational system and to design it strategically to assist your arguments.

Pose the question at the end

         Because this is supposed to be a question statement, it is expected that its ultimate structure should be a question. The final question posed should be powerfully worded and should take advantage of all the comments and ideas that came immediately prior to it.

Begin formulating the answer statement as the question statement unfolds

         The team responding to the question statement should begin formulating their answers to the ideas being presented while the question statement is being made. One partner might want to listen carefully while the other begins to formulate, perhaps in an outline format, the answers to be presented in response. Or, both team members could be preparing an answer while the question is being asked. This will allow the answer statement made to be more complete, more specific, and more organized.

Answer statement should begin with a direct answer

         One of the best ways to counter a long and effective question statement is with a direct and short answer (most often “no”) and then go on to explain that answer at greater length.

Answer statement should offer a variety of arguments

         The answer statement should not only answer the question posed and refute the issue being raised, but should do so convincingly. If an even better answer statement obliterates a strong question statement, the answering team is in a good position to win the ballots of the judges. Too often debaters will produce one answer as to why an argument by an opponent is invalid, when it is far more devastating to provide four, five, or even six reason why an opponent’s argument should be rejected. Do not just answer a question; crush it so that the issue will never be taken seriously in the debate.

Always use all of your time

         One danger is that teams that are poorly prepared or are weak at extemporaneous speaking will not be able to use their complete allotted time for questions or answers. This puts them at a very serious disadvantage because the other team used time to make arguments and they did not. Also, failure to use all allocated time is a signal to judges and the audience that this team is not the better team in the debate.

         I look forward to working with all of you in the future as we expand debating around the world. I look forward to hosting some of you at the World Debate Institute during the summer. I look forward to visiting many of you in your home countries. Together we can promote debate as a powerful force for change without violence or war.


Vea un debate en inglés o en castellano

Liga Nactional Debate Universitario de España

Cuaderno “Influencing through argument” (influenciar por medio de argumentos) Texto en inglés de Robert Huber.

Cómo debatir, texto en inglés

Alfred Snider y Maxwell Schnurer, MANY SIDES: Debate Across the Curriculum [IDEA: NY], Mayo, 2002, texto en inglés.

Complete Guide to Debating and how to Improve your Debating Skills

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Complete Guide to Debating: How to Improve your Debating Skills

August 01, 2018 - gini beqiri.

Debating can look intimidating from the sidelines, with speakers appearing confident, passionate and unwavering, but it consists of skills that anybody can learn. Debating may not be something that you encounter in your everyday work but these skills can be incredibly valuable. In this article we provide a guide to the basics of debating.

What is debating?

A debate is a structured contest over an issue or policy. There are two sides - one supporting, one opposing.

Benefits of debating include:

Debating examples

The U.K. Prime Minister, Theresa May, answers questions:

This example video shows Theresa May answering questions from MPs in the House of Commons. Notice her strong debating skills and how she answers difficult questions under pressure.

Watch the full video here: Prime Minister’s Questions: 16 May 2018

Debate structure

There are multiple formats a debate can follow, this is a basic debate structure:

Once you have learned how to debate in one format you can easily switch to another.

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Roles of the speakers

Each speaker must typically do the following:

First Affirmative

First Negative

Presidential Debate 2016

Debating is an important skill in many aspects of life, from winning political seats, to negotiating new contracts, to personal development.

Second Affirmative

Second Negative

Third Affirmative

Third Negative

There are many variations of the three against three debate, a commonly known one is Points of Information. This is used a lot in university debates . During a speech the opposition is allowed to ask a question or make a point.

They stand up and say "point of information" or "on that point" etc. The speaker can choose to accept or reject the point. If accepted, the point of information can last around 15 seconds and the speaker can ask for it to stop at any time.

Debate definitions

Younger debaters tend to waste time defining terms so you must first decide whether you need to define a term. Ask yourself: will my speech be confusing if I don't define this term? Could the opposition misinterpret what I mean without a definition? For example, the motion could be "we should ban plastic straws". It's clear what "plastic straws" are but what does "ban" mean?

Two factors which determine the definition of the debate:

1. Context - what is happening in the area that relates to this issue? For example, maybe the government of a country is debating banning smoking in public buildings and you decide to define the term "passive smoking" during the debate. If a significant event related to the topic has occurred then it should be the focus of the debate, for instance, a shocking report may have recently been revealed in the media showing the widespread effects of second-hand smoking.

2. Spirit of the motion - topics are chosen for a reason so what sort of debate was imagined when the topic was chosen? Looking at the spirit of the motion will ensure that you pick a definition that will produce a well-balanced and important debate.

If the topic is vague then you will have more choice of definitions. You have a duty to pick a clear definition and one that will create a good debate. If not, this may cause a definitional challenge which will ruin the debate and frustrate the judges.

For example, the topic may be "we spend too much money on the stars". Stars can refer to celebrities or astronomy so you need to choose a definition.

If one answer passes both tests then that's your definition. If they tie then either is a good definition.

When providing your definition explain the context used to form the definition. This is important because your understanding of the context may be different from others due to various factors, such as, religion, culture, gender etc.

Basic argument structure

There are various ways of dividing up cases according to groups of arguments, such as, social/economic/political etc. You could assign each speaker to handle a group.

Place the most important arguments first, for example, "The media has more influence on self-esteem than anybody else. This is true for three reasons. Firstly (most important argument)… Secondly…, Thirdly (least important argument)..."

To structure an argument follow these steps:

Arguments are weakest at the evidence stage as it's easy to argue against, for example, the evidence may consist of isolated examples or there may be counter evidence. But it's not a good technique because the opposition can provide more evidence or rebut your criticisms.

It's difficult to rebut claims because they are usually reasonable but if you can attack a claim then that speaker's whole argument falls apart. So if you think a claim is vulnerable then rebut it but you will need a strong explanation to show why it doesn't matter.

European human rights debating

European human rights debating for sixth form students from across London.

There are common flaws you can look for to form a rebuttal:

1. False dichotomy - this is where the speaker is trying to falsely divide the debate into two sides even though there are more alternatives than they state. It's likely the speaker is doing this on purpose but in some cases they do not understand the debate.

2. Assertion - this is when a speaker presents a statement which isn't actually an argument because there is no reason to believe that the statement is valid. It may just be an assumption. You can point out that there has not been enough examination to prove this validity and then give a reason why the assertion is (probably) not valid.

3. Morally flawed - arguments can be morally flawed, for example, "All criminals given a prison sentence should be given the death penalty instead, this will save the country money and space." What has been argued is true but it's clearly morally flawed.

4. Correlation rather than causation - a speaker may suggest a link between two events and suggest one led to the other. But the speaker may not explain how one caused the other event which can make an argument invalid.

5. Failure to deliver promises - sometimes a speaker might fail to complete a task they promised to deliver. For instance, they may state that they will provide evidence supporting a certain claim but they may lose track of what they have said and not actually do this.

6. Straw man - the opposing team introduces an argument and then rebuts it. They may use an extreme example of your proposal or perhaps they were hoping that you would make this argument.

7. Contradiction - an argument the other team presents may contradict one of their previous arguments. You must point out that the arguments cannot be true simultaneously and then explain how this reduces their case's credibility.

8. Compare the conclusion to reality - think "what would happen if what they (the other team) are suggesting is implemented right now?" This usually shows that it's more complicated than they have suggested and the changes can cause secondary problems.

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Judges generally score the speakers looking at this criteria:

Debating event at the Oxford Union

Debating event at the Oxford Union

Important skills for debating

To meet the judges criteria you will have to develop certain skills, consider the following:

What to avoid

British Parliamentary debating

British Parliamentary debating is a popular form of debating so we will briefly explain it: There are four teams made up of two speakers each. Two teams are on the government's side and the other two teams are the opposition but all the teams are trying to win rather than one side. The motion is given 15 minutes before the debate begins and teams are assigned to positions randomly. They alternate their speeches, with the government's side starting. Speeches are usually 5-7 minutes.

The first two speakers on the government side are called the "opening government" and the first two speakers on the opposition's side are called the "opening opposition". The last two speakers on the government's and opposition's side are called the "closing government" and "closing opposition" correspondingly.

British MPs debate a petition seeking to ban Donald Trump from entering the U.K.

The speakers' roles in the opening half of the debate are similar to the roles of the first and second speakers in the three against three debate described previously. The only difference is that the second opening government and second opening opposition speakers include summaries at the end of their speeches - this is because they will also be competing with the teams in the closing half of the debate.

The closing government and closing opposition aim to move the debate on but not contradict their side's opening team. As well as rebuttal, the majority of the third speaker's time consists of presenting either: new material, new arguments, a new analysis from a different perspective or extending previously presented arguments. This is called an "extension" which must be something that sets their team apart and makes them unique.

The last two speeches of the closing teams are summary speeches - they summarise the debate and disagreements between the team. Their most important goal is to explain why their side has won the debate. They are not allowed to present new arguments but they can present new evidence and rebuttal.

During the speeches points of information are offered regularly. Speakers should only accept a maximum of two points of information. The first and last minute is protected time where points of information cannot be offered.

Rather than a side trying to win, all the teams are trying to win - this allows different perspectives to be explored. The teams are then ranked 1st to 4th in the debate.

Debate topics

Almost anything can be debated, here are some popular topics - these have been written as questions but they can be easily adapted into statements:

Debate topics for children

If you're trying to think of debate topics for a classroom, consider the following:

Debating societies

If you're interested in debating consider searching for a society or debating events near you:

Specific to the UK:


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