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How To Write a Debate Brief
Debating topics can be an exciting and passionate event for many. Whither it's one on one debating, or participating in a Debate team, there are rules and structures set for the process.
  1. Debates begin with a Positive position. The burden of proof is on the affirmative side. The proposition is stated and a brief explanation is given in a 5 minute opening.
  2. The first Negative Speaker, or the opposing view, cross examines the opening argument. This position is usually given 3 minutes to respond.
  3. The second Negative Speaker provides a Constructive argument to the affirmed position. The speaker has 5 minutes to make their argument.
  4. The first Positive Speaker has 3 minutes to cross examine the Negative arguments presented in the debate.
  5. The second Positive Speaker then has 5 minutes to provide an additional Constructive argument.
  6. This process continues until all members of the team have had an opportunity to speak.
  7. The debate ends with the last member of the Affirmative team stating a rebuttal for 3 minutes.
  8. The last member of the Opposing team has 3 minutes for their rebuttal.
  9. The team captain of each team then has 3 minutes to present their closing rebuttals. The Positive team goes first. The Opposing team gets the last word.


Constructive speeches are statements for your side of the argument in detail. These speeches should be planned in advance. Cross-examinations are provided to the opposing view to ask questions. These questions are a chance to expose the flaws in the arguments of the other side. Rebuttal is the opportunity to respond to what the other side has said and to explain why their opposing argument is invalid (I hate the word wrong).
In order to prepare for a structured debate, a Debate Brief is written prior to the debate.
Gather Together:
· Good Listening Skills
· Ability To Take Notes
· Being Able To Think On Your Feet
· Maintain Control Of Your Emotions
Step 1:
Research The Topic.
In order to formulate a position, you first need to know the details and facts related to the subject.
Step 2:
Organize The Information.
Each topic may have a different structure for organization. Should it be chronological, should it be by source or by expert research or statements. The organization must be formulated so that the most relevant facts that support your stated position are first.
Step 3:
A Background Statement.
A background statement on the issue identifies:
1) Why does this issue matter?
2) How did we get to where we currently are?
3) Why is change needed or not needed?
4) What are important terms and concepts for understanding this issue?
Step 4:
Define Your Arguments.
The position of your position should organize your arguments in a clear, concise form. You will want to refer to this statement during the debate so this statement should be written so it can be easily recalled. Don't make it too long or too short. Usually one sentence is enough.
Step 5:
Anticipate Opposing Arguments.
In order to prepare for debate, you must have an understanding of what the opposing view or views might be to your position. This is your chance to play 'Devils Advocate' to find holes or weaknesses in your position.
Write the main arguments you believe the other side will make and explain why they are invalid. State the opposing point and then write several (at least 3) paragraphs responding to that opposing position.
Additional Tips:
· The better your research is, the better your position will be.
· Be as precise and concise as possible. Remember you have time limits.
· Choose your words carefully. The worst thing you can do is use a word you didn't mean to use.
· Write note cards from your brief to help keep your information organized during the debate.
· Practice! Make sure everyone on your team is educated in your position and understands the research.
· Use quotes and statistics from experts. Make sure you know their qualifications to make these statements.
Be Careful:
· The worst thing you can do in a brief or in the debate is allow your passion to work its way into your emotions.
· Maintain control of your feelings and emotions. Letting anger come through your statements will take away from your position. No matter how good your argument is.
Created: 08.28.2009       Updated: 08.28.2009
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