Business and Personal Law

Apply and Debate Guide

A debate is an argument with rules. People debate informally on topics each and every day. When you and a friend are trying to decide which movie to see on Friday night, you may engage in a friendly debate to convince each other that the comedy is a better choice than the science fiction movie. Sometimes a debate is more formal and is in the form of a contest. These formal debates consist of two or more speakers presenting their arguments and trying to persuade one another to change an opinion or belief.

Debates can involve single-member teams or teams that include several students. Students who are interested in a career in the courtroom often need good debating skills, so practicing these skills in the classroom helps prepare students for success. Students who are involved in debating, for whatever reason, learn the art of persuasion. Through debate, students learn to think under pressure and to make decisions quickly and accurately.

Usually in a debate, two teams are presented with a topic to debate and each team is given a set period of time to prepare an argument. Sometimes the students do not know their debate subjects ahead of time and are required to prepare a good argument in a limited amount of time. In other situations, students are given a few weeks to adequately prepare for their topics. In either case, students who are involved in debating should stay abreast of current events and controversial issues going on in the world around them.

At a debate, one team will argue in favor (pro) of the topic or issue and the other will argue in opposition (con). Sometimes each team member speaks, and sometimes the team selects one member to speak for the entire team. A judge or a panel of judges will assign points based on the strength of the arguments and the professionalism of the teams. Each of the sessions is timed, and teams have time to speak and then offer a rebuttal to the other team's argument. One team is usually declared the winner and that team will advance to a new round.

Tips for Successful Debating

  1. Read for background information about the subject. Study the historical background of the topic and then find out why this topic is a matter of current interest. Read newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, and current textbooks on the topic. Search current events online. If you have the time, interview experts on the subject.
  2. When debating, remember that you are always right. If you want to win, then you have to believe that whatever you say is correct and that whatever your opponent says is wrong.
  3. Practice your rebuttals. If your opponent has an incorrect fact, rebut it. If he or she gives an example that has no relevance, rebut it. Remember, the opposition is always wrong.
  4. Plan to summarize. A good summary allows you to remind your audience why your opinion is right. It also provides you the opportunity to tie each fact you present back to the topic at hand.
  5. Never insult the opposition. Argue against the opinion, but do not make it personal.
  6. Have passion and believe in what you are saying. Speak from the heart, but use logic and research.
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