Chapter 2
Basic Elements in Academic Debate

In this chapter, we will look at an overview of academic debate by reviewing basic elements in academic debate.  First we will look at people who participate in debate.  Second, we will discuss the nature of the topic in debate.  Third, we will definitions of important concepts in academic debate.  Fourth, we will look at the format of debate.  Many of the elements discussed in this chapter will be further detailed in later chapters.
 

2.1. Participants

When we present debate as a verbal communication event, the debate is primarily conducted between two matched sides which are represented by two teams: the affirmative side to support the topic and the negative side to oppose the topic.  In classroom debates, students either sign up for those teams or the instructor may assign them.  In tournaments and contests, the participating teams consist of the same number of people and each team usually stand at least once on the affirmative side and once on the negative side.

The speakers (debaters) from the two teams in a debate are giving speeches for and against the topic or they give pros and cons of the questions under debate.  They take turns to give speeches to support their position.  In some formats, they ask the other team questions after speeches (called "cross-examination).  In this sense, they are communicating with each other.

The two teams are not only communicating with each other but also communicating with a third party.  In many cases, the debate is presented in front of the audience.  The affirmative and the negative teams are trying their best to persuade the audience to believe their side.  There are also special kinds of audience, judges or critics.  The audience may give a decision at the end of the debate.  Judges and critics sometimes give comments and advice so that debaters can improve their analysis of speeches.

There are officers who take care of enforcing rules.  They are Chairperson and Timekeeper.  The chairperson's job is minimum in academic debate since the speakers are supposed to know when and how long they may speak.  The chairperson declares the opening of debate often by a brief introduction of the topic and participants.Sometimes debaters introduce themselves.

The timekeeper's job is important in debate since time limitation is strict in debate.  The timekeeper shows (either by a card or voice) how many minutes are left in a speech.  When the allotted time is over, the timekeeper calls the closing of the speech.  If the speaker continues to speak, either the chairperson or the timekeeper will stop the speaker.
 

2.2. Proposition (Resolution, Topic)

Topics in debate are called with special names: Proposition or Resolution.  In this textbook, those terms are used interchangeably.  The proposition used in an academic debate is customarily written as a declarative sentence preceded by "Resolved: That", which indicates that the following proposition is a question put to debate.  In some formats, the topic is also called a "motion".  When we decide the proposition for debate, we must be careful so that we can have fruitful debate.
 

2.2.1. Types of Proposition

In order to understand the nature of the proposition in debate, we consider three different types of proposition concerning facts, values, and policies.

2.2.1.1. Propositions of Fact

Propositions of fact are concerned with factual question about events in the past, in the present, or predictions about future events.  Let's look at some examples.

Resolved: That UFOs are spaceships from another planet.

Resolved: That Yamataikoku was located in Kyushu.
Resolved: That the Hawks will win the Pacific League championship next year.
 
2.2.1.2. Propositions of Value
Propositions of Value are concerned with value judgments such as being good or bad.  If the value is of purely personal choice, we cannot really debate.  We must decide the proposition so that the affirmative and the negative teams can give some reasons for their side.  Here are some examples.
Resolved: That private high schools are better than public high schools.
Resolved: That watching TV is a waste of time.
 
2.2.1.3. Propositions of Policy
Propositions of Policy are concerned with courses of action one can take.  They are often actions of the central and local governments.  It is phrased as "X (agent) should do Y (action)" or sometimes "Y (action) should be done."  Propositions of this type are most often used in academic debate (See the list of intercollegiate propositions in Appendix 3).  Some examples are give here.
Resolved: That Japan should abolish death penalty.
Resolved: That the American bases should be removed out of Okinawa.
Resolved: That the Japanese government should require manufactures to use significantly more recycled materials.
Resolved: That the Japanese government should ban all genetically modified foods.
 
2.2.2. Criteria for Good Propositions
When we set up a proposition for debate, we must take care in phrasing it so that we can maximize educational benefits of academic debate.  Some of the advices will follow:
1. The proposition must be focused on one single idea.  A bad example may be "Resolved: That Japan should abandon nuclear power plants and promote solar power generation."  The two actions in the proposition are not necessarily paired together in discussing energy resources.
2. The proposition must be expressed in an affirmative sentence so that the affirmative and the negative positions may not be confused.

3.  The proposition must be controversial.  In other words, the arguments for and against the proposition must be more or less balanced.

4. The proposition must represent a change from the present system (or currently held belief).  The idea is that the affirmative side is a reformer/revolutionist in debate.  It argues something is bad about the present and should be changed.  To counterbalance that burden, the affirmative side gives the first and the last speeches in debate.

5. The proposition must be neutrally worded.  The proposition like "Resolved: That Japan should abolish inhumane death penalty" is biased in favor of the affirmative side.

6. The proposition must be suitable for participants in terms of interest and difficulty.
 

2.3. Important Concepts in Academic Debate

2.3.1. Definition of Terms

The affirmative team has a right to make any reasonable definition of the terms of the proposition.  The negative team has a right to challenge the affirmative definition.
 

2.3.2. The Burden of Proof/Rejoinder

The affirmative team assumes the burden of proof, i.e., to prove that the proposition is probably true.  The negative team assumes the burden of rejoinder, i.e., to attack the affirmative team's arguments.  If the proposition is concerned with a policy, the affirmative team must be prepared to give reasonable details of their plan which is a realization of the proposition.  It must show that the plan would be desirable if adopted; it does not need to show that the plan would be adopted.  If the negative team presents a counterplan, it must assume the same burden.
 

2.3.3. A Burden of Proof

A team who presents a claim assumes a burden of proof; otherwise, the judge must ignore it as an assertion.  In order to "prove" or establish a claim, a team must support it with enough evidence and reasoning so that it may be considered probably true.  Once a claim is established, the judge must believe it until it is refuted by the other team.
 

2.3.4. Evidence

Evidence is a ground on which an argument is built.  It gives a support to the claim.  Evidence includes commonly known facts, other arguments in the debate, statements made in a cross-examination, and citations from published sources.  The source of citations must be acknowledged by giving the author's name and qualification, the title of the book (article), and the date of publication.  If a direct quotation is used, the original text must carefully be maintained.  Ellipses must be indicated as this . . . shows.  Words and letters not in the original must be included in square brackets as in [this].  Paraphrases are encouraged but must not be presented as direct quotations. Debaters must not misrepresent what the author says.
 

2.3.5. Constructive Speeches

All the major points of the teams must be presented in the constructive speeches.  Usually, the affirmative team presents their plan and major reasons why the plan should be adopted.  The negative team presents major attacks on the affirmative team's constructive speeches and disadvantages of the affirmative plan (and/or the counter-plan).
 

2.3.6. Rebuttal Speeches

These speeches must be devoted to refutation and rebuttal of the arguments presented in the constructive speeches.  Rebuttal speeches may not present any new constructive (i.e., major) arguments but may present only the extension of the team's constructive arguments.  The audience (judges) must ignore such "new arguments."  For example, the affirmative team may not present a third advantage of their plan if it only had two advantages in the constructive speeches.  The 2nd rebuttal speeches also summarize the entire debate for each team's own sake.
 

2.3.7. Refutation

Refutation is an attack on the opponent's arguments.  Refutation is found in all the speeches except for the 1st Affirmative Constructive speech.
 

2.3.8. Rebuttal

Rebuttal is a defense of the team's original arguments in light of the opponent's attack.  Rebuttal is found in the 2nd Constructive speeches and Rebuttal speeches.
 

2.3.9. Cross-Examination

In the cross-examination, the examiner (one who asks questions) may only ask questions and he/she may not make an argument.  The examinee (one who answers questions) must answer any reasonable questions and he/she may not ask questions except for clarification.  The examiner may stop the examinee if the answer is irrelevant or unnecessarily long.

The examiner and the examinee directly confront each other, whereas in constructive and rebuttal speeches, the speaker addresses to the audience.  For example, an examiner asks, "Did you say XXX?" but a speaker says, "The negative team (or Mr. Tanaka) said XXX."
 

2.3.10. Decision

The decision is given by the audience or the judges.  Their decision may be based on whether the proposition has been shown probably true.  For example, if the affirmative team has successfully shown that the advantages of the plan would be bigger than the disadvantages, the affirmative team wins the debate.  It may be based on the skills of argumentation such as making logical arguments and refuting them.  The second method is usually based on the scores of the ballot with analytical criteria such as analysis, reasoning, evidence, organization, delivery, and ethics.
 

2.4. Formats of Academic Debate

There are many formats for academic debate and they must be chosen for particular needs of the class or the tournament.  The basic principle is that the both sides must have the equal amount of time for speaking and cross-examination in total.
 

2.4.1. Cross-Examination Format

This is the most popular format in American and Japanese tournaments.  Each constructive speech is followed by cross-examination.  Lengths of speeches and cross-examination sessions vary.  Some formats have one constructive speech for each side and others have one rebuttal speech for each side.  One format is given as follows:
 
Speeches/Cross-Examinations
minutes
1st Affirmative Constructive Speech (1AC)
8
   Cross-Examination by the Negative Team
3
1st Negative Constructive Speech (1NC)
8
   Cross-Examination by the Affirmative Team
3
2nd Affirmative Constructive Speech (2AC)
8
   Cross-Examination by the Negative Team
3
2nd Negative Constructive Speech (2NC)
8
   Cross-Examination by the Affirmative Team
3
1st Negative Rebuttal Speech (1NR)
4
1st Affirmative Rebuttal Speech (1AR)
4
2nd Negative Rebuttal Speech (2NR)
4
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal Speech (2AR)
4

(10-min. flexible preparation time may be allocated to each team.)

A shorter format adopted for 4-member teams:
Speech/Cross-Examination Period
 Time (minutes)
Team Member
1st Affirmative Constructive Speech (1AC)
5
1A
   1AC Cross-examined by the Negative
2
3N
1st Negative Constructive Speech (1NC)
5
1N
1NC Cross-examined by the Affirmative
2
3A
2nd Affirmative Constructive Speech (2AC)
5
2A
2AC Cross-examined by the Negative
2
4N
2nd Negative Constructive Speech (2NC)
5
2N
2NC Cross-examined by the Affirmative
2
4A
1st Negative Rebuttal (1NR)
3
3N
1st Affirmative Rebuttal (1AR)
3
3A
2nd Negative Rebuttal (2NR)
3
4N
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal (2AR)
3
4A
total without preparation time
40
 
Preparation time:
   Flexible preparation time (e.g., 8 minutes for each team) may be allocated.
   Alternatively, fixed preparation time (e.g., 2 minutes) may be allocated between speeches.
 

2.4.2. Other Formats
1. Oxford Format (Traditional Format).  This format does not have cross-examination.
2. Lincoln-Douglas Format.  This is a one-on-one debate.  A typical format is given as follows:
Affirmative Constructive Speech  6 min.
Cross-Examination by the Negative Speaker  3 min.
Negative Constructive Speech  7 min.
Cross-Examination by the Affirmative Speaker  3 min.
1st Affirmative Rebuttal Speech  3 min.
Negative Rebuttal Speech  5 min.
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal Speech  3 min.
Exercises
1. Make a list of possible propositions you want to debate.
2. Make groups in class.  Most of the activities will be conducted in these groups.
3. In groups, discuss good points and problems of propositions that the members have come up with.