Basic Definitions

Affirmative/Pro. The side that “affirms” the resolution (is “pro” the issue). For example, the affirmative side in a debate using the resolution of policy, Resolved: The United States federal government should implement a poverty reduction program for its citizens, would advocate for federal government implementation of a poverty reduction program.

Argument. A statement, or claim, followed by a justification, or warrant. Justifications are responses to challenges, often linked by the word “because.” Example: The sun helps people, because the sun activates photosynthesis in plants, which produce oxygen so people can breathe.

Constructive Speech. The first speeches in a debate, where the debaters “construct” their cases by presenting initial positions and arguments.

Cross-examination. Question and answer sessions between debaters.

Debate. A deliberative exercise characterized by formal procedures of argumentation, involving a set resolution to be debated, distinct times for debaters to speak, and a regulated order of speeches given.

Evidence. Supporting materials for arguments. Standards for evidence are field-specific. Evidence can range from personal testimony, statistical evidence, research findings, to other published sources. Quotations drawn from journals, books, newspapers, and other audio-visuals sources are rather common.

Negative/Con. The side that “negates” the resolution (is “con” the issue). For example, the negative side in a debate using the resolution of fact, Resolved: Global warming threatens agricultural production, would argue that global warming does not threaten agricultural production.

Preparation Time. Debates often necessitate time between speeches for students to gather their thoughts and consider their opponent's arguments. This preparation is generally a set period of time and can be used at any time by either side at the conclusion of a speech.

Rebuttal Speech. The last speeches in a debate, where debaters summarize arguments and draw conclusions about the debate.

Resolution. A specific statement or question up for debate. Resolutions usually appear as statements of policy, fact or value.

Statement of policy. Involves an actor (local, national, or global) with power to decide a course of action. For example, Resolved: The United States federal government should implement a poverty reduction program for its citizens.

Statement of fact. Involves a dispute about empirical phenomenon. For example, Resolved: Global warming threatens agricultural production.

Statement of value. Involves conflicting moral dilemmas. For example, Resolved: The death penalty is a justified method of punishment.

Topic. A general issue to debate. Topics could be “The Civil War,” “genetic engineering,” or “Great Books.”