Debate Writing

Debate is a contest between two speakers or two groups of speakers to show their skills and abilities in an arguement over a given topic. Speakers who agree with the topic are known as ‘Affirmatives' (or the `government' in parliamentary debating) and Speakers who disagree with the topic are called the ‘Negatives’ (or the `opposition' in parliamentary debating). Debating is a great confidence builder for people from all walks of life, especially the young people. Debate is different from any other type of speech because you are not just giving information but also defending the idea given through that information. Being aware of the fact that the points in the debate, which you are going to include will be cross checked, it becomes necessary to make it strong, keeping in mind all the pros and cons of the contents in good check.

Essentials of Debate Writing

  • A proposition, a question or a problem is required for writing a debate and speakers have to speak for or against it. Thus every point should be chosen carefully, keeping in mind both the positives and negatives of the point in view.
  • An outline of the main points should be prepared in the order in which one is going to argue to make the points clear in mind.
  • There are usually limitations on the time a speaker can speak for, thus the points should be precise and informative as well.
  • Every topic / subject has its own vocabulary which must be carefully chosen so as to avoid unnecessary pauses in between the debate for want of words to express the thoughts on the spot.
  • The speaker addresses the chair (Mr. President/ Madam), ‘submit’ an argument, ‘appeals’ for sympathetic understanding and support, ‘questions’ the opponent’s view, ‘concludes’ an argument. He also ‘answers’ questions in the rebuttal session. Thus all these things should also be taken care of in order to make your point of view more concrete.

How to write a Debate?

To write a good strong debate you should keep some of the following given points in mind:

1. Good Introduction - A good introduction is the basic of a debate. You can’t just start a topic, just like that. It has to have an introduction to set the tone for debating. Introduction needs to be peppy so that it grabs the audience’s attention and garners interest in the topic.

2. Choice of the area of Debate - Choice of the area of Debate depends upon the purpose  for which you are writing the debate. If it is for a collective team effort, there will be several categories of debate i.e.  impromptu, original oratory, political debates, to name a few. On the other hand if it is for a competition, requirement of each event should be known before hand.

3. Choice of the topic of the Debate - Once the debate area is clear, the next step is choosing the topic. However, if it is  a competition, the topic may be chosen for you. In that case you need to read as much information as you can on the topic beforehand.

4. Research your Material - In a debate, you may be asked to debate a side of the topic that you personally don't agree with. You need to know what both sides of the issue are. The more you know about what your opponent is going to say, the better it is. To do so, research on the topic. Collect ample information on the topic and do not leave loose ends as these can be used against you, by your opponents.

5. Main Points of your Debate – Take your information and outline your Main Points. These Main Points should be exactly what you are trying to get your opponent to believe about your position. Under your Main Points use Capital Letters like A, B, C to write sub points to explain why your Main Points are right. Under your sub points flesh out your argument with examples or illustrations and mark them with Lower case letters. This practice makes it easy to memorise your debate and recall it efficiently.

6. Support your Argument with Examples – It is always wise to include a few examples in support of your view. This makes it easy to convey your viewpoint to the audience, in an easy and effective manner. Examples which you use should be relevant to the topic at hand. Examples which have very little or nothing to do with the topic only make a speech look weak and lacking substance. However, do not make your debate, an example worksheet.

7.  Use Cue Cards Cleverly –  Cue cards are small note cards used to remember or recall something. They are meant to be used very cleverly. By cleverly, it is meant that you should use them in such a manner, that the audience doesn’t come to know that you are actually reading them. In fact these cards can be anything that triggers your memory. These can be a wrist band with some keywords on them, they can be badges with certain symbols on them or anything you can come up with as long as they are not apparent. Cue cards are meant for reference or memory joggers and not to reveal that you have forgotten something.

8. Maintain Eye Contact – To hold the attention of the audience, it is essential to maintain a good eye contact with them. Looking at the audience maintains their attention in your speech. Do not look away or stare for long at a cue card which you have brought with you. Eye contact also reflects how the audience is feeling about your speech. It gives you a chance to rectify your speech.

9. Add some Humour – Humour is always an attraction point of a debate. It makes the debate even more interesting and interactive as the audience responds to you, when they laugh or smile or make a loud comment.  You can add any funny line or connect a funny anecdote with your debate. When this has been achieved you can consider that you have gained some ground.  

10. Be well prepared  - Once the area and topic of the debate is clear, study the subject from every possible angle to make your points as strong as possible, so that they can be defended well. While making the debate final, make sure your points are concise and easy to understand. You won't be rebutting an opponent like in an oral debate. Your written speech has to be very thorough. Also Practice your speech and during the debate listen to your opponent carefully or record it. Recording makes it easy for you to recall the speech delivered without making guesses.

Good Debate Topics

Debate topics are mostly based on current issues of public importance or about general philosophies or ideas.

Some Good Debate Topics:


Arranged Marriage or Love Marriage

Are there aliens?

Babri Masjid

Beauty is better than brains

Internet: Boon or Bane

Better late than never

Cats or Dogs

Celebrity Worship

Genetically Modified Food

Freedom of Speech

Hate Crime against Indians in Australia

Gay Rights

Human Cloning

Health is better than Wealth

Influence of Stardom

Is there life after death?

Is the world going to end in 2012?

Online Dating

Organ donation be made obligatory upon death

Pre-Nuptial Agreements


Prostitution be legalized

Reality Television

Religious Slaughter of Animals

Sex Education


Should students be required to wear a school uniform?

Should the age to vote be reduced to 16?

Social Networking : Pros and Cons


To Marry or not to Marry?

Television : Idiot Box or Wisdom Box?

World War III

Women in Armed Forces

Women are better than men   

Veg or Non-Veg?

Zero Tolerance


Types of Debate

There are various different formats or types of Debates.  All these types have their own distinct style and focus depending on the environment in which they are used. These environs can be a school, college or a political arena.

Below are given some of the most common Debate Formats, most of which are followed in Western World:

Cross-Examination Debate – These types of debates are conducted by Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA).  The practice of these debates was born as a reaction to NDT (National Debate Tournament).  These are a newer type of two-on-two collegiate debate. These debates are intended to be based on values and focus on the core elements of a controversial issue. While specific practices vary, Cross Examination Debate typically rewards intensive use of evidence, and is more focused on content than delivery.

Lincoln–Douglas Debate – Lincoln-Douglas Debate is a type of debate practised in American high schools. It is a one-on-one debate which places a heavy emphasis on logic, ethical values, and philosophy. It is commonly known as LD Debate or just LD and is practised in National Forensic League competitions etc.  A round of L-D debate consists of 5 speeches and 2 cross-examination periods.  LD debate was introduced by the NFL, at the National Tournament in 1980 by Dale McCall as a reaction to the excesses of team policy debate in high school.  Since then it has become a feature of high school debate tournaments.  LD is named after the, 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Their debates focused on slavery and the morals, values, and logic behind it.

NDT Debate - NDT acronym for National Debate Tournament is amongst the oldest, and probably most popular, form of debate at the college level.  In these debates emphasis is laid on presenting large amounts of evidence as quickly and as coherently as possible. The debate consists of 8 speeches - 4 constructive speeches and 4 rebuttals and 4 periods of cross-examination. These are very similar to Team Policy Debates.

Parliamentary Debate – These are the most common form of Debates practised in most parts of the world. The practice varies from nation to nation. Though it is named Parliamentary Debate, it is not an actual debate in a government parliament. These are named so, because they have a resemblance to the debates that take place in the British parliament.  There are two teams of two debaters in parliamentary debates, and a round consists of 6 speeches: 4 constructive speeches and 2 rebuttal speeches. The proposition team is called the 'Government', and the opposition team is called the 'Opposition'.  The Government team consists of two debaters, the Prime Minister (PM) and the Member of Government (MG). The Opposition team also consists of two debaters, the Leader of the Opposition (LO) and the Member of the Opposition (MO).

Spontaneous Argumentation – Also known as SPAR, these debates are often conducted in college and university classrooms. These debates feature 2 debaters who draw a topic at random. The debaters then spend a few minutes preparing what they will say before engaging in a brief debate on the topic. These debates focus on presentation and style than on content as they are do not require serious research.

Team Policy Debate – It is another popular form of debate in America. These types of debates are also known as Team Policy Debates. The proposition side is called the 'Affirmative' or 'Aff', and the opposition side is called the 'Negative' or 'Neg'. Both the sides have 2 debaters. In this type of debate the affirmative team always begins and ends the debate while the negative team has two speeches in a row.

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