Monday, August 27, 2007


Points of Information

What part do POIs play in a debate?

To give and take Points of Information is the role of every speaker. Not doing either is failing to fulfil your role. POIs contribute matter to the debate, and the way in which they are given or taken is a reflection of manner. Thus not taking any POIs means a failure to fulfil your role and potentially lower contribution in matter (however that does not mean an automatic last place).

How long should POIs be?

POIs are not a place to make an argument, just a point, an example, an accusation or to ask a question. Typically Points Of Information are about 2 sentences long or 15 seconds in length. If a POI is too long, it eats into the time allocated for the speaker and the adjudicator may call order and request the person asking the POI to quit.

How many must I take?

It is recommended that each speaker takes 2 points of information, 1 from the opening team and another from the closing team. This is fairest and most optimum for interactivity in the debate.

Are speakers who do not take 2 points of information automatically punished?

No. However it is a consideration when discussing if teams have fulfilled their roles in the debate. Also speakers who take effort to engage with other speakers and encourage interactivity should be rewarded. While this will not guarantee win/loss, it might make a difference in close debates.

The context of the debate should also be taken into account. It is understandable to not take a POI if no POIs are offered, or if the speaker is fulfilling his/her role in some other aspect.

Can I take more than 2 points of information?

Yes, there is no limit to the number of POIs one can take, but while POIs are an important part of a speech and should become the speech itself.

Can I interject into someone else’s speech or offer my point of information by saying something colourful (verbalising), instead of just “on that point”?

Interjections, heckles, comments whether in the process of giving POI or otherwise, are not automatically punished unless they interrupt the speech of the speaker on the floor. Then the debater is exhibiting bad manner and the chair can instruct him/her to maintain order. While contributing to the dynamism and interactivity of the debate, interjections etc do not count as matter points.

Are adjudicators then supposed to explicitly ignore everything that is offered through interjection or heckles?

If someone says what you were thinking in your head, that does not subjugate your intelligence and your ideas remain valid. It is important however to protect the integrity of the speech of the speaker on the floor. The debate format has to be maintained and if interjections were treated as valid points, no one would bother with making speeches.

Nevertheless there are situations where the context of the debate may deem the interjection legitimate. For example, if the speaker is not taking any points of information or trying to shut out one of the teams. In those situations, the person offering the interjection is not trying to interrupt the speech before him but bring attention to the fact that the speaker is not being dynamic and engaging his ideas. The adjudicator then assesses if this is true, decides if action is necessary and acts accordingly.


What is an extension?

An extension is matter contribution from the closing team, other than rebuttals. It is an extension of the position of the opening team, and thus should be consistent with them. An extension can be new arguments to support the case, further developments of previous arguments, analysis of previous arguments in a wholly different yet still relevant context or specific case studies that further argue the case of the opening team. However it has to be significantly different from the arguments run by the opening team, enough to distinct the case of the closing and opening.

Is it absolutely necessary for closing teams to have an extension?

It is the role of every team to further their case in the debate, and extensions are part of that role. Not extending the case is to not fully fulfil your role. Therefore while not having an extension doesn’t mean an automatic last, it means a difficult first.

In a negative case, do you still need an extension?

It becomes more difficult to because there isn’t a positive direction that can be extended, but closing teams are still expected to distinct themselves from their opening and offer a unique contribution to the debate.

What if the extension contradicts the position of their opening team?

The closing team can choose to ditch their opening team (to shaft them so to speak) if they feel their approach to the debate is not acceptable. They risk being cut out of the debate, if no one else engages their approach, but it is a tactical call and is not an automatic loss.

However if the closing team unwittingly contradicts the opening team, then their matter is not consistent and becomes less relevant.


What is a “good” definition?

A definition that is in the spirit of the motion and clearly explains the contention of the debate. Definitely not a definition that wins the debate, as that means no debate occurs.
How much of freedom does the Government have in defining the motion?
A team can define the debate in any way they choose and it is up to the other teams in the debate to question their approach. Adjudicators cannot compare the definition to what they think the definition should be. Instead, adjudicators should evaluate the effect of the definition. If Govt defines too narrowly and cannot develop matter to prove their self-proving case, then they contribute little to the debate. If Govt defines poorly and creates too many holes, then defending their case will be difficult.

Can team parameterise definitions?

Yes. Teams are allowed to set parameters to limit the grounds of the debate, as long as those parameters are fair. For example, in a debate about child labour, restricting it to legal occupations. If it helps to clarify the area of debate and leads to a good debate happening, the action of setting those parameters should be rewarded.
However these are not set in stone and up to question from the opposition. If the Government unfairly restricts the parameters of the debate, it is fair for Opposition to expand the area of debate. Thus Govt cannot limit a child labour debate to discussing the right to earn allowance by shovelling snow if the Opp argues that is unfair and expands it. On the other hand if the Opp likes to discuss snow shovelling, that is also their right and they should not be punished for not expanding the parameters.

Do you have to include every word in the motion during the definition?

You do not have to define every word, but the words in the motion define the potential scope of the debate and the onus of the teams. If the motion reads “this house will condemn people who encourage suicide”, the focus of the debate is on people who encourage, not commit suicide and not taking that into account could seriously affect the direction of the debate. However you do not have to define people and perhaps can even assume what suicide means.

On what basis can you challenge a definition?

A definition can be challenged on the basis that a definition is: (take definitions from rules)
a) time set/place set
b) truistic/tautological
c) wholly unreasonable/squirrel

Who can challenge and who can’t?

Any team in the debate can challenge the definition, because each team is a unique entity. Thus, a debate could have 4 definitions.

What happens during a definition debate?

To challenge the definition, one has to
a) explicitly state that you are challenging the definition
b) state why (time or place set, truistic, unreasonable) and explain
c) provide a new definition

You still maintain your positions in the debate and have to argue appropriately. Thus the Opening Opposition, after challenging the definition and providing a new one would then proceed to oppose the motion, not support it.

Once you challenge a definition, other than to show why the previous definition is inaccurate, you do not have to address the issues/arguments that fall under it. One basically ignores that definition.

Matter & Manner

What is good matter?
Good matter is matter that is logically developed, relevant to the case at hand and substantiated.

What is good manner?
Good manner is manner that is effective in strengthening the argument/case, is entertaining.

Which is more important?
They are both equally important (check section on scoring). Thus a team could win on manner just as easily as a team could win on matter.


Matter Manner Total Range
25-30 25-30 50-59 poor
30-35 30-35 60-69 below average
35-40 35-40 70-79 average
40-45 40-45 80-89 break worthy
45-50 45-50 90-100 good (semi-finals level)


Is there such a thing as an automatic last in a debate? What most horrible sin must a team commit to immediately earn a last position?

No. There is nothing in a debate that you can do to get an automatic last short of not showing up. If a first prop team squirrels the motion into a tautology and then the second speaker knifes the first, they probably won’t win the round but should not receive an automatic last, they just set a very high threshold for what some other team in the round would have to do in order to take last place away from them (perhaps wetting themselves during their speech or something).

1 comment:

UW said...

I have a question about the definitional challenge. Could you please describe a situation where a debate could have 4 definitions? Unless both the closing teams are permitted to make up their own definitions, how would that be possible? And if they are? How would they be able to do that?