Debate Notes

Here is (hopefully) everything you need to learn about debate! If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please email me.

Introduction to Debate

1. Introduction to Debate Concepts 

  • The goal of this session is to show that debate is a natural human activity and familiarize participants with some basic concepts. The main concepts introduced are - topic, sides, arguments and rebuttals. 
  • The activity aims to give students an experience of debate - students are split into 3 groups (3 SUPPORT a topic and 3 OPPOSE a topic) and engage in a large classroom debate. 
  • Lectures notes and explanation of the activity , the activity in slides

2. Speech Structure

3.  Natural Speaking and Explanation Strategies

  • The goal of this session is to encourage students to speak naturally and realize that the biggest challenge is overcoming the mindset that public speaking is frightening. 
  • Activity : The students play a word expression game (a simplfied version of the card game Taboo) in teams. The game should be as competitive as possible so students forget they are making speeches.
  • Explanation of the Activity and Discussion afterwards, Activity that can be given to students after the game or used separately, Assignment for homework or in class work

Debate Formats

  1. Introduction to the Asian Parliamentary Format
  2. Introduction to the British Parliamentary Format (coming soon!)
  3. Introduction to the World Schools Format (coming soon!)

Debate Skills

  1. Rebuttal Strategies
  2. Using your Preparation Time
  3. Argumentation (coming soon!)
  4. Definition Skills (coming soon!)
  5. Points of Information Skills (coming soon!)

Introduction to the Asian Parliamentary Format

Here are things you will need to learn about the Asian Parliamentary debate format.

1. General Introduction to the format

  • General features of the format, namely the Teams and Speaking Order, Timing, Points of Information and Reply Speeches

2. Roles of Speakers - the First Speaker or the Prime Minister

  • The 3 main responsibilities, to Define and Set-Up the Debate, to Present the Team Position and Case and to Make 1 or 2 Arguments.

3. Roles of Speakers - the First Speaker in Opposition or the Leader of Opposition

  • This speaker should Respond to the Definition and Set-up, Present the Opposition Case and Position, Rebut the PM's Case and Make 1 or 2 Arguments

4. Roles of Speakers - the Second Speakers in both teams, or the Deputies

  • Deputy speakers must defend their Team Case, Attack the Case of their Opponents and Make 1 or 2 new arguments

5. Roles of Speakers - the Third Speakers in both teams, or the Whips

  • Whip speakers should briefly summarize their team's case, summarize and prioritize the most important issues in the debate, and then rebut and analyze those issues

6. Roles of Speakers - the Final speakers, or the Replies

  • Replies tell every what the debate is about, summarize the position of both teams and then compare those positions and tell you why their team wins!

Additional Resources

Asian Parliamentary Format

I explain some general features of the format, namely the Teams and Speaking Order, Timing, Points of Information and Reply Speeches

Read a transcript of this Video
Questions and Answers on this Format
Activities in Class or Training Exercises
Example Video 

Brief Notes on this Lecture

Debates are basically structured discussions. Each debate has a format and these rules are there to ensure fairness. I will talk about the Asian format and explain teams & order of speakers, timing, Points of Information and Replie Speeches.

In the Asian Parliamentary format there are 2 teams of 3 speakers each. The team that supports the topic is called the Government and the team that opposes the topic is called the Opposition. Each speaker speaks for 7 minutes, in alternating order. First speaker from Governement, then first speaker from Opposition, then second speaker from Government, then second speaker from Opposition and so on. At the end of these 6 speeches, each team can make a shorter Reply speech, for minutes. Either the first or second speaker of each team will have the chance to make this speech. This time the Opposition will start, followed by the Government.

The final element if this format is called Points of Information. These are short interjections (questions, comments, statements etc) - usually less than 15 seconds long that the opposite team can offer the speaker who is speaking. So for example, during the first speaker on the Government's speech, any speaker on the Opposition can rise up and offer a question, by saying "Point of Information!". The Government speaker can then choose to accept or not accept the point (although he should accept at least 1 during his speech).  This adds some interactivity to the debate.

Clarification on Points of Information

  • The team that is not speaking can offer as many POIs as they want. To offer a POI, they should stand up, raise an arm and if they want, say something short like "point of information". They cannot start presenting their POI until the person speaking gives them permission to speak. They should not be rude and try to distract or interrupt the speaker. The POI must be short and if the speakers asks them to sit down and end their question, they must.
  • The person who is speaking can choose when and from whom to accept a question. If you are offered a question and you don't want to accept it, just say "no thank you", "not at this time", "sit down please" and so on. You must take 1 POI and should try to take two.
  • A POI can be a question, a comment, an argument, a rebuttal, an example - anything that you can say in 15 seconds that will help your team win the debate.
  • POIs can only be offered between the 1st and 6th minute of the first 6 speeches of the debate (not in the reply speech).

Transcript - Video Lecture on the Asian Parliamentary Format

Hello there! Today we are going to talk about the format of a debate. A debate is basically a structured discussion, so you have some debate formats that are more open, like a presidential debate or a town hall debate where groups of people debate against each other, or you have debate formats that a far more structured, that carefully tell you how much time each person has to speak and so on and so forth. 

Every format has some kind of rules because those rules serve to preserve order and create some kind of balance. Those rules do not determine who wins or loses the debate. Debating isn't about the rules, the rules are there to create balance to tell people how much time they have to speak and so on and so forth. So in every debate format there will be some direction about the topics, about the timing, about the speaking order and maybe a little bit of stuff about the judging criteria - ow do you decide which team wins and which team loses.

Today we are going to focus on the Asian parliamentary format. This is a format that is widely used in Asia among university and highschool students and I think a good format with which to learn how to debate. 

I'm going to talk about the teams and order of speakers, timing, topic selection, Points of Information, which are the essential parts of this format. Firstly lets look at the teams and the speaking order. In the Asian Parliamentary debate format you have two teams. One team is called the Government Team and the other team is called the Opposition Team. Sometimes this is referred to the Affirmative and the Negative. The names don't really matter that much, but this is just so we understand the terminology. 

The Government team must support the topic and the Opposition team must oppose the topic. You usually won't have a choice over whether you are the Goverment or Opposition on a topic. Each team will have 3 speakers. Three in Gov and three in Opp. They will speak in alternating order. So first you will have one speaker from the gov and then the opp and then the gov and then the gov and then the opp. 

Each speaker will speak for 7 minutes. So an entire debate will take (7 + 7..) = 42 minutes. But hold on, at the end of those 42 minutes, each team gets to make an extra speech - how exciting is that! It's a kinda of summation speech, where you are comparing the teams and you are trying to persuade the judge why my team wins over the other team. So it's not really a speech where you are making new arguments, but we'll get into those details later. Hold on, hold on, some patience. So at the end of those 6 speeches, the Gov and the Opp teams get to make a reply speech. This speech is shorter. Remember the earlier speeches were 7 minutes long. This speech will only be 4 minutes long. And remember earlier the Gov team started the debate by making the first speech, this time the opposition team will start by making the first reply speech. So in essence, the Gov team always starts the debate and they always end the debate by having reply speech. 

So that's the two teams, the speaking order and the timing. 

Now we come to the topic selection. Every debate needs a topic! In the Asian Parliamentary format what happens is you usually will be given 3 topics to choose from. So you and the other team can compare and choose the topic which you both like to debate the best. How this is done is teams will rank the topics. So the gov ranks the topics 1, 2, 3 and opp ranks 1, 2, 3 and the compare the rankings. The topics which you rank 3rd, will not be debated. They will cancel each other off. So if the gov ranked the 1st topic 3rd, the oppostion ranked the 2nd topic 3rd, then the 1st and 2nd topics are cancelld and you will debate the 3rd topic.

in the situation where teams rank the same topic third but reverse the other two rankings, then you will have to flip a coin to decide who gets their first choice. If both teams ranked the same topic first then you debate that topic.

The only other thing about the Asian Parliamentary format, the last part I'm going to talk about is called Points of Information. When speakers are speaking, between the first and the 6th minute of every speech, speakers from the other side have the opportunity to rise up and offer a question. So you can say, Point of Information, "can I ask a question" " on that point" or something to that effect. If I am speaking, I can choose whether or not to accept this interruption. So I can say "yes", "go ahead". You can ask a question, make a statement or a comment or say anything you want but it has to be short - it's about 15 second long and about 2 sentences. 

So you can get up, ask your question, say your comment, and then I have to respond to it. I don't have to accept every question. But if I accept a question, I have to respond to the question. This adds a huge element of interactivity to the debate. Every speaker, gov and opp speaker, have the chance to be questioned by the other team, during their speech. You can ask questions and POIs to the other team and not to your own team. You should take at least one, preferably two POIs. There are no POIs in the reply speech. Only POIs in the first 6 speeches of the debate. 

Those are the essential parts of the Asian Parliamentary Debate Format. You have the Speaker Order, the Teams Speaking Order, Timing, Topic Selection and Point of Information. 

Teams wins a debate not by being better at the format but making a strong position on the topic, by giving strong arguments to support their position, by rebutting the arguments of the other team and by comparing each other's arguments and positions. The format is just a structure that ensures it happens in a fair and balanced way.

Let's watch a demonstration debate and see and analyse if all what I said is true. It definitely is true, but watch this debate to get an example.

Deputy Speakers

I explain the role of the Deputy Speakers in this format. These are the speakers who speak second in both teams, and I talk about them together since their roles are very similar. There are 3 main responsibilities, to Defend their Case, to Attack the Case on the Other Side and to Make 1 or 2 new arguments.

Read a transcript of this Video
Questions and Answers on the Role of the Deputy Speakers
Activities in Class or Training Exercises
Example of this Role

Notes on this Lecture

The Deputy Speakers enter the debate in the middle. They speak after the first speakers and before the 3rd speakers. They play an important role in maintaining the control and shaping the eventual clash points of the debate. To best achieve this, they should

A) Defend your case and position against the attacks of the other team

  • The speaker on the other side has just rebutted your teammate - you need to defend his or her arguments because that is your case. If the speaker DOESN'T rebut your teammate, draw attention their failure and re-emphasize why your team's points are important.

B) Attack the other team's position, case and arguments

  • Rebut, similar to what the leader of opposition did towards the prime minister.

C) Make 1 or 2 Arguments

Question and Answers - the Deputy Speakers

1. Can I change the definition, the position or the policy of the PM or the LO?

- No you can't. Changing the policy means you will contradict your PM or LO and reduce the value of his or her speech. You can clarify and explain, but any additions that makes your teammate look like they didn't do their job well will hurt your team.

2. Do i have to do defense first then rebuttals, then new arguments?

- No, as long as you do all three. If you think it's better, you can present your arguments first, then rebut and then defend your teammate.

3. How much of time should I spend Defending, Rebutting and Developing new arguments? Which is the most important part of my job??

- This is a difficult question and there is no objective answer. It really depends on the debate. Some debates may require you to spend more time defending your first speaker (if for example the attack from the other side was particularly strong) or if the other speaker spent more time building his own case and not really attacking yours, then there is more attacking to do than defending. So ask yourself what you need to do the most in this debate, but ensure you do a little bit of everything. The most common error deputy speakers make with time management is spending too much time rebutting, forgetting to do any defense and emphasis of their case and not leaving enough time to develop new arguments. If you must cut down on something, cut rebuttals. You have a third speaker who add rebuttals, but it's harder for the third speaker to clarify and defend the first speaker, and the third speaker shouldn't be developing new arguments.

Transcript - Video Lecture on the Deputy Speakers

Ready? Good! Let's begin!

Now we are going to talk about the second speakers in each team. We are going to talk about both of them together because their roles are very very similar. On the government team the second speaker is the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and in the opposition team the second speaker is the Deputy Lead of Opposition (DLO). At this point in the debate, one of your teammates have already spoken and what they have said has been rebutted by one speaker, if you are the DPM. If you are the DLO, two speakers on the other side have already spoken. So at this points arguments have been made, and rebuttals have been made towards each other. So lets look at what your responsibilities and role will be as the deputy speakers position.

Deputy speakers essentially have 3 things that they must do. You must defend your case, you must attack the case on the other side, and then you must present new arguments. Let's look at those things in turn. 

Firstly defending your case. The situation is your teammate has already presented arguments. If you're in the government (team) the PM has presented your position, the case and the setup, and the leader of opposition has attacked those arguments. He's presented rebuttals and said these arguments wrong and there's a problem with this argument. So if I am coming up in second, my first priority must be to defend my teammate. (It must be) to defend the integrity and the strength of my team and my speaker. The first thing I need to do is defend. Identify the points of my speaker which have been attacked and tell you why those things are not true and why they are necessary and (then) I need to rebuild them.[More in the Question & Answer section]

Once I'm done with that, I need to respond to what the first speaker on the (other) side has (said), or if I'm in the opposition team I need to respond to what the second speaker on the other side has said. Maybe I can briefly summarize the previous speaker, (for example) "she said two things and I'm going to respond to those things. This is why this is wrong and this is why that is wrong". The rebuttals are similar to the rebuttals the LO makes to the PM. The DPM must rebut the LO and the DLO must rebut the DPM. The DLO can also continue rebuttals against the PM. Your rebuttals are not limited to just the speaker who spoke before you but you can rebut the entire team. 

So I've defended my team, I've rebutted their team, the third thing I must do, is present new arguments. Arguments that are different from the arguments my teammate has already presented in the debate. This is important, (because) doing this means the debate grows. This adds new information and new argumentation that supports the case. I must connect these arguments to our position and tell you why those arguments are strong and why it makes our case even stronger.

That's the deputy speakers. You sit in the middle of the team, so your job is; you need to defend your teammate - my teammate said some important things, and I'm telling you why those things are still important. Then I need to respond to the other team - this is what you said, and this is why what you said is wrong! And then I need to present my own arguments.

Both the DPM on the Government and the DLO on the Opposition will do these three things. Good luck at being an awesome Deputy Speaker!

Example Debate Videos

Here are some examples of debates and speeches. Watch these speeches to understand the Asian Parliamentary Format! Observe if all the speakers follow their roles, use proper arguments or rebuttals. Don't expect these speeches to be perfect, no one is perfect. But I'm sure all of these speakers will fulfill some of their roles. What do they do right, and what can they improve?

Example of a Full Asian Parliamentary Debate :

1. "We should ban pop idols below the age of majority from wearing sexy clothes"

This debate is from the finals of the Winter Asian Debate Institute (an international debate workshop which is held every Winter and Summer in CAU). The team in government is comprised of students from China and Japan, and the opposition is comprised of Korean students. You won't be able to see all the speakers standing up to offer Points of Information but you should be able to see some of them.

First four speeches / Second four speeches

2. "We should have a stamina system for online gaming"

This is from the finals of the Korean National debate championships hosted by KIDA (Korean Intervarsity Debate Association) 2010. It's a debate between Korea University (Government) and Seoul National University (Opposition)

Watch entire debate

3. "Gay parades do more harm than good"

This debate is from the semifinals of the Asian Debating Championships 2010. The team in government is from the National University of Singapore and the team in opposition is from Ateneo de Manila University. The speakers speak a little faster than the previous debate and there are some foreign accents, but it's a very good debate.

Watch entire debate


Leader of Opposition

I explain the role of the first speaker in this format. There are 3 main responsibilities, to Respond to the Definition and Set-Up of the Debate, to Present the Team Position and Case, To Rebut the Prime Minister and to Make 1 or 2 Arguments.

Read a transcript of this Video
Questions and Answers on the Role of the Leader of Opposition
Activities in Class or Training Exercises

Brief Notes on this Lecture

The First Speaker on the Opposition Team, or the Leader of Opposition is the second person to speak in the Asian Parliamentary debate format (after the Prime Minister). The LO's speech is what defines where the opposition team will clash with the government team and what direction the opposition will be taking in the debate. He or she has 3 main responsibilities:

A) Respond to definition and Set-Up from Government Team

  • Explain which parts of the position you agree and disagree with. You should try to find some common ground so you can have a debate but also some things you principally disagree with 

B) Present Team Position and Case

  • Based on the common ground and your principles, what is your position and your case? What are you defending? What will you prove and not prove? Do you have a specific policy?
  • What will you talk about and what will your second speaker talk about?

C) Rebut Government Arguments 

  • Briefly outline the Prime Minister's arguments, then rebut each of them

D) Make 1 or 2 Arguments

  • Like the PM, the LO must also develop new arguments. 

Activities in Class or Training Exercises - Leader of Opposition

1. Responding

It's very important for the Leader of Opposition to be able to quickly respond to the PM. LO's need to be reactive and flexible, able to quickly modify the prepared case or quickly make one up on the spot, in case the definition of the PM is not what was expected

One simple exercise is to for the LO to make a speech without any preparation time. This exercise can be done with just two speakers (one PM and one LO) or two teams (having a full team trains teamwork under pressure and the ability of the deputy leader of opposition to also quickly respond). Basically the PM is given the motion and time to prepare. The LO (and opp team) do not know what the motion is - they go into the debate with no preparation time and have to think of a case in the 7 minutes of the PM's speech. A variation if this is to give the Gov team and the Opp team slightly different motions (for example, the Gov team prepares We Would Legalize Euthanasia and the Opp Team prepares We Support the Right to Commit Suicide). Just before the debate starts, you tell them you have given them different topics, and the opposition needs to adapt to the Government case. This activity recreates the scenario where the Govt team takes a narrower intrepretation of a broader topic and the Opposition need to adapt their case to fit the one they are now opposing.

2. Strategic Concessions

For the topics below, get teams to firstly discuss 3 possible Govt definitions, setups and cases. Then for each Govt approach, what are acceptable and unacceptable Opposition approaches? What concessions can they make and can't they make? What is the most strategic approach from Govt and from Opposition? If there are mutliple groups, get each group to defend a different approach and have a short debate or structured discussion about the merits and demerits of each approach.

Sample topics

  • We support the right of citizens to choose to die
  • We would negotiate with terrorists
  • Governments should stop funding space exploration
  • We support affirmative action for women in politics


Question and Answers - the Leader of Opposition

1. You said the first thing I have to do is respond to the definition and I should disagree with some things and agree with other things. Can you give me an example?

- Firstly, you don't ALWAYS have to disagree with the definition. If the PM defines the debate clearly and the problem is exactly as you think it should be, then you can just agree with everything. It's ALWAYS important to find something you can agree on.

- As for an example, here's one

a) The motion is "We should abolish the death penalty". The PM defines the debate as applying to every country in the world (this is the scope of the debate) and defines the death penalty as capital punishment for serious crimes, such as murder. In opposition, you can accept the general definition and scope of the debate, but you can focus it a little. You can say you are going to defend that some countries should have the death penalty if they think it helps them (not that ALL countries should have the death penalty, which is directly opposite of the PM's scope of the debate). Furthermore, you are only going to defend the death penalty for murder (since in the world today some countries will execute people for many other reasons). So you agree that generally the debate should be about the death penalty, but you don't want to argue that all countries should have it and not for many different types of crimes, but just murder. This is a fair debate, both teams have a fair burden of proof. Now if instead you say that you only want to defend the death penalty in ONE country (South Korea) and for one very specific type of crime (serial killers) - the debate can still happen but it has become much more narrow and might not be as interesting (when the debate is narrow, you will also have less arguments - find out more about this strategy here).

2. In Opposition, what concessions are okay to make and what are not okay?

- You shouldn't concede too many main principles or your main burdens. If you do that, you will seem like you are avoiding responsibility. If in opposition I am supposed to defend the death penalty, then I need to do so in a way that is broad enough to create debate. You can concede one or two principles, especially if you think they are hard to defend and that most people agree with them. For example

a) The motion is "We should abolish the death penalty" and the PM says they are going to prove that every human being has basic human rights, which includes the right to life. Also he will show the death penalty does not reduce crime, is cruel and costs too much. As LO, you can concede that every human being has basic human rights, but BUT that does not include the right to life. You can concede it does not reduce crime by deterring people BUT it is a form of punishment that people deserve. The BUTs are important because they ensure you have things to defend in opposition. If you completely concede the first two points, then you are only defending costs, and that creates a debate that is too narrow.

3. What are some strategies for rebuttals?

- Glad you asked! Briefly, you can disagree with the logic of the argument, challenge the argument by providing an example of the reverse situation in reality, concede the argument wholly or partially. More information here.

4. I don't understand how my arguments can be a rebuttal. Can you explain it again please?

- Of course I can explain it again, anything for you! Sometimes what you planned to argue (when you and your teammates built the case in your preparation time) is a natural response to the PM's argument. In that situation, you can just point to the point she made and say you will address that when you develop your arguments. And when you develop your argument, remind the judge/audience that you are rebutting the PM's argument. For example, 

a) The motion is "We should abolish the death penalty" and the PM has 2 arguments; the Right to Life is Paramount and the Death Penalty doesn't Deter Crime. Now let's assume when you were planning your speech, you decided you were going to argue 2 arguments in support of the death penalty; The Death Penalty can Discourage Criminals and that Punishments must Suit the Crime. Now your first argument (Death Penalty can Discourage Criminals) directly opposes the PM's second argument (Death Penalty doesn't Deter Crime), so when you get the point when you should rebut the PM's arguments, you can say you will rebut his second argument when you make your first argument. To make it clear to the judge/audience, you should state the labels/names of the PM's argument and of your argument.

Transcript - Video Lecture on the Leader of Opposition

The second speech in an Asian Parliamentary Debate after the Prime Minister's speech, is the first speaker of the opposition team and that is the Leader of Opposition (LO). Now the Leader of Opposition's job in many ways is very similar to the Prime Minister's job. There are some crucial differences, so let's look at what he or she must do.

Now as LO you have essentially 4 responsibilities. Firstly you must respond to the definition and setup, second present your case and your position, thirdly rebut the arguments of the Prime Minister (PM) and lastly present your own arguments. 

Firstly, responding to the definition and the setup. Now in this part what you need to do is to address how you and the other team or the PM are approaching the problem (or approaching the debate, not every debate is about a problem). They've just told you how they define the debate, do you agree or disagree with the definition? Would you like to provide some additional clarity? Would you like to explain some ideas that you feel the PM has not explained well enough?

It's essential for you to find some common ground. So you can agree or disagree with some things, but you must agree with some other things. For example if we are using the same debate about banning smoking in the university campus and the PM contextualizes debate and says universities are dirty and filthy and people (are) smoking everywhere and that's the problem, you can approach that and say you agree people are smoking in the university but you don't agree that the problem is as huge as and as dire as he makes it out to be. You disagree on the context or the issue on which the prime minister set-up the debate. That's the first thing, responding to the definition and the setup. Remember, as much as you want to disagree with some things, you must find something to agree (on). Without any kind of common ground, the debate will not happen.[More in Question 1 below]

The second thing you do is you present your position and your team case. This part is almost identical to what the PM does. If you have a policy, you should present a (your) policy. You should explain how you are going to approach the debate and what your essential agreements or disagreements are. What are you going to prove and what you are NOT going to prove. It's okay to make some concessions, but you cannot concede the main principle of the debate.[More in Question 2 below]

Thirdly you have to rebut and this part is completely new. Every speaker in the Asian Parliamentary format should respond to the speaker before them. Now the PM has no speaker before him so obviously he can't have any rebuttals but as LO you must respond to the PM. So you must say why the PM's arguments or the policy or the position is wrong or ineffective or what are the problems with what he or she wants to argue. Those are your rebuttals. [More in Question 3 Below]

Finally like the PM you must also present constructive argumentation. You must say, now these are my arguments. In your position part where you are presenting the team case, you would have said what you are going to talk about and what your second speaker is going to talk about, so at this point you should deliver those arguments. Now doing rebuttals and arguments can be a lot of things to do, so the LO needs to be responsive and be able to change and adapt to what is happening in the debate. Sometimes if your argument is also a rebuttal because it serves to rebut the other (side's)argument, you can tell people that. You can say, "I'm going to rebut his arguments when I talk about my argument" (example below) and then later, when you talk about your argument, you can say "This argument defeats their argument on the other side". You can watch an example and see how these things work, and how the LO structures his or her speech. [More in Question 4 Below]

Basically it's quite similar to a PM speech - you need to respond to the definition and set-up, present your own position and case, how you are going to approach the debate and then you have rebuttals to engage the PM's arguments and finally provide your own arguments. 

Prime Minister

I explain the role of the first speaker in this format. There are 3 main responsibilities, to Define and Set-Up the Debate, to Present the Team Position and Case and to Make 1 or 2 Arguments.

Read a transcript of this Video
Questions and Answers on the Role of the Prime Minister
Activities in Class or Training Exercises
Example of this Role

Brief Notes on this Lecture 

The Prime Minister is the first person to speak in the Asian Parlimentary format. This is a very important speech as it defines the entire debate. This speech should lay down the groundwork for the entire debate and deliver the most important ideas. There are 3 important parts to this speech

A) Define and Set-Up the debate

  • What do you define? How words will be understood in this debate. You don't have to define every word, but words that might be misunderstood or words that have multiple meanings. Pretend you are the opposition and ask yourself what might confuse you. Don't provide dictionary definitions, but tell everyone how the word will be understood in the debate. Tell them what you mean, what you Don't mean, give them a similar meaning and give them an example.
  • set-up – how, where this debate will happen. What is the context? This is important because this is how the arguments will be evaluated. You need to explain why this debate is important, give some limites to the debate and answer any questions the other team or audience or judge might have.

B) Present Team Position and Case

  • What are you defending? What will you prove and not prove? Do you have a specific policy? Your position is your overall beliefs. Your case is a collection of your arguments, policy and theme.
  • What will you talk about and what will your second speaker talk about?

C) Make 1 or 2 Arguments

  • The first speaker must present the most important arguments. Do not save the best for last.


Transcript - Video Lecture on the Role of the Prime Minister

Now we are going to talk about the roles and responsibilities of each speaker in the team. Debating and especially in the Asian Parliamentary format is a team sport. Teams compete against other teams. And just like in any other team persuasion activity like a team presentation, each speaker has a specific role and responsibility. It's important to realize at the start that these are guidelines, these are not rules. It doesn't mean that if you don't do one of these things you will automatically lose the debate. However these guidelines are created in order to give you the most amount of efficiency when persuading. They will help you function as a team more effectively, and persuade more efficiently. 

So the speakers in the teams all have a specific kind of name or notation, in order to I guess, role play a little bit and make it more interesting. So in the Government team, the first speaker is called the Prime Minister (PM). And his or her second speaker is the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and then the Government Whip (GW). In the Opposition the first speaker is the Leader of Opposition, followed by the Deputy Leader of Opposition (DLO) and the Opposition whip. I'm sure you see a pattern forming here.

We're going to talk about these roles in the order in which they will speak in the debate. The first speaker of the government first, the PM, and then the LO and then the DPM, DLO and so on. Let's look at the PM.

Now, as the first speaker of the debate, you have three essential things that you must do. Firstly you must define and set-up the debate, secondly you need to present your team's position and the team's case and thirdly you must make 1 or 2 arguments. Let's look at those things in turn.

Defining and Setting Up the debate. Both teams have a topic, the first speaker's job is to tell them how we are going to - or tell everyone rather - how we are going to define the topic. How we are going to use this topic in this debate. Now you should take the most literal and straight forward definition, but sometimes there can be words that need additional clarification, to help people know how they are going to be understood, in this debate. This does not mean you have to give the dictionary definition of every word. But you need to tell people how your team is going to understand and apply some of the words. 

For example, if the topic is "that we would ban smoking in the university campus", teams perhaps don't need to explain what smoking is, if everyone knows what smoking is. Smoking cigarettes, whatever's legally defined as smoking. But they might need to say what they exactly mean by ban and how they are going regulate. They might need to say also where is the boundary of the university campus. Are they talking about buildings, surrounding area of the buildings or over the fence. Not clarifying these issues at the start could lead to confusion. So you have to define the debate in a way that does not lead to confusion. You cannot define the debate in a overly narrow or small way, in order to give yourself too much of an advantage, because there still needs to be a debate. 

You also need to set-up the debate. Now setting-up the debate means, well just like setting up a stage, you are going to tell people what are the things they need to know in order for this debate to happen. That means giving them a context, why is this debate important? What is the background to this issue? Tell people how this debate is to be evaluated? So in this same example, I might say that there is a big problem, there is a rise of younger problem smoking, it's been very difficult to clamp down, a problem with littering and second smoking and so on so forth and what we want to do is to address and solve this problems. So that is defining the debate, and setting-up the debate. These things are important to create clarity, to avoid confusion and to help people decide how to evaluate the debate.

The second thing you would do as Prime Minister is present your Position and your Team's Case. The Position is how we are going to approach this debate. What do we believe in, what are we going to prove? And what is my team going to do? So do we believe that people need to have rights limited? Are we trying regulate people? What is our position and you present your case. Case means the arguments of the entire team. This means having to present your team's split. So what am I going to talk about, and what my second speaker is going to talk about. This makes your entire case more easily understood by the other team and most importantly by the judges and the audience. 

Sometimes teams will have a policy or a plan. The 3 things we are going to do, we are going to this, and going to do that and going to this. So you are going to explain in detail how you are going to implement your solution. That also needs to come out int his part, when you are presenting you position and case

The final thing the PM will do is present arguments, so the first reason and the second reason. And then you will summarize and close your speech, and emphasize what is important.

So brief recap - 3 things the PM must do - he or she must define and set up the debate, he or she must present a position, their team's position and their team's case - which could sometimes include a policy, and finally he or she must present one or two arguments.

Watch an example and see if this person does all of those things

Reply Speakers

I explain the role of the Reply speakers in this format. Reply speeches are shortened speeches (4 minutes long) made by either the first or second speaker at the end of the debate. There are 3 main responsibilities of this speech, to Summarize the Debate, to show your Team's Position and Case and Compare and Show why your Team's Position is better than the other team's.

Read a transcript of this Video
Questions and Answers on the Role of the Reply Speaker
Activities in Class or Training Exercises
Example of this Role

Notes on This Lecture

Reply speeches speak once the debate is "over". This doesn't mean your speech is unimportant, it just means that technically you are not supposed to add new things to the debate. What your speech does is give the judges and audience a standard to measure success. Which team should win this debate and why? You can do this by

A) Summarize the debate – what is this debate about?

  • Be as objective as possible. What have been the major issues and questions in this debate? What are the most important impacts of this debate? Try to think like your judge.

B) Briefly summarize the position of your team and your competitor

  • Now that you've told everyone what the debate is about, how did you approach the debate and how did your opponent approach the debate? What did you set out to prove and what were your major arguments? You don't have a lot of time, so don't go through in great detail. Just outline the main approach and most important ideas.

C) Compare why your team's position and arguments are better. 

  • Now that you've told everyone what the debate is about and how each of you approached the debate, who did a better job? Who had more relevant arguments, engaged better, developed ideas better, proved their burden, did not contradict etc etc. Provide standards to measure success. Remember, you don't have to beat the other team 100% to win a debate, you don't have to prove that you are perfect. You just have to win 51% of the debate, you just have to be better than the other team. This means it's okay to concede that at some points the other team did better than you, but ensure you show you did better at all the important points.

Don't make new arguments, new rebuttals or present new examples, but analyze and balance the arguments and position of both teams. Explain why your team did a better job of debating, why your position and arguments better answers the most important questions in the debate.

Question and Answers - the Reply Speakers

NOTE - in reply speeches you cannot make new arguments, new rebuttals or offer new examples. You can only compare and evaluate arguments, rebuttals and examples that have already been offered.

Transcript - Video Lecture on the Reply Speakers

Hello! So we've talked about the first six speeches of the Asian Parliamentary format, the 3 speeches on the Government team and the 3 speeches on the Opposition team. Now we've come almost to the end of the debate. The opposition whip speaker has sat down, (and) it's time for the reply speeches. 

The reply speeches as I've told you before, is 4 minutes in length and there will be no Points of Information. During the previous 6 speeches, while speakers are presenting the definition or making arguments or rebuttals, other speakers can stand up and offer a point. "Can I ask a question", "On that point",- they may say those things or make those funny gestures to get attention and speakers (the person who is currently speaking) can choose to reject or accept them. In the reply speech there is none of this. You get absolute peace and control over your speech.

So what should you do in the 4 minutes which you have to make your reply speech? You should do essentially 3 things. One - you need to summarize the debate. Two - you need to show your team's position and your case and thirdly, you need to compare (and show) why your position is better than the other team's. Why your case is better than the other team. Why you should win this debate. 

Before I talk about those things, it's helpful to think of the reply speech as a form of biased adjudication. The debate has ended and you are here giving a kind of review of the debate. "This has happened, we did this and they did this and now why do we win". Why were we the better team in this game, and how did we play this game better or how they didn't play this game better (than us). What they have not done or still have not done and what we have done and why we are better. It's kind of like a review after a game or a performance. The commentators get up and give up and give a review. (They might say) "oh I think this team did really well and they should win or she should be the best idol because of this and because of that". That's what you are doing. Now obviously you are a member of your team, so you are going to be a little bit biased. If you are the opposition reply speaker, you are not going to say I think the government team is going to win this debate. Don't do that! You are going to say "I think our team wins this debate!", but you are going to try to present that in an objective way, because that is persuasive. 

Let's look at the 3 things you should do in your speech in order to best present this biased adjudication. Firstly, briefly summarize the debate. Not your team, but the debate as a whole. What was this debate about? What are some of the important issues in this debate? What happened in this debate? It's important here to be as objective as possible. You should try to cover things which maybe even your team wasn't doing so well at, because if your summary is too biased,then the judges won't buy the rest of your analysis. they wont believe the rest of your analysis. so what was this debate about? this debate was about the balance between the right of smokers and non smokers. this debate was about what is the role of the university - is the university a place for education only, or is it also a place for transition, for change into society. so those are the two most important issues in this debate, perhaps. 

Now after you've done that, present your teams position and your case. so these are the issues in the debate, now what we do and what did we present? What were our arguments and how did we argue them? Try to be brief, because what you are showing here is you are trying to show why your arguments and your case is relevant (to the main issues of the debate), is good, is strong. So this is what the debate is about, these are our arguments, our arguments are relevant to what this debate is about. 

The third thing you should do is compare your position and their position. This means you may have to briefly summarize the other team's position and then compare them. That's the most important part. Saying what you've done and saying what they've done doesn't really win you a debate, and that isn't really debating. What debating is about is comparing, not just stating things. So "we made these arguments, and they made those arguments - why are our arguments better than their arguments. Why are our examples better. Why is out position better. Why are our approaches or anylsis better, which ones do we win". 

Now you don't have to show that you win all the arguments and every position and this is 100% destruction of the other team. no no no, that's not what debating is about. It's about objective comparison. So you can say, "I think we did really well here, the other team did really well here, we will give them credit, we think that was a good point and that was made well and we really don't have answer for this part, BUT we think we still did better (in this debate) because that one point which they did well at is not the the most important point of the debate. This point is more important than that point in the end. Furthermore we did this thing and that thing and this thing an this other thing, much much better than them!" 

So it's really important at this point to be comparative. Compare your team against their team. You want to give the judge a standard with which to decide which team should win this debate. 

So to recap, tell the judges and the audience what this debate is about. This debate is about this issue, it's about that issue. Present and summarize your case and your positon. Show how you were relevant to the debate. Thirdly compare the teams, tell the judges why you did better to solve the problems and the issue, or responded better to the issue. Give them a standard to decide which team should win the debate. In debates that are very very close, reply speeches can make a huge difference. You have to think tactically, but believe your team has won the debate. 

Good luck!

Whip Speakers

I explain the role of the Whip Speakers in this format. These are the speakers who speak last in both teams, and I talk about them together since their roles are very similar. There are 3 main responsibilities, to Summarize and Defend your Case, Summarize and Prioritize issues in the debate and lastly Analyze and Rebut key issues.

Read a transcript of this Video
Questions and Answers on the Role of the Whip Speaker
Activities in Class or Training Exercises
Example of this Role

Brief Notes on this Lecture

Whip speakers are the last constructive speakers in the Asian Parliamentary format. Constructive speakers are those who build up arguments and clash points in the debate. Although whip speakers don't usually present new arguments (the Opposition Whip speaker is forbidden from doing this and it's too late in the debate for any new arguments to make a huge impact anyway) they can present new rebuttals, examples, analysis and defense of arguments that have already been made. They do this by doing the following

A) Briefly summarize and defend your case

  • It's important at the start of the speech to spend a minute or less to emphasize the points made by your team. This reminds the audience what the contribution of your team is and gives you a context from which to make your rebutalls and analysis. It will be easier to compare the other team's arguments to yours if you briefly summarize them first.

B) Summarize and prioritize the most important arguments or issues in the debate.

  • There will be many arguments and rebuttals flying around in the debate. You need to identify the main themes or major arguments that are dominating the debate or that you feel are important. This part is really important, you cannot talk about everything that has been said so you will have to choose. Choosing ideas that are not important will make the rest of your speech redundant. Be objective when deciding what the clash points are and be fair to the other team.

C) Rebut and analyze the arguments or issues and say why your team has done better on all of them, most of them or on the most important ones

  • This is the largest part of your speech. Once you have identified the major issues, go through and rebut all of them. Compare them to arguments your team has made and show why yours are better. 

Don't present new arguments, but you can present new analysis, new examples, new rebuttals and give support for arguments that your teammates have already made in the debate

Question and Answers - the Whip Speakers

Transcript - Video Lecture on the Whip Speakers

Hello hello, welcome back! It's time to talk about the 3rd speakers on both teams. And I'm also going to talk about these two guys, or girls together because their roles are very similar to each other. There are some differences, but they are very similar. So I'm gong to talk about the Government Whip (GW) and the Opposition Whip (OW) collectively.

It's important to realize (as whip) you are coming at the end of the debate, so at this part of the debate, 4 speakers or 5 speakers if you are opposition whip, would have already spoken before you. There are going to be many arguments and rebuttals and claims and counter claims and accusations and examples and analysis and all these different things. So your job in principle is to sort out this mess, is to balance these things and to tell the judges and the teams, why you have done better. More than tell them, show them why you have done better. 

There are essentially 3 parts to your speech. Firstly, as a good whip you must briefly summarize and defend your case Secondly summarize and prioritize the issues and ideas in the debate, and then thirdly, analyze and rebut these issues. Let's look at them.

Firstly briefly summarize your case and your position. This helps give the judges or the audience a little bit of clarity. When you get up (to make your speech), this is the first thing (you should do) and you shouldn't take very long. If you are speaking for 7 minutes, this should be about a minute or less. You (can) say "now this is what we have done, these are our 3 arguments (or) these are our 4 arguments and these arguments are still strong and still doing well". You are giving them a brief overview of what your team has presented in this debate. 

The second thing you do and this is one of the most important things, you summarize and prioritize the issues and ideas in the debate. You identifying what you think are the most important points in the debate. These are things that maybe will be questions in the minds of the audience. Things on which the debate might turn, might hinge. For example on the topic that we would ban smoking in the university campus, one of the issues may be how much harm is there from people smoking on campus. Is the harm very very real?  (This is) Because the government team will try to create a lot of harm to a lot of people and the opposition team will try to reduce this harm, and say that it's really not that much harm. Or an issue could be about rights - how do we balance the rights of smokers and the rights of non-smokers? So as a whip speaker, I want to identify these things. I want to say, or you want to say, there are two issues in this debate, or there are 3 issues in the debate. Firstly the issue of harm, secondly the issue of rights, and thirdly what is the role of a university. Sometimes these can be characterized based on the arguments of the other team. Perhaps the 3 arguments they have presented, those are going to be the important issues in the debate. 

Sometimes these (issues) are also presented as questions. Do people have the right to smoke? Or which is more important? And so on and so forth - you get the idea. Basically what you have to do is identify what the most important issues in the debate are. This should also not take very long.

The third thing you should do is you should rebut and analyze those issues. Now (for example) "I've identified 3 important issues, I've said the first important issue in this debate is what is the harm of second hand smoke, secondly how do we balance the rights of smokers and non-smokers (and thirdly what is the role of universities)...and in the 3rd part of my speech i should rebut and analyze those things. So since I said what is harm, I will give you reasons why the harm is very real or the harm can be reduced..", and then secondly when I talk about the rights, I will show you why our argumentation on rights is better than their argumentation of rights.

To do these things I can provide new rebuttals to arguments, I can provide new examples, I can also provide new analysis to rebuttals. What i cannot do, what I should not do as a whip speaker is provide new arguments. A new argument is an idea that has not happened in the debate before and is not a rebuttal. So if no one on my team so far has talked about, let's say cost, the economic perspective has never come up in this debate before. Then as the whip speaker I shouldn't bring that idea up. The rules of Asian Parliamentary technically allow the government whip (to bring new arguments) but specifically forbid the opposition whip from doing this. But I think it's good strategy for neither of the whip speakers to bring new arguments. You can bring a new rebuttal, so if you want to rebut the second speakers speech and third speakers speech by providing economic analysis, you can do that. A lot of it is how you make your points. 

To recap, the whip speaker speaks at the end, so your job is to summarize and to clarify issues, to attract points that are still hanging, to show why your team is doing better. To that effect you should do three things; start by providing a brief summary of the arguments of your team and your case, and defend them. Then prioritize and analyze the issues of the debate - identify which you think are the most important issues in this debate. Thirdly - and this will be the bulk of your speech, analyze and rebut those issues. Tell the audience and the judges why your team did better, why the position of your team is much better for those issues, and rebut and analyze. Remember, no new arguments, but new examples and new rebuttals are okay

Good luck whip!

Rebuttal Strategies

Here are some strategies you can use to respond to arguments. They are not ranked in order of what is most effective. Effectiveness differs depending on the arguments made. This list is also not the list of the ONLY rebuttals you can make - these are what I believe are the most common.

Don't depend on them, always try to create your own. Also, quoting the type of rebuttal is not the same as making the rebuttal. That means just saying the name is the strategy is ("hey, that is a Problem Solution Mismatch!") is not actually showing that it is true. If you can show the problem with the argument without saying the name of the strategy, that is just as good (or maybe even better!)

Also, learning common rebuttal strategies will also ensure your arguments are logically stronger. You ensure you don't make simple mistakes that leave you open to attack!

Once you've read through this, try the activity at the bottom and see how many of strategies you can use. You can use more than one on each slide.

  • Problem Solution Mismatch
  • Wrong in Principle
  • Generalization
  • Causes more Harm
  • Not their Role
  • Not Practical
  • Just Not Logical
  • Contradiction

A) Problem Solution Mismatch

  • You agree there is a problem, but this solution doesn’t solve the problem or the cause of the problem is wrong from what is identified and thus the solution doesn’t cause the problem
  • For example, Argument : Korean education is over competitive and doesn’t develop creative thinking skills. Co-ed schools help ensure more interaction between different genders and can solve this problem -> Problem identified is competitiveness and lack of creative thinking - interaction between genders doesn’t solve this problem, at least not as explained in this argument

B) Wrong in Principle

  • The argument contradicts a basic principle that society acknowledges is right . You will need to explain why upholding that principle is more important than whatever gain the argument is trying to achieve
  • For example, Argument : Keeping a murderer in prison for life will cost many millions of dollars. Sentencing murderers to death saves the state money which can then be used to help society -> the state must always preserve life and life is always more important than money. Even if that money can be used to help other people, the state cannot justify killing one person to help others.

C) Generalization

  • This mean assuming every situation is the same because of one example or one small sample. To be more effective, you should try to show why this situation is different.
  • For example, Argument : The US-Mexico FTA lead to exploitation of Mexico, therefore the Korea-US FTA will lead to the same -> this is a generalization. Just because Mexico wasn’t able to take advantage of the FTA with the US doesn’t mean Korea cannot do the same. Korea is in a different position from Mexico and can learn from their mistakes. Korea already has a positive trade balance with US

D) Has the Same or Worse Effect

  • You argue that what the argument is trying to achieve does not happen or instead it becomes worse!
  • For example, Argument : Keeping a murderer in prison for life will cost many millions of dollars. Sentencing murderers to death saves the state money which can then be used to help society -> the death penalty doesn’t save money, the state has to spend lots more money on appeals as most prisoners sentences to death spend many years on death row
  • For example, Argument : Korea signing an FTA with US will lead to Korea losing competitiveness as our trade balance will drop -> this is not true. Actually NOT signing the FTA will US will lead to a loss of competitiveness

E) Not Practical

  • The argument is not practical - there no money, no willpower, no person to do, no time etc. 
  • For example, Argument : To solve the problem of unemployment in Korea, each company should be forced to hire more people! -> this is impossible. Companies will not cooperate, and even if the government can force all companies to do this, companies will lose money and will go bankrupt (leading to the same or Worse Effect - more unemployment)

F) Just Not Logical

  • Just does not make sense! Attack the logic behind an argument! Try to stretch the logic to apply to a different situation. If it cannot be applied, then the logic is not true.
  • For example, Argument : The state cannot remove life because the state cannot create life. The state can only take away what it can replace -> but the state removes things it cannot replace all the time - like time, or the environment.

G) Contradictions!

  • Often different parts of an argument might contradict each other. Pointing out contradictions is an incredibly effective rebuttal, as it is the worst logical mistake
  • For example, Argument : We should use the death penalty to discourage serial killers. Serial killers are crazy psychopaths who do not care about living or dying -> if serial killers don’t care about dying, why will they be discouraged by the death penalty?? It does not make sense!


Strategic Concession

If you cannot directly rebut an argument, you can concede it, but only if it’s not a major argument! You concede the argument, but argue that something else is more important.

For example, Argument : An embryo is a form of life, destroying it is killing -> we can concede the idea that the embryo is a form of life, but the life of the mother (quality of life) is more important than life that is not yet independent


Using your Preparation Time

The limited time you are given to prepare for the debate is a test of problem solving - how you maximize the limited time available to you to best prepare for the debate that lies ahead. Best use of prep time means a team must work well together.

Below are some questions you can ask yourself to help you prepare for a debate. Set A helps you understand what the debate is supposed to be about. This ensures the debate is clear and balanced, and helps you come up with the context, your position and the definition. Set B is about finding out the main arguments of the debates - what you will be using to persuade your audience and judges. Set C is about generating additional arguments and helping you to expand the ideas you already have.

A) Understanding the Debate

If you don't get this part, you might miss the point of the debate. Not doing this well leads to confusing and messy debates.

  1. What is this debate about?
  2. Why is this debate important?
  3. What are some things that need to be clearly defined for this debate to happen clearly?
  4. What should the GOV team and OPP team be defending in this debate?

B) Generating Arguments or Ideas

These are essential things to think about when developing arguments.

  1. What are some reasons why your side is right? Prioritize these reasons.
  2. What are some reasons why the other side is wrong? Use this to develop arguments or rebuttals
  3. What the problem that the GOV team should be trying to solve? In OPP – why is this not a problem or why is there a different solution? Why is your position on the problem more realistic, efficient, practical, successful than the other team? Often teams fail to compare why their solution is the best in addressing the problem.
  4. What is the principle that the gov team is defending? What is the principle the opposition team is defending? Why is this more important than the principle of the other team?

C) Argument Themes

These are themes that are usually discussed in debates.Use these themes to create or expand your arguments.

  1. Is there a principle to defend? Is there a principle you are diluting? Why is the principle you are defending more important than the one you are diluting?
  2. What is the direct benefit of what you are arguing? Are you creating a harm? Why are your benefits more than or more important than the harms?
  3. Compare short term and long term impacts – maybe there are different benefits/harms in the short and long term, or maybe there are short term losses but long term gains. Why is the latter (or former) more important?
  4. Is there a positive message to society? Could there a strong negative reaction (a backlash) from society?
  5. Is this the role of the government, school, corporation, student, child, woman, parents, church, religion etc? Why is it their role? If it not their role, then who's role is it?
  6. Look at stake holders involved – how does this impact children, teachers, women, foreigners, prisoners, companies, the poor/rich etc. Why is this impact important?
  7. Compare the domestic and international impacts

These are some examples of principles that are commonly used in debates. These are just samples, there are a lot more principles out there so don't limit yourself to these!

  • Choice
  • Freedom of expression/speech
  • Right to association
  • Protecting minorities
  • Bodily integrity
  • Harm Principle
  • Right to life