Defining your Debate or Discussion

Definitions are a very important part of persuasion. Often, we fail to persuade people not because we don't have good arguments but because our definition is not clear.

A) Definition Strategies

A definition is important to help people understand what you are talking about. Sometimes, to do that it is also important to tell people WHY you are talking about something. So if you think it helps, give people a background to your issue, which will help them understand what you are talking about, and why it is so important.

There are many different ways to define something. Here are some

  • Define Words – describe and explain the meaning of a word or your plan. You don't have to do this for every word, but only for words that might have more than one meaning. Do not define words as they mean in the dictionary, but how they will affect your debate.
  • Define Comparative elements of the topic – somethings there are words in the motion that ask you assign a value or compare something. You need to explain how that word will affect the debate. You do not need to define that word, but explain how you will be using that word in your debate.(for example, “boys are better than girls” - how will you measure better than in this debate?).
  • Compare to something similar – compare what you mean or want to do with something similar that everyone understands. It is important to explain which part of the comparison is important for your case. Use the form, “it is similar the way that....”
  • Compare with something that is not similar – compare with something that is not what your plan is but could be confused with it
  • Give an example of what you will do
  • Give an example of what you will not do




Define Words

This house would prioritize the environment over the economy

Environment here means all nature and animals, OR Environment here means only nature

Comparative elements

This house would prioritize the environment over the economy

By Prioritize we mean we will sacrifice economic development if it affects the environment, or By Prioritize we mean we will ban development of the Amazon rainforest


Support the invasion of Iran

Similar to US invasion of Somalia, in the way that it was quick and fast and only destroyed the targets

NOT similar to US invasion of Iraq, because it will not be long and we do not want to change the government.


Ban smoking in all public places

Examples of what we will do; ban smoking in bus stops, libraries and hospitals

Examples of what we will NOT do; ban smoking at home, in parks

Policies and Values

When you are defining the debate, you are creating the debate. You are deciding what kind of debate you want to have. There generally two kinds of debates you can define

  • Value – this means generally comparing the ideas in the debate without much practical consideration for implementation. Discussing principles.
  • Policy – this means you are trying to solve a specific problem with a specific plan. Policy debates would require more specific details, like an place to solve the problem, who can solve the problem, what needs to be done, etc.

However the best debates are debates that mix Value and Policy. You can however choose to prioritize one of these elements in your case.




This House Believes that prisoners have a right to vote

Debate is about the what rights we remove from prisoners and whether the right to vote is one of them.

Debate is about the problems that prisoners have without the right to vote and whether we can solve them

This House Supports the Death Penalty

Debate is about the right of the state to kill and whether is it fair to exchange one life for another life

Debate is about solving terrible crimes and the role of the death penalty as a deterrent

This House Supports Abortion



This House Support the Right to Use Drugs