A debate is the presentation of opposing arguments on an issue with the goal of presenting a more convincing position than the other side. This practice began in ancient Greece, but it’s just as relevant in today’s world. From gatherings on the Pnyx in ancient Athens to today’s court proceedings and political discussions, debating remains a necessary skill for navigating a complex society that strives for balance and the ability for all voices to be heard.
The biggest issues debated in modern society tend to be controversial topics that inspire passionate arguments on both sides. These frequently fall under the categories of politics, education, culture, and religion. The success of these debates relies on civility and a well-organized procedure for the presentation of arguments. The goal of a good debate is that all sides should be allowed to make their positions clear.
- Big Issues for Debate: On this site, you can not only find out the most controversial topics of our age but also take part in real debates and give your vote on each topic.
- Role of Breath Control in Public Speaking: Everyone knows how to breathe, but proper breath control can help you to sound more authoritative in a debate.
- Debating Hints and Tips: The 2015 world champion in public speaking and debate shares her tips on how to debate successfully.
- Top 100 Debates: Join the international debates on different topics related to culture, free speech, education, economics, and more.
- Definition of Debate: Read about the simple and concise definition of what debate and rhetoric are.
- History of Presidential Debates: Learn about the history of televised presidential debates.
- Presidential Debates Library: Browse through the archive of presidential debates from 1858 to 2016 to learn from some of the most famous debaters in history.
Forms of Debate
Debate can take a variety of formats. Any well-organized debate will have two sides, with one typically in favor of a given position or proposal and the other opposed to it. Debates may include only two people, one on each side, or they may be conducted in teams. However the specific rules of the debate are laid out, the goal is to allow each side to make its case, give the opposing side the opportunity to refute the points made or ask questions, and provide a chance for these responses to be answered.
- The Lincoln-Douglas Debate Format: The Lincoln-Douglas format of debating is most often used in school debates. In this format, two people face off on opposite sides of an issue.
- Traditional Debate Format: In a traditional class debate, students work in teams to formulate their arguments and compile sources supporting them.
- Team Policy Format of Debating: Unlike the Lincoln-Douglas format, this one has two opponents on each side.
- Oxford-Style Debate: Learn about the way an Oxford-style debate is carried out. This is also a team format, and it includes three people per side.
- Types of Speech and Debate: Find out more about the different types of speech and debate competitions that students may enter.
- Slideshow on Types of Debate: Look at this presentation and learn to recognize characteristics of the different types of debates.
Learn About Debates
Debating is an important skill to acquire far beyond school debate competitions. At its heart, debating involves forming and delivering a persuasive argument, abilities that are useful throughout life in a variety of settings. Like any skill, debating can be learned through study and practice.
- Terminology in Speeches and Debates: Try these flashcards to help you remember terms related to the art of debating.
- Debate Videos: Learn debating by watching real-life debates here.
- Conducting a Debate: Follow this guide to prepare, structure, and conduct a debate.
- Preparing for a Debate: One of the most important keys to winning a debate is adequately preparing your arguments.
There are plenty of resources not only for debaters but also for teachers and advisers of debate teams. Using a well-planned study system and clear debate guidelines can help novices learn and improve their argument skills.
- Creating a Successful Speech and Debate Team: If your school doesn’t have a debate team, this guide can help you create one.
- “Bad Reasoning” Activity: This exercise can be helpful to debaters learning to detect weak arguments.
- Tips for Carrying Out a Class Debate: Learn how to conduct debates in a way that’s well-organized, civil, and educational.
- Using Debates in the Classroom: Allowing students to argue an issue can better engage them in the topic and improve their ability to formulate clear and persuasive arguments.
- Classroom Debates: The guide provides not only advice for conducting debates but also ideas for topics that are great for a school debate.
Logic is the foundation on which a persuasive argument is built. Many flaws in logic, called logical fallacies, can be used to try to deceive an audience into agreeing with a position. Learning to spot these fallacies in opposing arguments and remove them from your own can strengthen your position in a debate.
- Recognizing the 20 Top Logical Fallacies: Building a solid argument relies on avoiding logical fallacies and being able to spot them in the other side’s statements.
- Handlist of Logical Fallacies: Fallacies come in many types, including arguments that rely on irrelevant information and those that are built on erroneous conclusions.
- 15 Logical Fallacies to Know Before Getting Into a Debate: Debaters should be well aware of common logical fallacies to avoid falling for one during a debating session.
- Logic Through Presidential Debates: Even presidential candidates sometimes use logical fallacies.
At its core, rhetoric is the art of effective communication, which is key to winning any debate, whether you’re a student involved in a classroom discussion or a lawyer attempting to persuade a jury. Thinking carefully about what you say and how you say it can help to improve your debate performance.
- What Is Rhetoric? Learn more about this classical discipline and how it applies to the world of debate.
- American Rhetoric: Famous Speeches Quiz: Some of the greatest speakers in history have uttered words that are still frequently quoted to this day.
- What Students Need to Know About Rhetoric: “Rhetoric” may sound like a scholarly and opaque term, but students will quickly find that’s it’s all around them and affects what they do every day.
- Aristotle’s Rhetoric
: This famous philosopher had a tremendous impact on the development of rhetorical concepts.
- Three Types of Rhetoric: What are the three branches of rhetoric? Learn about them here.
For those who learn best by listening, plenty of podcasts are available that provide examples of well-practiced rhetorical techniques. Listening to others debate an issue may offer useful examples of tactics you can adopt.
- Intelligence Squared: U.S. Debates: This is recognized as one of the top podcasts centering on debates, covering a wide range of issues and featuring many top minds.
- Making Sense Podcast: Author and neuroscientist Sam Harris hosts this podcast on controversial issues in today’s society.
- National Consitution Center Podcasts: The topics of these podcasts are discussed by professionals in the world of law and others who are experts in constitutional rights.
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