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Advanced Debating Techniques

Ms. Mary Grace C. Brosas

Why Debate?
Debating allows several different qualities to emerge, including

1. collecting, organizing and evaluating ideas, 2. seeing logical connections between ideas, 3. adapting to new situations quickly and efficiently, and 4. speaking persuasively.

How are arguments judged?

A basic argument is judged in three basic areas:

1. Content, 2. Organization, 3. Delivery

Content: The amount of understanding of, and support for the topic. Content can be called, the Argument.

Organization: The planning and preparation of the Argument. Organization can be called, the Reason(s) and the Evidence.

Thus, we have the acronym, ARE: A = Argument R = Reason E = Evidence

ARE: This is the basic argument structure.

Argument Marijuana should be legalized. Reason It does not harm the human body. Evidence Frequent marijuana use is unlikely to be neurotoxic to the normal developing adolescent brain (Harm Reduction Journal, May 9, 2006). Therefore, marijuana is safe to use and should be legalized.

Delivery = How the debater speaks: Clear, confident, near-native pronunciation, tone, pace, gestures, & eye contact. There are five (5) things a speaker needs to consider in their delivery: Audibility, Engagement, Conviction, Authority, & Likability (AECAL).

(A-E-C-A-L) A is for Audibility

Audibility: Everyone in the room judges, audience members, your team, and opposing team needs to be able to hear you.

(A-E-C-A-L) E is for Engagement

Engagement: All the things you do to keep the audiences attention. Examples: tone of voice, volume, rate of speech, hand gestures, posture, eye contact, body language, pronouns (you-we), rhetorical questions, emotion, etc.

(A-E-C-A-L) C is for Conviction

Conviction: All speakers must speak and behave in a manner that shows true concern for, and belief in, what they are talking about.

No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality, is always -- is always -- right now!

(A-E-C-A-L) A is for Authority

Authority: You know what you are talking about. Examples: Facts, figures, quotations, personal experience, real life experiences of other people, etc.

...the state is currently spending five times more for the education of a white child than it is spending to educate a colored child. That means better textbooks for that (white) child than that (black) child. Oh, I say thats a shame.

(A-E-C-A-L) L is for Likability

Likability: Kind, nice gentlemanly/ladylike behaviour, that is both respectful & courteous while being verbally at odds (clashing) with your opponents ideas not the persons themselves.

My opponent so conveniently chose to ignore the fact that W. E. B. Dubois is the first Black American to receive a PhD from a white college called Harvard.


If both debating teams are using the formula: ARE + AECAL, then who wins the debate?

How Can We Make Our Arguments More Persuasive?


Chunking refers to how specific your arguments are. There are three (3) levels: 1. Chunking up, 2. Chunking down, and 3. Chunking sideways.

Chunking Up
Chunking up is the level of abstract principles. For example, consider the motion: THB Marijuana should be legalized. What is the abstract principle?

We live in a society that allows us to have things that do not harm us. Therefore, if we can prove that marijuana (MJ) is safe, then it should be legalized. By proving MJ is safe, my team wins this debate.

Chunking Down
Chunking down is the concrete, real world level. All debates are about the real world. Debate judges are real people. So how does this work then?

Example: THB MJ should be legalized.

(Speech) How many of you have used MJ? (dramatic pause) You seem to be perfectly normal to me.

Example: THB MJ should be legalized.

Do you know that Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Queen Victoria, Pamela Anderson, Carlos Santana, William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein and even Popeye the Sailor Man, have all used Marijuana? These people also seem to be perfectly normal to me.

Chunking Sideways
This is the level of the Analogy. Find something similar to the motion and compare them.

Example: THB MJ should be legalized.

(Speech) Ladies and gentlemen, imagine someone who has been drinking and they are drunk. They get in their car, drive drunk, and then kill or maim someone you love in an accident. Let me tell you about Jacqueline.

Jacqueline: A True Story

Example: THB MJ should be legalized.

On the other hand, people who smoke MJ get high, get in their car (dramatic pause), and make love. Thank you.

1. MA MA MOO Debaters are given an emotion written on a slip of paper. The debater must convey this emotion by speaking only the three words: ma ma moo.

2. Defending The Indefensible Debaters are given an indefensible motion to defend in a spontaneous argument (ARE + AECAL). Example: Children under five (5) years of age should be given alcohol. Example: People should ride zebras to work.

3. Chunking Motions (Pair-Share-Square) Debaters (in pairs) are given a motion to chunk up, chunk down and chunk sideways. Debaters share their chunked (more persuasive arguments) with a new pair.

Basic Debating (for all debaters) ARE + AECAL Advanced Debating (to win close debates) Chunking: 1. Up Abstract Principles 2. Down Real World 3. Sideways - Analogy

Persuasive arguments win debates. Always ask yourself the question: How can I make my argument more persuasive? You know the answer: Chunk up, down & sideways! THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION!


Debbie Newman Coach of Team England, World Schools Debating Champion, 2008.