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Standards:Cross Examination Public Debates

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Like other forms of debate, Cross-Examination (C-X or Policy) Debate focuses on the core elements of controversial issue. Cross-Examination Debate develops important skills, such as critical thinking, listening, argument construction, research, note-taking and advocacy skills. Cross-Examination Debate is distinct from other formats, with the exception of Parliamentary Debate, in its use of a two-person team.

Cross-Examination Debate also places emphasis on questioning or cross-examination between constructive speeches. While specific practices vary, Cross-Examination Debate typically rewards intensive use of evidence, and is more focused on content than on delivery.

Rules of Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate

This section highlights the important rules that govern the Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate format. Because these rules focus on the goals and procedures of debate, they do not include all that might be considered, from a strategic perspective, principles of effective debate.

Resolutions and Preparation

The topic for Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate is typically called a "resolution" or "proposition." Different types of propositions may be used in a Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate, but policy propositions tend to be the most common. Different leagues, organizations or individual tournaments may use a particular resolution for a particular debate.

So that clash might occur in a debate, debaters should engage in research on both sides of the topic. Research is primarily the job of debaters. Teachers and coaches may conduct research in order to improve their job performance and to facilitate the learning of their students, but should limit the amount of research they conduct for debaters.

Interpretation of the Resolution

Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate involves two teams, each consisting of two people. One team takes the affirmative position and is responsible for defending and supporting the resolution. The other team takes the negative and is responsible for refuting the affirmative, which may be done in a variety of strategic ways.

The affirmative team is responsible for the initial interpretation of the resolution, and for presenting a case that defends and supports the resolution. The negative team may challenge this interpretation if they believe the affirmative team's interpretation is unreasonable.

Arguing a Case for the Resolution

The objective of the affirmative team is to construct and present a case that defends and supports the resolution. An adequate case (one that meets a certain burden of proof) depends on what type of proposition is debated. Individual topics and tournaments determine what burden is required.

Arguing Against the Resolution

The objective of the negative team is to refute the affirmative case, which, by extension, is an argument against the resolution. Depending on the topic and the type of proposition, the negative may have a variety of possible strategies available when refuting the affirmative case.

Rules During the Debate

In-Round Research is Prohibited

Topic research must be completed prior to the beginning of a debate. Once the debate begins, the participants may not conduct research via electronic or any other means. No outside person(s) may conduct research during the debate and provide it directly or indirectly to the debaters. Debaters, however, are allowed to use a dictionary to determine the meaning of English words.

Citations are Mandatory

Debaters may cite or refer to any public information. When doing so, they should be prepared to provide complete source documentation to the opposing team and to the judge, upon request. A team's documentation of cited material must be complete enough so that the opposing team and the judge can locate the information of their own. Ordinarily, such documentation would include the name of an author (if any), the name and date of a publication, the URL of a Web site (if the information was retrieved electronically), and a page number (if available).

Format and Roles in Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate

In Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate, both sides of the resolution have an equal amount of time to present their arguments. The format is composed of twelve parts, each of which has a defined purpose and set of rules. Eight of these sections consist of "speeches" -- uninterrupted presentations by a designated speaker. The remaining four sections consist of "cross-examination" -- a series of questions and answers involving one speaker from each side.


Section Time Speaker
First Affirmative Constructive 8 Minutes A1
First Negative Cross-Examination 3 Minutes A1 Answers/N2 Asks
First Negative Constructive 8 Minutes N1
First Affirmative Cross-Examination 3 Minutes A1 Asks/N1 Answers
Second Affirmative Constructive 8 Minutes A2
Second Negative Cross-Examination 3 Minutes A2 Answers/N1 Asks
Second Negative Constructive 8 Minutes N2
Second Affirmative Cross-Examination 3 Minutes N2 Answers/A2 Asks
First Negative Rebuttal 5 Minutes N1
First Affirmative Rebuttal 5 Minutes A1
Second Negative Rebuttal 5 Minutes N2
Second Affirmative Rebuttal 5 Minutes A2

While the order and proportional length of speech time are consistent between different organizations practicing policy debate, there is variation in exact time limits for constructive speeches, cross-examination, and rebuttal.

Each debate also includes preparation time, typically eight minutes for each team, which is determined by an individual tournament. This time is not scheduled in any particular place in the sequence of sections, and is instead taken at the discretion of each team, in whatever amounts the team desires.

Role of the Speakers

The Cross-Examination (Policy) format embraces debate as a team activity. In the Cross-Examination format, each debate team is composed of two individuals who stay together through every round of competition. Each team alternatively debates the negative and affirmative positions in alternating rounds.

Although Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate is a team activity, the only debater allowed to speak during a given moment in the debate is the one assigned by the format to do so (see above). Team members may not assist their teammates by offering suggestions or by answering questions on their behalf.

During the cross-examination period, it is generally expected that only the examiner may ask questions, and only the speaker may answer them. Typically, no spoken communication is allowed between either the examiner or the speaker and their teammates. Some tournaments may have different policies regarding the method by which cross-examination may be conducted.

Role of the Judge

The judge will determine a winning team based on the arguments presented during the debate. If the judge believes the affirmative team has proven its case, it wins the debate. If the negative team undermines the affirmative team's arguments for the resolution, the negative team wins the debate.

After the final rebuttal, the judge will deliberate and reach a decision regarding the winner and the points to be assigned to each speaker. The judge will then complete the debate ballot.

In some competitions, tournament administrators will decide that judges may disclose their decisions and offer debaters oral critiques. If this is the case, the judge may announce the outcome of the debate and provide constructive feedback to the debaters following the competition of the debate ballot. Under no circumstances can the judge change the decision or points based on any discussion with the teams involved.

In all cases, a judge should consult with tournament administrators to make sure that disclosing decisions and offering oral critiques are permitted for that competition.

Judging Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate

For universal protocols on judging any speech or debate event see Judges Accreditation Process and Standards. Please note that the guidelines listed below are not strict rules (by reference to which, for example, debaters may be penalized for failing to comply), but rather suggestions as to what considerations a judge might want to bear in mind while formulating their decision.

The Cross-Examination (Policy) format does not lend itself to a particular checklist of elements or points that must be made in order to prevail, even if a resolution seems clearly to present a question of policy. Any given debate on the same resolution might turn on different arguments presented by the debaters within the debate round. Nonetheless, some general, common-sense principles may guide a judge's evaluation of the cases debaters use to affirm or negate the resolution.

The judge must take seriously his or her responsibility to evaluate the overall claim of the debaters. The judge must consider whether the debaters' arguments lead logically to the conclusion that the resolution calls on them to defend, and whether those arguments are sufficiently supported with examples, evidence, or analysis. Every debate is unique, and should be evaluated accordingly.

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