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Standards:Internet Debates

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Introduction

The Internet Debate format described below is meant to allow debaters to engage in short debates using instant messaging software. These debates will have one debater representing the 'affirmative' and another debater presenting the 'negative'.

While Internet debates are not meant to replace face-to-face communication, they are a way to bridge geographic distances and to allow for discussions between people who might not otherwise have a chance to meet. IDEA expects the opportunities for debating on the Internet to improve as technology improves and believes this format will be dynamic and open to change.

Internet Debate is intended to help students:

  • Practice and prepare for face-to face debates.
  • Develop a broad and diverse knowledge base.
  • Improve argumentative abilities.
  • Debate with students across wide distances.

General Internet Debate Rules

The purpose of these rules is to ensure that all participants enter into debates sharing a common set of expectations, while at the same time allowing debaters a degree of creative freedom. Judges may not impose additional rules on debaters.

The judge's decision in a debate round is final. Violations of these rules may merit (at the judge's discretion) a reduction in points, or a loss in a given debate.

If an Internet Debate is part of an IDEA sponsored or sanctioned Internet Debate Tournament, a judge should consult with the Tournament Director before imposing sanctions on the debaters. The Tournament Director, or a committee designated by the Tournament Director, may impose penalties including reprimands and, in extreme cases, the removal of a debater or judge from the tournament.

Penalties may affect future rounds, but cannot reverse judges' decisions. Cases of intellectual dishonesty are the sole exception: in these cases, a Tournament Director may reverse a decision, provided that the reversal takes place prior to the scheduled start of the next round.

Tournament Directors (with the approval of the IDEA Accreditation Committee) are permitted to make minor changes to these rules. To gain the committee's approval, the changes must be submitted at least one month prior to the beginning of the tournament. The Accreditation Committee will then approve or reject the changes, and inform the Tournament Director of its decision.

Motions and Preparation

The debaters and judge should, in advance of the debate, agree on topics and motions. The topic may be drawn either from the IDEA Debatabase or may be proposed by the debaters or judge.

If the debaters or judge wish to use a topic not already in the IDEA Debatabase, they are encouraged to submit the topic for inclusion in advance of their debate. A debate topic that is not in the IDEA Debatabase will be subject to review by the IDEA Internet Debate Committee before it will receive credit in DebateTracker.

If an Internet Debate is taking place as part of an IDEA sponsored or sanctioned Internet Debate Tournament, the Tournament Director will supply the topic.

Motions should be general enough to be debated by a well-educated high school or college student, and should identify two features that will define the debate:

  • An issue of substance on which the debate should focus, concerning a public, social, or philosophical topic of current interest.
  • The stance that the affirmative must take toward the issue. The stance identified by the motion may be one of fact (i.e. correct or incorrect, true or false), of value (i.e. right or wrong, moral or immoral), of relationship (i.e. one thing does or does not cause another; one thing is or is not similar to another), or of policy (i.e. some policy should or should not be adopted).

Interpretation of the Motion

  • The debaters may interpret and define the motion as they see fit, provided that they do so in a reasonable fashion.
The affirmative should interpret the topic as it would reasonably be interpreted in the public sphere. The affirmative is not required to provide a literal interpretation of the motion, and may instead create a metaphorical interpretation. The affirmative's objective is to make an adequate case for its interpretation of the motion. To this end, the team must introduce one or more arguments in support of the motion as they have interpreted it, and sustain their case throughout the debate.

Opposition Team Argues Against

The opposition may counter the government team's interpretation of the proposition if they believe it is not reasonable (i.e. if the government team has misidentified some substantive issue, or taken a stance toward the issue that is contrary to the resolution).

The opposition team may challenge any aspect of the government team's case. For instance, it may challenge the interpretation of the resolution, the factual and analytical foundations of the case, the underlying assumptions of the claims, or any costs associated with the arguments.

The opposition team should also offer its own arguments against the government team's claims.

Rules During the Debate

  • Research should not take place during the round.
Since different students will have different levels of Internet access, topic research must be completed prior to the beginning of the debate. During the debate, debaters may consult only the notes made during the preparation time, and a copy of these rules of debating and judging.
Judges should, if they feel a debater is violating this rule text message them immediately to stop. Penalty for violating this rule is left to the discretion of the judge but may include forfeiture of the debate.
  • No outside assistance is permitted.
During the debate, no outside person(s) may provide research, directly or indirectly, to the debater.
  • Debaters may use information that a knowledgeable individual could reasonably be expected to know.
Debaters may refer to any public information, and may request that their opponent explain specific information with which they are unfamiliar.

The Debate Format

Speeches

The debate will consist of six speeches, which proceed as follows:


Speaker (Speech) Time
Affirmative Constructive 3 Minutes
Negative Constructive 4 Minutes
First Affirmative Rebuttal 3 Minutes
First Negative Rebuttal 2 Minutes
Second Affirmative Rebuttal 1 Minute
Second Negative Rebuttal 1 Minute


There is no preparation time in between speeches.

Debaters may text message questions or comments to one another during the speeches.

Speech Purposes

Each speech has a specific purpose:

Affirmative Constructive

The affirmative makes a case for the motion by demonstrating that the motion is more probably true than false. The affirmative interprets the motion for debate, defines any ambiguous terms, and otherwise clarifies the foundation for the argument. The speaker may also establish decision-making criteria, or other evaluative tools to assist the judge.

The affirmative may also choose to offer a history of the issue in contention. This approach can assist the judge's appreciation of subsequent argument claims from the government team.

After providing a clear foundation for the debate, the affirmative presents a case. This will consist of an exposition of arguments in support of debater's interpretation of the motion. The case will typically consists of two or three main arguments, with corresponding examples or other forms of contemporary or historical evidence. The speaker should draw on sound reasoning and sufficient examples to make concise, complete, and compelling arguments on each point of the case. A succinct interpretation of the motion is known as a 'case statement.'

Negative Constructive

The negative uses tactics of direct and indirect refutation to counter the affirmative's case. The negative may challenge the definition of the motion, the affirmative's decision framework for the debate, and/or the main arguments of the case. The speaker might also offer counters to the examples presented in the affirmative case.

The negative may also argue indirectly against the affirmative's case. Indirect argumentation involves issues that are not formally included in the affirmative constructive, but which are related to consideration of the issue. These arguments include disadvantages, counter-plans, and critiques.

The optimal negative strategy in this speech is to present some combination of direct and indirect refutation, carefully selecting from among all available negative arguments the more effective ones.

The negative is not obliged to disagree with every argument of the affirmative's case. Agreement may focus the discussion on those points in genuine controversy, or may support a different and more powerful position for the negative.

First Affirmative Rebuttal

The affirmative has two tasks in this speech. First, he or she must outline their refutations of the negative arguments. Second, he or she must respond to the refutations made by the negative (that is, the negative's objections to the affirmative case). If the affirmative does not refute a given point in the negative case, then the point stands; if the affirmative speaker does not respond to a particular negative objection, then the objection is conceded. New evidence for existing arguments may be presented.

First Negative Rebuttal

As with the affirmative rebuttal described above, the negative speaker has a dual task: first, he or she must respond to the refutations made by the affirmative, and second, he or she should continue to attack the affirmative case. At this point in the debate, the negative speaker may start to draw the judge's attention to points that have been dropped. That is, he or she will indicate items to which the affirmative has not responded. Such a dropped point is treated as a concession made by the affirmative team. New evidence for existing arguments may be presented.

Second Affirmative Rebuttal

The task of the affirmative in this speech is reactive. He or she should renew refutations that have not been addressed adequately. Usually, this means pointing out flaws in the negative rebuttal. At this point, most good debaters will deliberately let some points drop and will focus the judge's attention on the key issues in the round. The speaker may or may not instruct the judge; that is, the speaker may or may not articulate a standard of judgment for the round. New evidence for existing arguments may be presented.

Second Negative Rebuttal

In essence, the second negative rebuttal is similar to the second affirmative rebuttal. Judges should be especially wary of speakers introducing new arguments at this point since the affirmative team has no chance to respond, so a new argument is especially unfair. The judge should ignore any new arguments that are introduced.

Debaters may speak only during their assigned speeches, though they may text message questions or comments during the speeches. It is up to the speaker to decide whether to respond to text messages.

The Role of the Judge

For guidelines in judging any speech or debate event, please refer to Judge Accreditation Process and Standards .

Prior to accepting a judging assignment, a judge must agree to:

  • Conduct the debate on the basis of these rules of debating and judging.
  • Enforce all rules that fall within the judge's province.
  • Not add, enforce, or base a decision on any rules not included in these rules of debating and judging.

A judge's decision should be based on the content of the debate, including the substantive arguments presented and the evidence used to support them.

A speaker's ability to clearly communicate ideas is of primary importance, although the style of speaking will inevitably affect his or her ability to persuade. For example, while extemporaneous speeches may be more persuasive, speakers should not be heavily marked down for reading a speech, unless it impinges on their ability to convey arguments clearly and persuasively.

Structure is generally more important than communication style, as it determines whether the speaker has presented clear arguments.

Given that the quality of Internet connections will vary widely, the judge should be careful not to mistake a good Internet connection with a good argument.

The judge should mark the passage of time for debaters by sending text messages to the debaters indicating when a minute has gone by.

The judge should not speak or text message the debaters during the debate other than to discuss any technological issues relating to the debate (e.g. Asking a debater to speak into the microphone or to tell a debater that the sounds quality of their connection is too poor for the debate to continue).

In the event that Internet problems prevent the debate from concluding, the judge should work with the debaters to reschedule the debate. If the affirmative has already presented his or her case, the debaters may agree, if appropriate, to debate a new topic. If a debate is taking place as part of an IDEA sponsored or sanctioned Internet Debate Tournament, the judge should consult with the Tournament Director before rescheduling the debate.

Due to delays caused by Internet traffic and poor connections, judges should refrain from assessing penalties on debaters for going over time in all but the most egregious instances.

When adjudicating Internet Debates, the quality of questions and comments asked during the speeches may be taken into account by the judge. However, given the difficulties some debaters may have with their Internet connections, debaters should not be penalized for refraining from engaging in text message exchanges during the debate.F. When adjudicating Internet Debates, the quality of questions and comments asked during the speeches may be taken into account by the judge. However, given the difficulties some debaters may have with their Internet connections, debaters should not be penalized for refraining from engaging in text message exchanges during the debate.

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