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A Brief Introduction to LD
Jonathan Waters
Grovetown High School
Topic Breakdown
• The first step to a LD debate is breaking down the topic.
• Students should define all major words in the topic
• Students should consider the implications of the topic (what is it really
asking us about)
Ask students questions about impacts…what is the impact if we affirm, what if we negate?
Ask students to generate lists of reasons why we should affirm and why we should negate
Then have students start brainstorming why those reasons would be faulty
The purpose here is to get ideas generated
• Students should begin to consider values…what is important about this topic and
what should we value? Is it about morality? Justice? Equality? Government? Etc.
• The topics are value based – they rely on the implementation of a type
of value system to understand the round.
• Common values are: morality, equality, justice, economic stability,
government legitimacy, etc. (they are ideas that debaters try to
convinces judges are of upmost importance)
• The values are measured by criteria that usually revolves around a type
of moral theory or argument. A common one is “utilitarianism”
(generally referred to as “util”)
• These together work to frame the round. Values and Criteria should be
malleable enough to fit in both sides of the argument.
• This is the most difficult part to explain to students.
• I sometimes describe Value/Criterion as an egg. If the egg breaks, the
argument fails.
• Sound arguments require good reasoning; therefore, the ideas
generated to function as contentions need to be fleshed out.
• I tell the students to let the evidence be their guide. What do they
discover and what can they prove with the evidence?
• While it may be easy to buy evidence briefs, the value of the learning
comes from researching the topic themselves. They will be much more
prepared if they understand their own reasoning.
• Each student should write their own argument.
• They should read their arguments to each other (and their coach) to
look for holes.
• Sometimes I ask students basic questions and try and poke holes in
their arguments. (That is my favorite part of my job.)
• The Negative debater should begin rebuttals in their first speech.
It’s a good idea to leave about two minutes (one minute for novice
debaters who may not have much to say) to argue against the
opponents case. (If they wait until their rebuttal speech, it is too
• The most difficult speech in the round is the 1AR – it’s only four
minutes and the affirmative has to cover everything in the seven
minute speech by negative. Word economy is key here. They need
to be concise and specific and talk specifically about their case and
their opponents case.
• The focus of the 2AR should mainly be voters and emphasis on
points made in the 1AR. Nothing really new here…
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