Part Three of the Miniseries “Improving Your Debating From the Ground Up”

New to this series? Take a look at part one here!

Last time, we discussed the structure of an argument, focusing on the nuance of structure and building out our archetype of an argument. That’s all well and good, but what does this mean for you, aspiring debate champion that you are?

Pay attention to the nuances of arguments, both yours and your opponents’. If you notice that any component of their argument is false or missing, point it out, and extend that out to invalidate the entire point! If your argument is missing one or more of these pieces, add it in!

Seems reasonable enough. But let’s say that your opponents’ case has all the pieces listed above, and none of them are obviously false. What to prioritize? Ideally, you’d have hours to comb over their case and break it apart, but in round you only have a few minutes to prep your argument. In that case (no pun intended), you’ll need to focus on the weakest parts of their arguments. Although there are exceptions, most arguments will follow this hierarchy:

Strongest: Impact
Impacts are generally very black and white in their, well, impact. It’s very hard to argue that massive unemployment is good, or to argue against saving lives.

Strong: Claim
Most people are good at connecting their claim to the resolution, making this difficult to touch most of the time

Weak(er): Warrant
This is often solid, but it’s much harder to find a bulletproof warrant, because they so often have to show that something will happen, and predicting the future inherently introduces unreliability.

Weakest: Link
Unlike every other piece in an argument, links are by definition organic. They’re the patchwork built by caffeinated debaters weeks, days, or hours ahead of round that tie all the other pieces together. Every other piece can be pulled from a reputable journal or researcher, but these are built by high school students in a comparatively short period of time. Look here for most of your attacks–links are, ironically, the weakest link in any argument.

Attacks on all of these components are a necessary part of any rebuttal, but in the interest of efficiency you should spend the most time attacking the weakest parts of your opponents’ arguments.

Categories: Debate


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