Chapter 16

A Summary of Key Points


Unlike the rest of this manual, this chapter is not written in a question-and-answer format. Instead, we will concentrate on those matters which the debater most needs to remember throughout the season. While this review should be especially helpful to the Novice, all debaters can profit by it. Please take the time to re-read this chapter throughout the season as a reminder to follow these precepts.



  1. KNOW THE CASE. The case and plan are the creative work of the Affirmative team. You should be familiar with all the evidence and arguments that make up the First Affirmative Constructive. You must know the function and purpose of each element in your plan. Write your own case, if possible, rather than have one written for you by your coach, a varsity debater, or the staff editors of a handbook. If you donít like something about the case or plan, change it!
  2. WRITE IT OUT. The entire First Affirmative Constructive speech should be in manuscript form ó typed, if possible. Putting it in a notebook or non-glossy page protectors adds an element of style. Have several copies available in case one is lost.
  3. PREPARE IN ADVANCE. Block out the Second Affirmative Constructive as much as possible. Prepare extensions for all 1AC arguments. Anticipate Negative objections and prepare responses for them.
  4. KEEP THE FOCUS ON THE CASE. The glories of the Affirmative advantages should be at the forefront of all your speeches. Use the 1AC case structure at all times; itís a framework to support you.
  5. BE SPECIFIC. Donít be vague or unclear. You might fool the Negative team once. You risk fooling or annoying the judge.
  6. PERSIST AGAINST OPPOSITION. Donít drop a case just because there are arguments against it. The perfect case doesnít exist. Figure out responses to Negative arguments that beat you.
  7. DONíT RELY ON SECRECY. Donít drop a case because "too many people have heard it." Surprise is not an asset in the long run.
  8. STAY TO THE CENTER OF THE RESOLUTION. Use a stock case, especially if youíre a Novice; it gives you a solid grounding in the essentials. Varsity debaters should consider this, too; youíll never lose a judge because youíre running a mainstream case, but you will lose all too easily with a squirrel approach.
  9. EXPERIMENT. Try several cases during the course of the year; make sure your squad is trying a variety of approaches. Narrow down to the strongest cases only as state elimination debates approach.
  10. KEEP YOUR CASE FRESH. Donít stop researching. A solid basic knowledge is essential, but you will have to refine your analysis to remain competitive throughout the season. Innovate. Rewrite the case again. Upgrade your evidence. Polish your extensions.



  1. TALK TO YOUR PARTNER. Too often the Negatives fail to work as a team in the round. Coordinate attacks. Ask for advice, or give advice when requested. Use a consistent Negative philosophy that will bind your positions together.
  2. TALK TO THE REST OF YOUR SQUAD. All the Negative debaters on the squad should pool arguments and evidence that have been successful in winning rounds. They should go over flowcharts and ballots of all lost debates in order to plan strategy if another squad-member confronts this case again. Consult your squadís Affirmatives, too! They have heard case and plan arguments new to you. Develop those arguments into tools you can use to win debates.
  3. BLOCK OUT IN ADVANCE. Make sure you can retrieve any evidence card from your file in a moment or two. Prepare briefs against every Affirmative argument you have heard twice or more. Prepare plan briefs, too: D-As and PMNs complete except for the case links.
  4. ORGANIZE YOUR SPEECH. The Affirmative has a ready structure to follow; you need to seem just as organized if you are to be equally effective. Label each argument. Use numbers and letters to define substructure.
  5. ADAPT TO THE AFFIRMATIVE STRUCTURE. Occasional overviews in 1NC are acceptable, but the main thrust of the speech should be on point-by-point refutation in the same order that 1AC was presented. Donít reorganize the Affirmative case structure. Donít try to give several overviews on case issues instead of point-by-point refutation.
  6. CONTRAST WITH THE AFFIRMATIVE STYLE. Is the Affirmative case simple in structure and delivered in a slow monotone? Then spread all your arguments to the maximum, and deliver your speech in an up-tempo, brisk style. If the Affirmatives try a complex case with fast delivery, try a centering attack on a few stock issues and deliver the speech in a slower, more judicious style. The Affirmatives have to speak first; adapt your approach to make them look bad by contrast.
  7. EXPERIMENT. Try a variety of topicality arguments during the year. Try presenting shell disadvantages in 1NC, or a counterplan. Have 2NC begin with a point-by-point refutation of Affirmative solvency. Defend inherency with minor repairs instead of straight refutation, or argue that the harm issue really isnít a bad thing.
  8. USE AFFIRMATIVE ARGUMENTS. There is no such thing as "Affirmative evidence." Use arguments from one Affirmative case youíve encountered against other cases in contrasting sections of the topic area. Some plans will expand some government system while other plans will limit the same system. The harm arguments for each of these Affirmative approaches will cross-apply to the other case!
  9. SHUN HANDBOOKS. Handbooks let you see the types of Negative approaches that are possible, and they can be useful sources for obscure evidence. But donít rely on handbook D-A, harm, and inherency arguments to carry you through the season. It is especially important to develop your own D-As and PMNs. Since they havenít appeared in handbooks, no Affirmative team will be prepared to refute them.
  10. NEVER STOP RESEARCHING. As the season progresses, more and more Negative issues open up. Negative teams discover existing government programs that could undermine inherency positions, or find studies that mitigate harm issues. And almost any area of public policy could be affected by the Affirmative plan, allowing for disadvantages far from the center of the resolution. Nonstop research will keep you abreast of these developments.


SPEAKER DUTIES AND TIPS: A Summary for Novice Debaters

All speakers

First Affirmative Constructive (1AC)


Need: You must establish a significant problem with the present way of doing things (the present system, or status quo); or you must establish a significant potential benefit that the status quo is not attaining.


Inherency: The status quo must be incapable of solving the problem (or incapable of achieving the advantage) mentioned in the need argument.


Solvency: Your specific plan must solve the harm or achieve the advantage.

First Negative Constructive (1NC)

Second Affirmative Constructive (2AC)

Second Negative Constructive (2NC)

First Negative Rebuttal (1NR)

First Affirmative Rebuttal (1AR)

Second Negative Rebuttal (2NR)

Second Affirmative Rebuttal (2AR)


Introduction to Policy Debate
Copyright © 1990, 1993, 1996, 2002 John R. Prager
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