Cases do not win rounds but provide an excellent foundation in order to win rounds
Prove what you must prove in order to win
Anticipate what the other side may say
Select the strongest arguments within the realm of the resolution – don’t select the weakest!
Each argument should be an independent reason why the judge should vote for you
They are ever changing documents!
They should NOT be the same tournament to tournament
Plan out responses to what people have said to you.
Go through many drafts!
Subjects and verbs are your friends – fragments are not.
Internal structure makes all judges happy – words like “First, Second, Next, Sub point A, Sub point B etc)
Overview The introduction is designed to grab the judge's attention and lend emotional support to the position you are about to take. It can be a quote or descriptive paragraph, analogy, or just about anything else. It should lead directly to your side of the resolution, one of your points, or your value. It is best to end the introduction with the resolution, stating something like: For this reason, I stand firmly in support of today's resolution, that...
Introductions State the resolution as it is worded Do not add “not” if you are negating
AT A MINIMUM
I affirm/I negate
State the resolution word for word
According to United States Supreme Court Justice Byron White,
"[The] basic purpose of [the 4th] Amendment, as recognized in countless decisions of this Court, is to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions by governmental officials."
Byron White, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, Opinion of the Court, New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985) pg. 335.
Because of the critical role of the 4th Amendment, I must affirm today’s resolution
Resolved: Drug testing of high school extracurricular activity participants is justified.
“The only obligation I have a right to assume, is to do at
any time what I think right.”
Thus wrote Henry David Thoreau in his 19th century
essay On Civil Disobedience. Thoreau not only
described the role an individual must fulfill as a
conscientious member of society, he also described the
dire consequences lived by those who never attempt to
sway societies conscience.
Thus, I stand resolved: “An individual’s obligation to
society ought to outweigh societies obligation to the
Give definitions of the words in the resolution, and no
others. Anything else that needs to be defined should
be when the new word or concept is presented in case.
Also, don't define every word in the resolution, only the
big ones. Lastly, in the case of resolutional phrases (as
opposed to single words) like 'democratic ideals,'
always try to find a definition of the phrase, rather than
combining the definitions of the individual words. If you
can't find that, though, defining the parts is okay.
Don’t be abusive with your definitions (use the reasonability standard here)
Define only key words and phrases you don’t have to define ALL words in the resolution – some people tend to go overboard.
Must have complete source citations (even if you don’t read them)
Use contextual definitions whenever possible
You might want to discuss what the word is not.
AT A MINIMUM
1. Define key terms
2. Source for definitions
Use definitions to strategically set up case
Framework – observations and analysis
Used to narrow or specify position and justify it
Used to decide burdens in the round
Context of the resolution
Resolved: A just society ought not use the death penalty as a form of punishment.
A just society: this means that we are not tied down to proving that the application of the death penalty in a certain time or place is good, but that a just society ought or ought not use the death penalty.
Cannot assume the resolution has some kind of implicit limit (i.e. “We should only talk about examples from America.”) without some kind of textual clue. In this topic, there is no geographic context.
What context IS implicit in the resolution: The actor is almost certainly a government or “state” in the just society.
#1 Resolved: Sanctuary cities are morally justified.
For clarity I offer the following definition:
Lisa Anderson defines Sanctuary cities as cities that adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell policy towards the immigration status of people when it comes to most municipal benefits and services. The policies generally don’t extend to those arrested for criminal offenses or convicted crimes.
Anderson, Lisa, “'Sanctuary cities' draw fire, no light,” Chicago Tribune, Tribune national correspondent, December 12, 2007,
The implication of this definition is that crime isn’t going to be perpetuated through sanctuary cities. The government still has the ability to punish illegal immigrants through prison or deportation if they commit a criminal offense.
Resolved: A just government should provide health care to its citizens.
First allow me to define a few terms.
And Provide as to supply with.
Encarta World English Dictionary
There are a variety of ways the state could provide health care to their citizens.
The implication for the round is the affirmative does not necessarily have to defend socialized medicine. Since the resolution doesn’t specify the way in which the government should provide health care, indicts of specific systems do not actually address the normative question of the resolution. Any system enacted poorly or ineffectively would give way to these arguments, but these arguments do not address the normative question in the resolution - should a state provide health care.
The standard is the value and criteria
relationship the debater presents to prove the
resolution true or false. All arguments should
link to the standard and are “weighed” by them.
Goal of the round, something you want to achieve
The value is the first part of the standards debate.
Values are principles we apply to determine if
something is good or bad, right or wrong, worthwhile or
not. Values are not tangible things you can touch or put
on a shelf. Values cannot be proven true or false, and it
is sometimes hard to discuss them because they are
Value: The first thing to keep in mind is not to make it too wordy.
Ex: My value in today's round will be...
Ex: The most important value in the round is my value of...
Stick with the simple 'My value is ______, because ________' and
here is where you will justify why yours is the better value. The best
way to do this is in terms of relevance to the topic. By that I mean
that you should explain why your value is what the resolution wants
us to debate. It's usually based on wording in the resolution! Ex: 'I
value democratic ideals, because it is prescribed by the resolution,'
or 'because they are the end specified by the resolution.'
1. The resolution questions the proper implementation of standards of morality, without citing any specific ends this implementation is supposed to reach.
2. Ought is a normative statement, which according to the American Heritage Dictionary is used to indicate obligation. The existence of any obligations, external to obligations to oneself, is dependent on the existence of a sense of morality. This is true because, in the absence of morality, there would be no motivation, or societal burden on a person to carry out an action. Therefore, any action necessary to, or resulting in the increase of, morality ought to be undertaken.
Necessary to the concept of morality is a respect for human worth.
The notion of morality presupposes that there are morally
acceptable and unacceptable ways to treat human beings. This is
true because systems of morality center on questions of the moral
acceptability of actions or concepts with reference to their human
consequences. For instance, the harming of an inanimate object for
reasons specifically constrained to the worth of that object,
independent of any outside effects that harming that object could
have, would never be considered immoral. Conversely, the
arbitrary harming of a human being is considered unjust inside the
parameters that it harms a human being, and does not require
analysis of outside effects to determine its justice. Therefore, the
protection of human worth is a prerequisite to the existence of the
conceptions morality is premised on, making it a prerequisite to
A contention is debate jargon for points. These
points explain how the debater achieves the
criterion. In LD there are normally 2-3 main
arguments, which have warrants (reasons that
they are true) and impacts (why they matter).
It should sum up your case position, in that it should
give the big reason you are for or against the resolution.
For that reason, it involves the criterion.
The affirmative’s thesis and sole contention is: The government has a reciprocal obligation to immigrants, since they have tacitly consented.
My thesis and sole contention: is that the death penalty respects human life.
Each contention should be a separate reason that you are achieving your criterion. Offense vs. defense The flow below demonstrates 2 offensive examples and one defense example.
Contention: death penalty respects human life
First, the evidence concerning the deterrent
effect of the death penalty is overwhelming.
capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect
18 fewer murders
Second, protecting guards, other inmates,
and innocent killed by murderers paroled
Sunstein and Vermeule
within-prison homicides of guards and fellow inmates.
paroled into the general population, some of them will kill again.
the permanent incapacitation of murderers through execution save lives on net.
Third, life imprisonment is not sufficient
Sunstein and Vermeule
a refusal to impose capital punishment will condemn
numerous innocent people to death.
On moral grounds, a choice that effectively condemns
large numbers of people to death is objectionable
failure to impose capital punishment is a serious moral wrong.
The contention structure
Claim: The thing you are arguing.
Warrant: The reason your argument is true. This can be your own analysis, but it is almost always more strategic to include a card.
(a)The implications of your argument being true on your criterion (why this argument means you win your criterion, or why your opponent can't win it).
(b) There can also be impacts external to your criterion, or at least slightly more removed from it. Don't forget, you can also use evidence to support the fact that your impact will happen. Doing so often makes the impact more believable.
The Slippery Slope is a fallacy in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question. In most cases, there are a series of steps or gradations between one event and the one in question and no reason is given as to why the intervening steps or gradations will simply be bypassed. This "argument" has the following form:
Event X has occurred (or will or might occur).
Therefore event Y will inevitably happen.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because there is no reason to believe that one event must inevitably follow from another without an argument for such a claim. This is especially clear in cases in which there is a significant number of steps or gradations between one event and another.
Examples of Slippery Slope
"We have to stop the tuition increase! The next thing you know, they'll be charging $40,000 a semester!"
"The US shouldn't get involved militarily in other countries. Once the government sends in a few troops, it will then send in thousands to die."
A word should also be said about taglines. You should
use the resolutional phrases and your criterion almost
every time. The proper way to construct them is as
Restrictions on the rights of non-citizens are consistent with democratic ideals because they maximize the rights of all citizens.
Aim for a few independent reasons in each contention
Check for contradictions
Case examples and Illustrations-use them!
Make them relevant to the topic!
Words provide pictures and give us a vision about what we are voting for and against!
Find current day examples if at all possible
How to win the contentions:
1. Always link the contentions/ or impact back to the criterion. Don’t go off on tangents within the contention if it has no relation to the criterion. This is true because it’s the standards that allow the judge to weigh the round. How can a judge weigh the contention if that isn’t what you are asking the judge to weigh?
3. Provide plenty of cards/evidence. While rhetoric is
also needed, evidence is essential to any contention.
Evidence provides the warrants/impacts that are often
overlooked. Furthermore in extending evidence it
makes it a lot easier to extend evidence compared with
rhetoric. This is true because evidence usually has
more structure compared with your own rhetoric.
AT A MINIMUM
My thesis and sole contention: is that the death penalty undermines the protection of life.
Respect for life demands a heavy moral presumption against deliberate killing. This places a
moral burden of proof squarely on the negative.
Professor Stephen Nathanson explains,
First, they remind us of moral gravity of acts of killing. Second, they show that the initial burden of proof is always on those who favor some form of killing. If deliberate killing is generally wrong, then an act of killing will be wrong unless one can show it to be a justifiable exception to the general prohibition. Furthermore, anyone seriously committed to respecting life will want to insure that the list of justifications for killing will be as short as possible. We show our respect for life by demanding that the taking of life be permitted only when the most powerful reasons have been offered. Casually adding to the list of justifiable exceptions to this principle is inconsistent with the reverence for life which is expressed by opponents and supporters of the death penalty alike.
It follows from these points that in the debate about the morality of the death penalty, the moral burden of proof rests on the death penalty supporters. Politically, of course, the burden will shirt, depending on the current state of the law and public opinion. The political burden of proof falls on those who are dissatisfied with the status quo, and opponents of the death penalty now bear that burden because there are many states which permit executions and because approval of this policy is widespread. Nonetheless, from a moral point of view, the initial burden falls on death penalty supporters.It is they who must beat the burden of showing that the use of death as a punishment for murder is morally permissible, that it is not on a par with murder, that is merits inclusion on the list of justifiable exceptions to the general prohibition of killing.
Stephen Nathanson, Professor of Philosophy at Norteasteastern University, 2001
(An Eye for and Eye? Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD. 2nd Ed. P. 9)
The death penalty undermines life in four ways.
First, the death penalty undermines the life of the offender.
The death penalty is not justified because the convicted has already been rendered impotent
And incapable of harming others. The only instance of justified killing would be in self defense,
which excludes the death penalty by definition as it kills in cold blood with no imminent danger to
Professor Llyod Steffen elaborates,
Because we in moral community recognize and affirm life itself as a good—even a preeminent good—of life, we understand and accept a moral obligation to pursue, protect, and promote this good. Conversely, we understand that killing deprives persons of this basic good. The moral community thus regards killing as a transgression or moral violation of the most serious kind and does not sanction or justify killing except for specific and morally compelling reasons, such as self-defense.
Capital punishment is a killing. It has been subject to intense moral scrutiny because it inflicts a directly willed and intended killing, the very kind of killing that is most suspect from a moral point of view. It is a form of killing that springs not from the heat of irrational passion, but from reason and an invocation of justice, yet, ironically, for all its appeal to rationality, it makes no obvious appeal to the most ration reason for justifying a killing on could offer—self-defense. And the lack of grounds for appeal to a rational self-defense argument is practical as well as theoretical, since the person facing execution, by virtue of being confined and removed from society, has been rendered impotent and incapable of harming others.
Lloyd Steffen, Pro. Of Religious Studies & Chaplain, Lehigh University, 1998 (Executing Justice, Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, p. 91)
Second, the death penalty inherently ends the life of the wrongfully convicted.
When the state executes the innocent, it acts contradictory to the protection of life- it terminates
According to Amnesty International:
The likelihood that innocent people will be condemned to death and executed is inherent in all
jurisdictions which resort to capital punishment. Few mistakes made by government officials can
equal the horror of executing an innocent person. But all systems of justice are fallible; even
the extensive legal safeguard within the criminal justice system of the United States of America
(USA) have manifestly failed to prevent wrongful death sentences in many cases. Furthermore,
many of these basic safeguards have been seriously undermined in recent years, increasing the