• Debate Terms and Definitions

    Adapted by Dr. Barbara Lowe from Building a Successful Speech and Debate Team: A Guide for the Novice Coach by Brenda Moe. Published by the National Forensic League and posted on the National Forensic League website.

    Forensics – Refers to competitive speech and debate and public speaking (not dead bodies!) Also abbreviated as “4n6”.

    Ethics – rules or standards that govern conduct

    Common Speech & Debate Abbreviations:

    • NSDA - National Speech and Debate Association
    • NFL - National Forensic League (former name of NSDA; still used as part of the name NSDA)PF - Public Forum debate (2 vs. 2); the resolution changes monthly
    • LD - Lincoln-Douglas debate (1 vs. 1); the resolution changes bi-monthly
    • CX - Policy debate (2 vs. 2); the same resolution is debated the entire year
    • AFF (Pro) - the affirmative team
    • NEG (Con) - the negative team                                        
    • V - Lincoln-Douglas value
    • C - Lincoln-Douglas criterion         
    • X - Cross Examination

    Terms related to competitors:

    • Varsity – a seasoned and experienced competitor (used at tournaments)
    • Novice – a competitor in their first year of competition (used at tournaments) or a division in a tournament involving only first year competitors
    • PF debater - student who debates with a partner in Public Forum debate
    • LD debater - student who debates in Lincoln-Douglas debate
    • Policy debater - student who debates with a partner in Policy debate
    • IE - student who competes in one or more individual events

    Terms related to the structure of a debate:

    • Resolution - the proposition or subject offered to debate
    • Spirit of the Resolution – refers to the reasonable interpretation and limits of the resolution
    • Topicality – the argument presented is pertinent to the resolution in spirit or literally, it is topical
    • Status Quo – the current state of affairs, the present system
    • Affirmative – arguing in favor of the resolution
    • Negative – the side that opposes the resolution
    • Value – a concept, standard, or ideal that makes a judgment; used in LD debate
    • Criterion – standards, rules, or tests on which a decision or judgment is based, the basis for establishing or evaluating policy; used in LD debate
    • Constructive Speech – the first speech given by each debater (both sides) in a round; used to build a case
    • Contention – a debate case is organized into contentions – claims made for or against the resolution – usually stated in one declarative sentence
    • Cross Examination – questioning period
    • Refutation – directly attacking the opposing debater/s’ arguments
    • Rebuttal speech – rebuilds arguments after attacks, refutes arguments of the opposing team, and summarizes the debate
    • Voting Issues – the key points in a debate that are crucial to the outcome, reasons why the judge should give the decision to a team 

    Terms related to the logistics of a debate:

    • Flowing or Flowsheet – note taking during a debate; accurately recording the principle arguments and rebuttals
    • Timer - NSDA rules state that you must use a hand timer (NOT a cell phone) to time your speeches.
    • Time Signals – Hand signals showing how much time you have left (very few tournaments have timers to give hand signals)
    • Lay Judges – judges who are unfamiliar with debate theory; your average person off the street 
    • Judging Paradigms – an experienced judge’s educational philosophy, the model or view that guides their decision - what they deem important in a round and what they do not want to see or hear
    • Ballot – The piece of paper on which judges write comments, rankings, and the decision of the round

    Terms related to the structure of a tournament:

    • Open rounds – specifying that all levels of experience will be competing with each other in a tournament, a division
    • Closed rounds - novices will compete against novices; varsity will compete against varsity
    • Round(s) – a complete debate (at tournaments you have a minimum of 4 preliminary rounds)
    • BYE -  a round in which you don't compete; usually because there are an uneven number of teams/debaters.
    • Power Matching – teams with equal records debate each other in order to determine which teams advance
    • Cross Entered – entered in more than one event in a flight
    • (to) Break – to advance to the next round after preliminary or subsequent rounds (as in "We broke to semis!")
    • Octo-Finals – Elimination rounds comprised of the top 16 debate teams/16 debaters
    • Quarter-Finals – Elimination rounds comprised of the top 8 debate teams/debaters
    • Semi-Finals – Elimination rounds consisting of the top four debate teams/debaters; usually the top 12 competitors in IE’s
    • Finals – an elimination round involving the top two teams/debaters in debate; usually the top six competitors in IE’s
    • One clap rule - As each finalist is announced at the awards ceremony, the audience claps once for 6th - 2nd place and stands and claps for the 1st place winner.

    Fallacies in logic:

    • Ad hominem fallacy – attacking a person rather than the argument
    • Ad populum fallacy – claiming that something is true because of popular belief
Last Modified on March 5, 2018