Popular debate frameworks include parliamentary, standard, and policy debating. The best way to win a debate is to use a logical and evidence-based approach.

Engaging in directed debates is a great way to develop and practice new skills. While debating is undoubtedly not everyone’s cup of tea, attending discussions or joining a college debating society will likely prove educational and entertaining.

Popular Debate Frameworks

Regardless of the debated issue, rules are necessary and maybe put into place by having a framework. In The Everything Public Speaking Book, Smith (2008) highlights the most popular forms of debate frameworks, including the following:

  • parliamentary
  • standard
  • policy
  • Lincoln-Douglas
  • political campaigns

What are Parliamentary, Standard, and Policy Debates?

The parliamentary debate framework relates to the party in government, with arguments for and against a specific proposition. It may be seen through watching the House of Commons in session, with heckling common and a more theatrical style than the standard debate. In contrast, classic arguments consist of two teams of two, one team for the motion and the other against. This debate-style is typically used within school settings, as it is easier for those new to debating to work as a team.

Another type of debate framework, known as policy or cross-examination, also uses two teams of two but is much more concerned with presenting well-researched evidence. Once the speaker has stated his or her case, the opposite team member is questioned.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate Framework and Policy Campaigns

The Lincoln-Douglas framework for debating gets its name from the 1858 Illinois Senate campaign, where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas famously debated. Unlike standard debates, this framework involves single speakers discussing ethical issues and relies heavily on logic. In contrast to other debating approaches, Smith (2008) identifies political campaigns as more flexible with no proposition, including a short opening statement by each side, primary arguments, rebuttals, questioning, and a fast closing statement.

Debating Tips – How to Win a Debate

The best way to win a debate is to provide a logical and evidence-based, well-researched argument, speaking clearly and confidently. Other key ways in which you can improve your chances of winning a debate, as suggested by Smith (2008), include as follows:

  • avoid acting arrogantly – comes across as close-minded, may underestimate an opponent
  • know your enemy – try to find out strengths/weaknesses
  • over-research important facts – get the most relevant information
  • listen carefully – take notes
  • write critical points down on memo cards
  • improve your memory – practice, rehearse with others
  • keep your cool and speak clearly
  • make your performance memorable – resemblances, humor, colorful phrases

As highlighted above, commonly used debate frameworks involve parliamentary, standard, and policy approaches. Essential tips to help win a debate include undertaking good research, using memorable phrases, and knowing your enemy.



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