Important Terms in Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Understanding debate terminology is essential to excelling in the round.  These terms are not limited to debate.  They are applicable more broadly to assessing ideas and arguments.

Affirmative: The side that supports the resolution is affirmative.  The affirmative case explains why the resolution is correct and is presented during the affirmative constructive (AC).

Abuse:  This refers to arguments, assumptions, or definitions made by one side that prevent both sides from completing on equal ground.  Abusive assumptions skew the round in favor of one team.

Apriori- see “Prima Facie” 

Best Definitions:  Debaters may argue that their definition is superior to that of another debater for a variety of reasons such as setting fair limits for the debate or being used in the literature.

Burden of Proof:  A debater who offers an argument must show that it is valid in order for it to be accepted.  In Lincoln-Douglas debate, the affirmative team has the burden to prove the resolution true while the negative has the burden to prove the resolution false.

Card: A piece of evidence with a claim and warrant. 

Constructive: Constructive speeches are speeches in which debaters introduce their position and advocacy.  In Lincoln-Douglas debate the first two speeches are constructives.

Contention: A contention is a major argument in the debate.  Affirmatives and negatives build their cases with contentions.

Criterion:  A criterion is a necessary or sufficient standard by which to measure the competing values.  It is a conceptual tool used to decide which value should be upheld.  For a more detailed explanation, see “Logic in LD: Casing Applications (Continued).”

Cross-ex: Cross-ex and CX are both short for cross examination.  Cross-ex is the time one debater gets to interact with another debater by asking questions.  In Lincoln-Douglas debate, each debater gets three minutes of cross-ex time after his or her opponent’s constructive speech.  The time can be used for clarification or to set up an argument.

Crystallize: Debaters generally crystallize the debate in their last speech.  Crystallizing involves summing up the debate, addressing the most important arguments, and offering voting issues.

Evidence: Evidence refers to published literature introduced into the debate to provide support for an argument.  Lincoln-Douglas debate is less evidence-intensive than Policy Debate.

Flow: Flowing is a note taking technique.  Debaters and judges flow throughout the round to keep track of the arguments being made.  The “flow” may also refer to the notepad itself.

Games Theory: Games theory is the idea that debate must be fair for both sides.  The rules of debate must not provide a better opportunity for one side to win over another.

Ground: Ground refers to the arguments debaters can make during the round.  It is used to say that each side must have sufficient ground for the round to be fair.

Prep Time: In Lincoln-Douglas debate, debaters have a total of three minutes of prep time that can be used during the debate to get ready and plan for their next speech.

Prima Faciae: Latin for “on face”.  A prima facie argument, or an apriori argument, is one that supposedly comes before arguments that relate to the value criterion. Sometimes called a “prestandards issue”, you must answer these arguments somehow, since they are intended to be arguments that will make you automatically lose the round.

Predictability– This is used to refer to how predictable an argument was based upon the topic literature or some standard of preparedness.

Rebuttal: Rebuttal speeches are shorter speeches later in the debate in which debaters argue over issues that were built during the constructive speeches.

Refutation: Arguing against constructive arguments made by the other debater.

Resolution: The topic of the debate.  The resolution sets forth the issues to be discussed in the debate and the respective sides affirmative and negative teams will take.

Spread: Spreading is when one debater makes as many arguments as possible attempting to make too many for the opponent to answer.

Standard– This means the value criterion.

Status quo: The status quo is the current situation while the debate is occurring.

Value: A value is an idea that a debater argues is paramount.  The contentions in an Lincoln-Douglas case uphold the value.  Generally, the debater will present philosophical background to support and explain their value.  For a more detailed explanation, see “Logic in LD: Casing Applications (Continued).”

Value Objection: The negative debater can offer a competing value that is upheld through their case.  The negative must show that this value is superior to the affirmative’s value.

Voting Issue: Both teams can make voting issues throughout the debate.  A voting issue is a reason to affirm or negate.  Voting issues are arguments that have been won by one side or another that conclude that the resolution is true or false.

Warrant: The reason why your claim is true. If an argument has no warrant, it may be automatically disregarded by some judges.

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