Debate Format


Minnesota Debate Teachers Association

Definition of competitive debate leagues

Debate Central

A good example of "The Spread"

The speed debating style of policy debaters


Good examples of Lincoln-Douglas style debate

This style is more conversational


Hornet Debate League

Introduction:  Debate has a positive role in the decision-making in many aspects of our lives.  Debate involves the clash or competition of ideas and evidence.  It is through such clashes that ideas are thoroughly explored and improved in our society.  Debate takes many forms: It may be at a community or business meeting, on the editorial pages of the newspaper, in a court of law, on the floor of Congress, or on the school bus or school hallway.  Structures of these debates vary.  The different structures only produce different kinds of debates, but the basic tenet is the same: solid argumentation.


Debate also requires public speaking, research and writing skills.


We will conduct a modified high school debate in class to demonstrate our strong research, speaking, writing and argumentation skills.


Activities: 1) Blog: Post on your blog -- list as many types of debates (clashes of ideas) as you can.  For each, answer these questions: Where do these debates occur?  What purpose does debate serve in each case?  Does it help arrive at a better decision?  Is the debate structured or unstructured? How does this effect the decision making process? (SEE EXAMPLE)


2) Group debate: In this assignment, studetns will be working in small groups.  There will be six small groups in the classroom (approximately 4-5 students per group).  Each group will debate another group in the Hornet Debate League format (see worksheet).


  • Each team must compile, research, write and prepare speeches for both the affirmative and negative sides of the resolution they are debating.  
  • All members of the group are responsible for helping with these speeches.  
  • All total, four speeches must be written before the debate (First Affirmative, Second Affirmative, First Negative, Second Negative).
  • Which team is affirmative and which is negative is decided by coin toss the day of the debate.
  • Other research materials should be on hand to reference during the speech (cross-examination and rebuttal speeches, which are written during prep times).  
  • Two speakers will compete for each team.
  • The remaining team members will be the research team during the debate, taking notes, finding evidence for rebuttal and cross-examination and offering coaching advice.
  • Teams not involved in the debate will help time and judge the participants.
  • No one but the speakers may speak during the debate.

Teams must be prepared to debate either side of the resolution.  The day we debate, we will flip a coin at the beginning of the class to determine which team is the affirmative and which is the negative.

Here are some possible resolutions for us to debate:


  1. Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially decrease its authority either to detain without charge or to search without probable cause.
  2. Resolved:  The United States federal government should substantially increase its public health assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. Resolved: In the United States, plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust.
  4. Resolved: The United States federal government should establish an energy policy requiring a substantial reduction in the total non-governmental consumption of fossil fuels in the United States.
  5. Resolved: That the United States federal government should significantly increase assistance to United States residents living below the poverty line.
  6. Resolved: The State of Minnesota should amend statute 609.106 subdivision 2 regarding maximum sentencing for heinous criminal offenses to allow for capital punishment.
  7. Resolved: Edina High School should substantially alter its policy to disallow backpacks being carried by students during the school day.
  8. Resolved: Edina High School should re-establish carbonated beverages (including soda) be available to students in the machines during and outside the school day.
  9. Resolved: The state of Minnesota should establish laws to equally weigh marital rights of heterosexuals and homosexuals.