Debate@Europe Format


The Debate@Europe format described below helps debaters engage in meaningful debates using software that allows uploading video recordings of the speakers. These debates will have two debaters representing the affirmative and another two debaters presenting the negative case. Debate@Europe debates represent an excellent way to bridge geographic distances and to allow for discussions between people who might not otherwise have a chance to meet. They also help students:

  • practice and prepare for face-to face debates
  • develop a broad and diverse knowledge base on motions regarding the European Union
  • improve argumentative abilities
  • debate with students across wide distances
  • instill in participants an appreciation for the value of teamwork

General Rules

Interpretation of the Resolution

  1. The affirmative team has the responsibility to define and interpret the resolution.
  2. The affirmative should interpret the topic as it would reasonably be interpreted in the public sphere. The affirmative need not necessarily provide a literal interpretation of the resolution; rather, the objective of the affirmative team is to make an adequate case for its interpretation of the resolution. To this end, the team must introduce one or more arguments in support of the resolution as they have interpreted it, and sustain that case throughout the debate.
  3. The negative team argues against the affirmative position.
  4. The negative team may counter the affirmative team's interpretation of the resolution if they believe it is not reasonable.The negative team may challenge any aspect of the affirmative team's case, and may offer a case of its own. For example, it may challenge the interpretation of the resolution, the factual and analytical foundations of the case, or the underlying assumptions of the affirmative's claims.

Rules during a Debate@Europe Debate

  1. Intervention of any other person besides the appointed debater is not allowed during the speech.No outside person(s) may conduct research during the debate and provide information directly or indirectly to the debaters. Debaters, however, are allowed to consult whatever research materials they have.
  2. Debaters should be able to provide sources for direct citations.When debaters refer to any public information, they should be prepared to provide, upon request, source documentation to the opposing team and to the judge. Ordinarily, such documentation would include the name of an author (if any), the name and date of a publication (and a page number, if available), or the URL of a Web site.
  3. Debaters should practice intellectual honesty.Students should cite arguments and statistics truthfully, and never fabricate sources or data.
  4. Debate should be approached as a team activity.Each debate team is composed of two individuals. It is advisable that they prepare the speeches together, but debaters need to deliver them on their own, according to the role they decided to play in the debate (1st/ 2nd/conclusive speaker)

The Debate@Europe Format

The affirmative and the negative teams will each have equal time to present their arguments.

The debate is composed of 6 parts. Four of these consist of constructive speeches, that is, presentations of arguments and counter arguments and refutations, by a designated speaker. The remaining two speeches consist of conclusive material, meaning they are speeches aimed at proving that in light of what has been brought up in the debate, a certain conclusion (and decision on who’s winning the debate) must be made.

The following is a breakdown of the proposed debate format (speeches are presented in order)

  1. Affirmative Constructive (5 minutes) - 1 A
  2. Negative Constructive (5 minutes) 1 N
  3. Affirmative Rebuttal (5 minutes) 2 A
  4. Negative Rebuttal (5 minutes) 2 N
  5. Affirmative Conclusive (5 minutes) 3 A
  6. Negative Conclusive (5 minutes) 3 N

Each debate also includes preparation time. Each speaker has 24 h to document and prepare their video speech and upload it.

Each speech and each questioning period has a specific purpose.

1. Affirmative Constructive (1A)

In this speech, the affirmative team is expected to offer its complete argument in favor of the resolution. Although the 2nd affirmative speaker may repeat points and expand on them later in the debate, the first affirmative speaker must present the entirety of his or her team’s case, including whatever criteria or definitions the team views as instrumental.

2. Negative Constructive (1N)

Like the affirmative team in its constructive, the negative team is expected to offer a complete argument against the affirmative’s position. The affirmative’s definition, if not challenged at this point, should stand. Similarly, if the negative does not offer competing criteria, it is assumed that the criteria articulated by the affirmative team will govern the round. Finally, the negative team must challenge the affirmative's arguments; otherwise, it will be assumed that these arguments are acceptable.

3. First Affirmative Rebuttal (2A)

The affirmative speaker has two tasks in this speech. First, he or she must outline their refutations of the negative arguments. Second, he or she must respond to the refutations made by the negative team (that is, the negative's objections to the affirmative case). If the affirmative speaker does not refute a given point in the negative case, then the point stands; if the affirmative speaker does not respond to a particular negative objection, then the objection is conceded. New evidence for existing arguments may be presented.

4. First Negative Rebuttal (2N)

As with the affirmative rebuttal described above, the negative speaker has a dual task: first, he or she must respond to the refutations made by the affirmative, and second, he or she should continue to attack the affirmative case. At this point in the debate, the negative speaker may start to draw the judge's attention to points that have been dropped. That is, he or she will indicate items to which affirmative has not responded. Such a dropped point is treated as a concession made by the affirmative team. New evidence for existing arguments may be presented.

5. Affirmative Conclusive speech (3A)

The role of the affirmative conclusive speech is to sum up the debate from the team's viewpoint, including a response to the other team's overall case and a summary of the speaker's own team‘s case. He or she should renew refutations that have not been addressed adequately. Usually, this means pointing out flaws in the negative rebuttal. At this point, most good debaters will deliberately let some points drop and will focus the judge's attention on the key issues in the round. The speaker may or may not instruct the judge; that is, the speaker may or may not articulate a standard of judgment for the round. New evidence for existing arguments may be presented.

The reply speaker may be either the first or second speaker of the team, as agreed by them.

6. Negative Conclusive speech (3N)

In essence, the negative conclusive speech is similar to the second affirmative’s. Judges should be especially wary of speakers introducing new arguments at this point since the affirmative team has no chance to respond, so a new argument is especially unfair.

The reply speaker may be either the first or second speaker of the team, as agreed by them.

Adjudication of the Debate@Europe debates

Each round will be judged by one judge

Judges will not be assigned to debates involving a team towards which the respective team might have a bias

Prior to accepting a judging assignment, a judge must agree to:

  1. conduct the debate on the basis of these rules of debating and judging
  2. enforce all rules that fall within the judge's province
  3. not add, enforce, or base a decision on any rules not included in these rules of debating and judging

Under no circumstances can the judge change his or her decision or points based on any discussions with the teams involved.

Judges decision should be based on the content of the debate. The content of the debate includes the substantive arguments presented in a debate along with the supporting evidence used to support them. As long as the speakers communicate their ideas clearly, it does not matter if they used sheets of paper instead of note cards, or if they read parts of the speeches. Naturally, the style of speaking affects the ability to persuade. However, though it is more persuasive if speakers do not read their speeches, they should not be marked down heavily unless it impinges on the speaker’s ability to convey their arguments clearly and persuasively to the audience. Structure is generally more important than communication style, as it determines whether the speakers presented clear arguments. A good question for judges to ask themselves is: At the end of the debate, do I have a clear impression of the team's arguments?

Judges should make their decision on which team won or lost the debate based on the performance of the team as a whole. Judges are not allowed to award wins to teams that receive lower total speaker points.

Making Decisions, composing Ballots, and Offering Commentary

Judges might choose between delivering their decision and feedback in writing or by uploading a video

The process by which a judge arrives at a decision must be unbiased, reasonable, and fair. Moreover, the judge is obligated to explain his or her decision clearly and in a fashion that benefits all participants.

A judge must strive to make a fair and unbiased decision. A judge’s decision-making process is twofold:

  • A judge must evaluate a round based upon on rules of the Debate@Europe format
  • A judge must exercise critical judgment in evaluating a round on its own terms. In making a decision, a judge must endeavor not to privilege his or her own personal tastes or special knowledge, or his or her impressions of participants from other rounds.

A judge must compose a ballot that justifies his or her decision and offers each participant clear and constructive criticism. A recorded video of the judges’ feedback can also serve as a ballot for the purposes of this article.

A judge must submit speaker scores (50-100) for each speech seperately. Low-point wins are not acceptable, which means that the sum of speaker points for the team that won must be greater than the one for the team that lost. The speaker scale in effect is identical to the one used at the NUI Galway European Universities Debating Championship 2011 and is available here.

Through the composing of ballots, judges have the opportunity both to explain the reasoning in their decisions, and to offer informative, thoughtful critiques that provide students with a foundation for improvement. Consequently, judges must be diligent and thorough in completing their ballots. It is not enough to merely indicate the "winner."

Following a debate, for example, a judge should elaborate upon what he or she viewed as the central issues, pointing out how and why the winning case was more persuasive, and identifying the shortcomings of the losing side. Likewise, judges should explain to each participant why they were ranked as they were, highlighting points of missed emphasis, or ways in which the student failed to produce an intended effect in a given instance.

Judges should attempt to accompany criticism with positive, constructive feedback and should always avoid patronizing tones or language. The insights gleaned from a judge's ballot can thus give participants a chance to address numerous matters of style and performance (e.g.,speaker was inaudible, overly aggressive, or made poor use of hand gestures) that may need improvement.