Types of Debate with Formats

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Debates can take many forms; some are formal, informal, rhetorical, or logical. It depends upon the requirement, context, audience, and several other factors before deciding which form is more appropriate for a particular purpose.

However, when it comes to the actual formats of a debate, then there are different types of debate formats that are used by an essay writer at the high school and college level. Most of these formats have many general features in common. Each type has two sides, one is the proposition or affirmative side while the other one is the opposition or negative side.

The affirmative or proposition side speaks in favor of why something should be done or why a resolution should be adopted. While the opposing side rebuts the proposal. From many formats of the debate, some common types that are nationally organized and supported are:

  • Policy Debate
  • Lincoln-Douglas Debate
  • Parliamentary Debate
  • CEDA Debate
  • NDT Debate

Policy Debate - As the name suggests, Policy Debate is focused on policy issues. It’s the oldest and most popular form of debate. It is structured around research, evidence, and organizational ability and less on persuasion and presentation skills. The format for this debate is 2 on 2, with rounds lasting upwards of 90 minutes. It consists of eight speeches, four speeches are constructive in which the teams lay out their major arguments and the other four are rebuttals in which the teams extend or apply the already presented arguments. During rebuttal speeches, the teams do not make new arguments. Policy debate often excludes philosophical or abstract concepts such as freedom, justice, etc., and arguments are often judged on tangible harm caused by action or inaction.

Lincoln Douglas (LD) Debate - On the almost opposite end of the spectrum, LD is centered almost exclusively on moral or ethical values such as justice, freedom, or equality. Debaters generally define a clear framework through which to view success in each round. For e.g. the affirmative side might start their speech by stating that they value freedom and judge resolutions and actions based on that framework. Evidence is considered in LD, but the focus is much more heavily slanted towards persuasion, argumentative abilities, and fluency. The format of this debate is 1 on 1, with rounds generally lasting upwards of an hour.

Parliamentary Debate – In Parliamentary Debate, the most important factors are logic, persuasiveness, and wit. Unlike other debate formats in which the resolutions are established in advance, the resolution in Parliamentary Debate is established only 10 minutes before the debate starts. This format is called Parliamentary as it vaguely resembles the debates in the British Parliament. There are 6 speeches in each round from which four speeches are constructive while the remaining two are supposed to be rebuttal speeches.

CEDA Debate – The Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA) is comparatively a new format of debate used in colleges. The format of this speech is 2 on 2 just like Policy Debate. The difference between the two formats lays in the resolutions. Unlike Policy Debate in which the resolutions are related to policies, the resolutions in CEDA are not always policy-oriented. This debate format is intended to be value-driven but these debates also include the presentation of lots of evidence in support of your arguments.

NDT Debate – National Debate Tournament (NDT) is one of the oldest and popular debating formats. It is very similar to Policy Debate as its format and style are almost the same as that of Policy Debate. Each round of the debate consists of 8 speeches with four constructive and four rebuttal speeches. In addition, vast amounts of evidence are presented just like in Policy Debate with little emphasis on persuasion.

There are some local variations and exceptions to these main 4 types, but they are largely regional and unstandardized.

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