Debate formats

This article will introduce the WSDC debate format to you. In the beginning you will find a summation of all the info that you will need about the format, then there is a lond description with everything you ever wanted to know about the Worlds Schools Debate format.

Basic information about the format:

# of people in the debate: 6
# of people in a team: 3
# of teams in the debate: 2 
Duration of the speeches: ,4 5, 7 or 8 minutes
Questions format: Points of information
Short description: Teams are on the Government and Opposition part of the debate. The important thing in the debate is, that next to the three speaches from every team, we always hear also a fourth, the closing speech from a speaker from every side.
Used in: Differend High school debate schools, and at Worlds Schools Debating Championships.

Here is the transcript of the video. Enjoy:

Todays workshop is about debate and the Worlds Schools Debate Format. We will start with generally speaking about the format and what debate in general is, then we will go to roles of speakers. Debate is formalised speaking, because each speaker in a team, and in a debate has his or her role and duties.
This is something that judges will be carefoul on and this is what they will be looking for. For you to make arguments or to refute
arguments and so on. But this is something that we are going to do later on. Let's start with what debate in general is.
In every debate you have two sides. This is debate. Pro et contra, so one side, that is proposing something and one side, that is
opposing something. We also call this in Worlds schools format proposition and opposition. You might also hear Government and opposition. Team proposition proposes something and opposition opposes that.
What is that? That is the motion. So the topic of every debate or as we call it, the motion, is what the two teams are arguing about. In many cases and also this week, you will many times hear This house believes that. This is something that this debate format got from British parliamentary debate format, that stems from the British parliament, where they call the proposition and the oposition The house.
So this house means our side believes that, or Government believes that.

Generally speaking each team has three people in a team. So when Bojana, a few minutes ago, told you that you need to find your debate partners, with that she meant, that you need to find two people that you will be debating with. Again, each team has three
What is also important is, that you do not choose the motion that you will debate. And more important, you do not choose the side, the proposition or opposition, you are allocated the side in a debate. So for the debate today in the evening you will be given a motion and it will also say if you team is proposition or opposition. Ok, does anyone have a problem with that? Because many people often say "but how can I debate on something I don't believe in". "I don't believe that we should ban smoking, how should I propose that motion". Well in debate you are put in a role of proposing something even if you don't believe that. So you should not take debates and arguments that happen in a debate personally. Because people in a debate are give the side and might not believe in that side. We need six volouneers. 

We believe that we need to visualise debate, especially for those of you that did not yet do any Worlds Schools debate. As said we have two sides. In real debates, that you will have today in the evening, you will have one side, the proposition, sitting left from the judge. Because judge is in front of the debaters. And opposition is right from the judge. Clearly a team seats together. What do you thing, who speaks first? Yes, the first speaker from the proposition.

What does first speaker do? Yes, he can present the team and say "my name is Dexter" and this is my lovely codebater Theodora, and my lovely codebater PJ. You might want to present your team names, but you do not need to do it. What else? Yes, define the motion.The important thing is, that  before you define the motion, you should state the motion. So that everyone knows what the motion is. It is generally good, that you have an introduction, but this is something that you will hear in other lectures. Does everyone know what a definition is? You define the words in the motion that can be misinterpreted. So if I have a motion "We should ban cloning", what would you define? Yes, define what cloning means and how would you ban it. Would you completely
ban it, or just a part. Ok, here we come to a difference between a definition and something we usually call a model. Definition is just explaining, what cloning means. And you do not need to give a definition of a ban, beucase we all know what a ban is. We will prohibit that. But yes, you do not define wht ban means, but you present a model of what you mean by banning. You present a mechanism of how you are doing it. We say we would ban cloning by banning all scientific research in the area and
all cloning for commercial purposes. We have allready explained that by cloning we mean all animal and human cloning and so on. Of course not all debates need a model. We say that some debates are policy debates, and some are value debates. A policy debate would be "we believe that we should ban models under healthy weight". But a value debate could be "We believe that it is wrong that corporations use models under the health weight". Or the policy could be We should ban all ZOOs, and the value would than be This house opposes the ZOOs. The difference is that policy motions demand from you a plan, or a proposal of something. Your motion might be That developed countries should give financial aid to developing countries. Here of course it is expected from you to say We believe that every developed country should give that and that much of money to developing countries. But the value motion is We believe that it is the duty of the developed world to give financial aid to the developing countries. It is really simmilar, but the difference is that you can use all the arguments that you have in the value motion also in a policy motion.

Anja explains: When we are talking about national policies, if a new law is being introduced in your country. Of course the government has to provide us with a mechanism in which this proposal is going to be implemented. And this is called a plan. But they can not defend the values that that stands behind. So if we introduce a new law on drinking age, on education, or on the environment, there are always values involved. If we say that all the major poluters should be penalised, then of course we talk abou the value of human life and the value of environment. But we would also talk about the way this is being practicaly implemented. But on the other hand, if we are debating on a value motion The capitalism has gone too far in exploiting the environment, then we will mainly talk about the values that the capitalism represents and the values that the other side, the environmentalists represent. So I think that you should rely on your feeling. 

If you believe that the motion demands from you to make a plan make it. Because if I say, “we should do something”, the first reaction from me is “how we should do it”. But then, if the motion does not say explicitly we should do something, but somehow you feel that it requires a plan, because otherwise it would be an empty motion, than you should make a plan. An example of such a motion would be that …
Maja: The developed countries should do more to protect the environment. So you don’t necesarily need to say what you would do. It might be helpful, for you to say “we believe that these are the steps we can take, so for example reduce our consupmtion, do more in limitin g the pollution, or emmisions from our factories. And we believe this is the role of our corporations. Now you don’t need to state specificaly how many tons of CO2 emmisions will you reduce, but you give the general idea what this debate is about. This is what a model actually does.

Question from the audience: So basically a value motion states why we think something should be done, and a policy motion states how we should do it?

Maja: Yes, exactly. But don’t be tricked. It is how, but also why. Of course every how needs a why. Why should we protect the environment. Who cares, right?

Anja: It is always balancing. There is not a strict limitation that would say that you just talk about values, or just talk what is nice, what is not nice.

Maja: What we usually say is that a good model is a model you don’t talk about in the debate. Because we don’t want to have a debate about “how will you ban smoking in my home” for example. Because that is not a debate about why’s. And we say the debate about Why’s, why smoking is bad, why does the government have the right to tell me that that is unhealthy and hence I shouldn’t smoke. You should make a model, so that it is clear what you are saying, but then tell me why you believe in that.

Ok, so now we have a definition and a model. What comes then? Arguments, of course. And here (in the how and why) we have already started the arguments part. How many arguments should first speaker have? Well, we are not limiting anyone …

Anja: We are limiting you in a way that we believe that a strong argument has to have some time, so if you decide that you are able to pull through two arguments and explain them thurally, then you are perfectly allowed to make two arguments in the first speech. But if you have what is called a strategic strong first argument, and you believe it needs a little more explanation, in order for the debate to develop well, then it is perfectly ok to have only one argument. So it is just a matter of strategically allocating what you believe will set the ground for all the debate and if you feel that you need four minutes to explain your first argument, that is ok, otherwise you can also have two arguments.

Maja: Arguments are a whole new problem in a debate, so we are not going to talk about them, you will have a full lecture on them tomorow.
Anja: What would you need to know about arguments before you have a debate tonight?

Audience: Arguments are mostly a reason and then an explanation. For example if we debate on a motion, we have to say why.

Maja: True, and usually it is smart to have more why’s. Why do you believe we should do that? Because it is immoral to put animals in danger. Because we believe it teaches children the wrong walues, because we believe it is a unrealistic picture of the natural world, because it harms the balance in the nature. Whatever, just more why’s and arguments are Why’s.

Ok, so this is our great first speaker Dexter, so what he does is, just to repeat, he comes up, he makes a great introduction in our topic... (to be continued)


Lecture - WSDC - Introduction to WSDC Format - WSDA 2010 from Alfred Snider on Vimeo.

About the video: Maja Cimernan and Anja Serc of ZIP Slovenia introduce some beginning debaters to the World Schools Debating Championship format. Both are veterans of WSDC competition, Maja was WSDC EFL world champion and European Universities ESL champion 2010.
This event took place at the 2010 World Schools Debate Academy held in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia during early July 2010. The event was attended by 85 people.
For more information and to learn how to attend future programs, please consult the main website at

# of people in the debate: 8

# of people in a team: 2

# of teams in the debate: 4 

Duration of the speeches: 5 or 7 minutes

Questions format: Points of information

Short description:The teams are divided into the "government" - affirmative and "opposition" - negative. The first two team, also called the first table start the debate, the second table teams have to extend the debate on a different level. This is also called extending the debate. The motions are normally plan motions, that means that the government has to propose a plan or a change in the policy. The adjudicators decide on the argumentation and style, also mostly important is the role fulfillment.

Used in: University student debate in the Europe and elsewhere. Europeans and Worlds are organized every year.

# of people in the debate: 6

# of people in a team: 3

# of teams in the debate: 2

Duration of the speeches: 5 minutes

Questions format: Cross examination

Short description: Special in this format is the prep time, where the teams can use 8 minutes, that they need to divide for all three speeches, and prepare before they go and make a speech. 

The debate is started by the 1st affirmation (aff) speaker. Followed by the 2rd oposition (opp) speaker cross examining the 1st aff speaker. Now 1st opp speaker speech. 3rd gov asks 1st opp. 2nd gov speaker and asked by the 1st opp speaker. 2 opp speech and asked by the 1st gov speaker. 3 aff speaker and last comes the 3rd opp speaker.

First aff speaker will outline a case, present a plan, if needed and present arguments/benefits. First opp speaker will challenge the definitions (if needed, but normally not) and negate the arguments of 1st aff. She also needs to present her own constructive arguments against the motion. 2nd aff speaker has to re-establish the aff arguments presented in the 1st speech, and develop them, and add (mostly one) new argument. He also has to negate the arguments that were presented by the 1st opp speaker. 2nd opp speaker has to do the same. Re-establish own arguments, present new arguments and  

Used in: High school and primary school in Europe and United states of America.

# of people in the debate: 4

# of people in a team: 2

# of teams in the debate: 2

Duration of the speeches: 7 minutes constructive speech and 3-4 minutes closing speech.

Questions format: Points of information

Short description: This debate format can be described as a half of the British parliamentary debate, because the roles of the speakers are the same as on the first table of BP. Extra, the first speaker of each team has a shorter speech, similar to a whip speech in BP.

Used in: No idea, who debates this, we are using it for practice and there are one or two debate tournaments using it (Katowice open 2007 used it).

# of people in the debate: 2

# of people in a team: 1

# of teams in the debate: 2

Duration of the speeches: The times are different from speech to speech, and are marked at the speeches

Questions format: Cross examination

This debate format derives directly from the US Presidential debates. It is a bit different, especially from the timing of the speeches. I have no information if it is being used for tournaments anywhere in the world, but it is used for training.


1st Affirmative constructive - 7 minutes

Cross examination - negative asks affirmative - 3 minutes

1st Negative constructive - 8 minutes

Cross examination - affirmative asks negative - 3 minutes

 Now follow the so called rebuttal speeches. The debaters should not present new arguments, but are allowed to present new evidence.

1st Affirmative rebuttal - 4 minutes 

1st Negative rebuttal - 7 minutes

2nd Affirmative rebuttal - 4 minutes 

This article has been rewritten. It now features a short description of the format, and then you can find a transcript of a longer lecture, if you would like to hear details about the Asian Parliamentary debate format. Don't forget to Like this page!

# of people in the debate: 6
# of people in a team: 3
# of teams in the debate: 2

Duration of the speeches: Constructive and whip speeches 7 minutes, replies 4 minutes

Questions format: Points of information

This debate format is mainly used in the Asia (news Sherlock :D) and is also the basics of the World schools debate format.

The speakers speak in the following order:
Prime minister
Leader of opposition
Deputy prime minister
Deputy leader of opposition
Government whip
Opposition whip

All these speeches are seven minutes long. Prime minister presents the case, Leader of opp presents its own arguments and rebuttals the gov's, Deputy PM has also his own argument(s) and makes some rebuttal, of course he/she should not forget that she has to speak about the arguments of the PM and reafirm them. Deputy leader of opp has the same task, meaning new argument(s), rebuttal, own previous arguments. The government whip is allowed to present "new matter" but is advised not to, and the opp whip is not allowed to do that.

Now follow two reply speeches,  first the oppositional and then the governmental reply. The speeches are given by the first or the second speaker from each side. The speeches should focus on the great ideas, arguments, clashes in the debate and present them.

Lecture on the Asian Parliamentary Debate Format

Today we are going to talk about a format of a debate. Debate is basically a structured discussion. So you have some debate formats, that are more open, like a presidential debate, or a town hall debate, where groups of people debate against each other or you have debate formats, that are far more structured. They carefully tell you how much time each person has to speak and so on. Every format has some kind of rules, because those rules serve to preserve order, and try to create some balance. The rules don’t really determine who wins and loses a debate. Debating is not about the rules. The rules are there to create balance, to tell people how much time they have to speak and so on. So in every debate format there will be some direction about the topics, about the timing, about the speaking order and maybe some stuff about the judging criteria, about how do you decide which team wins and which team loses.
Today we are going to focus on the Asian Parliamentary debate Format. This is a format that is widely used in Asia, among University and High School students and I think is a good format. I am going to talk about the teams and the order of speakers, about timing and talk about topic selection and finally talk about points of information.


Teams and speaking order in Asian Parliamentary

First let’s talk about the teams and speaking order. In the Asian Parliamentary debate format you have two teams. One team is called the government team, and the other team is called the Opposition team. Sometimes it is referred to them as the Affirmative and the Negative team. The names don’t really matter that much, but just for you to understand the terminology.
The Government team will always support the topic and the Opposition team must oppose the topic. You usually won’t have a choice whether you are the Government or the Opposition on a topic. Each team will have three speakers. Three in Government and three in Opposition and they will speak in alternating order. So first you will have one speaker from the Government, and then from the Opposition, and then the Gov. and then the Opp. and then the Gov. and then the Opp. Each speaker will speak for seven minutes. So an entire debate will take 42 minutes. But hold on. At the end of those 42 minutes, both the teams will get to make an extra speech. How exciting is that? It is kind of a summation speech, where you are comparing the teams, and you are trying to persuade the judge Why my team wins over the other team. So it is not really a speech where you are making new arguments. But we will get into those details later. So at the end of those six speeches, the teams get to make a reply speech. This one is shorter. Remember, the earlier speeches were seven minutes long, this speech will only be 4 minutes long. And if you remember, the government team started the debate by making the first speech, this time the Opposition team will start, by giving the first reply speech. So in essence, the Government team always start the debate, and they always end the debate by having the last reply speech. So that is the two teams, the speaking order and the timing.

Topic selection

Now we come to the topic selection. Every debate needs a topic. In the Asian Parliamentary format, what happens is, you will usually be given three topics, to choose from. So you and the other team can compare and choose the topic which you both like. How this is done is the teams will rank the topics, so the Government team ranks the topics 1., 2. and 3. and Opposition ranks 1, 2 and 3 and then you compare your rankings. The topic which you ranked third will not be debated. They will cancel each other off. The remaining topic will be debated. In the situation where the teams rank the same topic third, but reverse the other two rankings, then you have to flip a coin to decide who gets to debate their first choice. And if both teams rank the same topic as first, then you debate that topic. The only other thing with Asian Parliamentary debate topic format, the last thing I’ll talk about are the Points of information.

Points of information in Asian parly

When speakers are speaking, between the first and the sixth minute of every speech, speakers from the other side have the opportunity to rise up and offer a question. So you can say Point of information, Can I ask a question, On that point, or something to that effect. If I’m speaking, I can choose, whether or not to accept this interruption. So I can say Yes, go ahead, ask your question, Or make a statement, you can say anything you want. But it usually has to be short, about 15 seconds long, that is about two sentences. So you can get up, you can say your statement, or ask your question and then I have to respond to it. I don’t have to accept every question, but if I accept a question, I must respond to that question. So this adds a huge element of interactivity to the debate. So every speaker, Government speaker or Opposition speaker has the chance to be questioned by the other team during their speech. You can only ask points of information to the other team, and not to your own team. And you should take at least one, preferably two points of information in your speech. There are no points of information in the reply speech. So only points of information in the first six speeches in the debate.

Those are the essential parts of the Asian Parliamentary debate format.

This video is a transcript of a lecture, that you can see here.

If you would like to know more about Points of information, there are several articles on this website. A one hour lecture by Sarina Selleck, a lecture by Alfred C. Snider, a lecture by G. Rhydian Morgan and a short article on POI’s by me.
If you like this article, like it, or leave a comment, I love to hear your thoughts!


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