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NAsHDC Debater's Manual
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Argumentation- is the art of giving reasons in order to justify acts, beliefs, attitudes, and values. It is, without doubt, the most important skill in debate. In order to argue effectively, you need to come up with cogent arguments. An argument is simply a reason to justify a stand on a particular issue. For example, one of the traditional arguments in favor of capital punishment is that it deters crime.
The purpose of this part is to illustrate what an argument looks like and more importantly, how it should be structured. At this stage, we want to emphasize methodical discipline not to cramp your individual creativity, but to teach your good fundamentals. After reading this part, you should be able to think of an argument in favor of any topic of your choice and construct it completely.
Structure of an argument:
A complete argument has four parts:
1. Handle- Crisp, concise statement of the argument. It should be well crafted to be persuasive and to be easily understood.
2. Development / Explanation- Abstract exposition of the ideas, description of a process, etc. This part is in which you expound on the concepts behind the argument, explain the premises and present relevant background material. these must be done in a step-by-step logical manner.
3. Example- This is uspposed to be the proof or evidence with which you back up your arguments and persuade the adjudicator that what you are saying is likely true. Examples can come in the form of statistics, quotations, analogies and historical anecdotes. However, they must be fully explained, not just mentioned in passing to have real impact.
4. Link-In here, you explain how the example proves your argument and in turn, how your argument proves your stance. We do tjis to make the argument and the case logically tight.
Elements of a sound argument:
1. Relevance- an argument is relevant idf it is likely to add weight to the overall stance that the team is trying to prove. A good test for relevance is to ask yourself, "so what?" if the answer leads you to your stance, then the argument is relevant.
2. Rigorous explanation of logical machanisms- The process of how something happens or why somethingshould be explained completely and thoroughly.
3. Compelling evidence or proof- Evidence is compelling if it proves that the arguument is likely to be true. I say, likely, because absolute proof is almost impossible to find in many debates.
REBUTTAL- is an essential element of debating
- it provides the "clash of ideas" that makes debating different from public speaking. Rebuttal requires debaters to listen to what is being said by the other side and respond to their arguments. An audience member or more importantly, an adjudicator , might be listening to a point made by the other team and think "that's a good argument" and find themselves convinced by the other side. In this sense, it's important to deal with all the major points being made by the other team.
In a nutshell- rebuttal consists of the arguments that your team raises in response to the arguments that your team raises in response to the arguments of your opposition. Every rebuttal should be like a normal argument- it requires more than "what they're saying is wrong, so there!" Rebuttal requires you to analize what was said and explain why the other team's arguments should not be supported.
Structure of a rebuttal:
1. State what the argument to be rebutted is- You should briefly state what the opposition's argument is in a few sentences. It sounds obvious, but many speakers launch straight into their rebuttal without telling first what point they are rebutting! Doing this helps give your rebuttal more clarity in the mind of the adjudicator. However, don't do your opponents the favor of explaining their argument/s to the adjudicator. That's not your job.
2. Explain why the argument is wrong
3. Give an example- Rebuttal should be treated like any other argument- it needs evidence to support it. If you can't think of any new examples, then you might like to refer to one that your team has already used.
4. Link the topic- There is no point in showing that an argument is wrong if you don't show how it helps your case or how it weakens the case of the opposing side.

* there is more than 1 way to rebut an argument. Try to think outside the square a little- an argument can be not simply "wrong", but might be rebutted in a number of ways.
1. The argument is factually wrong- the strongest factual rebuttals are factual rebuttals beacuse arguments that are shown to be based on falsehoods and factual errors are basically dead. However, be careful
to only correct relevant factual errors! if a speaker makes a slip of the tongue and says "coal" instead of "oil" , then thus may not really undermine
his argument very much! Minor errors with dates, times, people's names etc. may be corrected by the other team- but this may not in itself help you prove your case.
However, if a team uses an example, statistic or other evidence that you know is wrong, and is the foundation for an argumnet, then you should point this out. You don't need to show the newspaper clipping that is the source of your fact-adjudicators will trust you if what you say sounds reasonable. The adjudicator will take the viewpoint of the average reasonable person- hence he won't use any of his specialist knowledge of a subject but he will know blatant lies when he hears them!
2. The argument involves unacceptable consequences and implications
- This type of rebuttal can be very effective, because it doesn't necessarily require you to dhow that the other side is totally wrong. It requires you to take another step in your analysis and show that whilst the point made by your opposition is superficially correct- the consequences of their argument are worse than any benefit that they claimed would follow. 
- Sometimes these arguments are characterized as "slippery-slope" or "it-will-open-the-floodgates" arguments -that is to say allowing one thung to happen will inevitable lead to more (and usually much worse) things being allowed to happen. They can be a useful tactic-but be wary of going too far and claiming that your opponent's proposal will lead to the destruction of society as we know it!
3. The argument is correct, but should be accorded little weight- In this instance, you don't need to prove that an argument is wrong- you can concede certain idea or premise but argue that the idea is of little weight. Be careful when doping this- you don't want to concede anything too important to your opponent's case.
An exampleof a type of argument that can be conceded is when a team argues that a particular proposal would cost too uch. In response, you could concede that there may indeed be some cost, but for the benefits of the proposal the expense will be worth it. It may be also possible at times to concede the underlying premise of an argument. But to argue that a different conclusion to be drawn. In a debate topic "that Private Schools should not receive Government funding", the negative team might want to concede that the statuis of the education system is not adequate, but to argue that the affirmative's proposal will not solve the problem.
4. The argument is illogical-the conclusions don't follow from the premises
- A good argument will be one which is clearly explained so that it makes sense- the conclusion that is drawn must flow from the premise. Look out for "leaps of logic" in your opponents arguments-have all the links been drawn out?
5. The argument is irrelevant to the proof of the stance
- An argument is irrelevant if doesn't directly support your stance. For example, In the debate about implementing capital punishment, The argument that crimes such as murder and rape are the most monstrius human acts is irrelevant. All it proves is that perpetrators of these crimes should receive the heaviest available punishment. but it doesn't justify making death penalty the heaviest available punishment.
1. Before rebutting an argument of your opponent, you should first assess whether it was explained completely and was supported with evidence. if not, then the argument is merely an assertion. You should point this out! It doesnt't necessarily make what they said wrong- it just undermines their credibility. However, a word of caution: exposing an argument's lack of explanation or evidence is not enough to rebut it. real rebuttal contests an argumen's validity rather than its completeness. You could say something like, "even if the opposition didn't substantiate this point, I'll address it.
Also, listen very carefully and make sure you are right when you claim that an argument is based upon assertions- if you have missed a crucial portion of a speech then you might be wrong!
2. Be very carefull not to misrepresent the arguments of the opposing team. Debaters tend to misrepresent arguments ny reducing them to their most simplistic form and ignoring all the accompanying explanations. many debaters resort to this because it makes the job of rebutting an argument easier. this my dear paduan, is tantamount cheating!
For example: The affirmative proposes that the US and the EU recognize the legitimacy of the junta in Burma and argues that the opening trade and diplomatic ties with Burma is the best way influencing the junta to go slow on its human rights violations. The negative then rebuts the argument by saying that what the affirmative wants is to legitimize the human rights violations of these Burmese junta and is therefore, morally unacceptable. In this example, the negative just misrepresented the affirmative argument! The afirmative wanted to improve relations with the Burmese junta not because they didn't care abut human rights. Rather, the objective they had in mind is to improve the human rights situation there. Therefore, iy's plainly wrong to say they want to legitimize brutality in Burma.