Page 1






Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 2

INTRODUCTION The style of debating used both internationally and locally is British Parliamentary. It uses a small set of rules and tries to focus, as much as possible, on logical arguments related to the motion set for each round. We want to make sure that you are all on the same page before the tournament begins. We also recognise the need to standardise judging in a tournament to fulfil teams’ right to know the criteria on which they are being judged. Accordingly, it is in the best interests of both speakers and adjudicators to be on the same page as to what is expected both of and from them. Basically, adjudicators assess who seemed to win the logical argument, as it happened in a particular debate. They do this as an ‘ordinary intelligent voter’, applying a very small set of technical rules, which are there to facilitate, and not displace, logical argument. What this means to speakers in the debate, is basically that adjudicators will consider the extent to which each team makes a contribution in the debate, and the degree to which this contribution is persuasive in the context of the debate. For adjudicators, it is important to bear in mind that the context of the debate, and the arguments raised in it, are the criteria to be used in judging the outcome. The rest of this document aims to expand on the above statements. THE RULES: WHAT EVERY SPEAKER AND ADJUDICATOR SHOULD KNOW! There are only a small, exhaustive set of technical rules related to British Parliamentary debating. In other words, they are the only things which are actually rules of the style. Everything else is simply a tradition or practice which has developed over the years, and if you consider these to be actual rules, you are incorrect. This is not to say it is definitely not relevant to debating or judging, just that it isn’t a rule. When discussing rules, we’ll outline what the rule says, what it doesn’t say, and then how judges should assess rule infringements. Keep in mind while reading all of the following that the aim of the rules is to facilitate logical argument, not to constrain or displace it. THE BASIC STRUCTURE OF A BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE British Parliamentary debates involve four teams of two speakers each, namely Opening Government (OG), Opening Opposition (OO), Closing Government (CG) and Closing Opposition (CO). A speaker from the OG team always speak first (we call this speaker the Prime Minister), followed by a speaker from OO (The Leader of Opposition), with speakers from each side then alternating until the debate is done. In other words, the flow of speeches (and the names of the speakers) is as follows: Prime Minister | Leader of Opposition | Deputy Prime Minister | Deputy Leader of Opposition | Member of Government | Member of Opposition | Government Whip | Opposition Whip

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 3

Speeches are seven (7) minutes long. During a speech, between the first and sixth minutes, debaters from the other side can interject with short ‘points of information’ (POIs). POIs should be offered by a neutral statement, such as “on that point,” and should not be a headline of their content. The content of a point should only be provided by a speaker once it has been accepted. Each debate has a chair, who is the head of the adjudication panel, and who is responsible for calling speakers to the front and maintaining order. The chair is also responsible for managing the deliberation process between the adjudicators in deciding the outcome of the debate, and should also provide oral feedback to the teams in justifying the decision. SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF THE DEBATE 

The definition and parameters for the debate are to be provided by the Prime Minister

The first government speaker defines the debate. This means they tell the rest of the people in the room exactly what will be debated. They need to say what the debate is about and how it will be approached, leaving enough room in the debate for other teams to make some arguments. Note that merely stating the motion can constitute sufficiently ‘defining the debate’ as that sentence may be enough to do all of the above. Although, at other times a Prime Minister may decide to set up the debate in a particular manner by for instance introducing a model or by defining parameters in which it takes place. It is possible for the same motion to be usefully defined in differing ways, producing different legitimate debates. It is not the job of the judge to attack the definition. Only worry about the definition if teams in the debate do, otherwise the opening government has done a sufficient job. Remember, debates are about the motion as defined by the opening government. It is not about what you thought the words in the motion meant. Debates should be defined in accordance with the words in the motion. As outlined above, teams have some freedom in defining the debate, but there are certain things you may not do. For instance, you may not set a debate in a place and/or time which unfairly twists the motion in your side’s favour (as opposed to a reasonable and ordinary understanding of the wording of the motion). The issues arising in a debate and the arguments made in accordance thereof should be of general application to most situations that can take place in the context of the given motion. When setting the parameters of the debate, It is legitimate to exclude anomalous examples which may unfairly bias one side of the debate (e.g. ‘we’re banning cosmetic surgery like the motion says, but not for burns victims’). It is not legitimate to include only anomalous examples (e.g. ‘we’re banning cosmetic surgery like the motion says, but only for children’). It is not legitimate to unreasonably narrow debates to a specific country, or one instance of a wider phenomenon described in the motion. If a debate is to be solely about a specific country (or a specific set of countries) this will be stated in the motion.

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 4

Unless the definition is challenged (as explained below), the definition and parameters set by OG should be the context in which the debate takes place, and in which adjudicators should consider the debate. 

Challenging the definition: How and who?

If the definition provided by OG is illegitimate then it can be challenged. This must be done during the first opposition speech, or in a POI to the first government speech. The criterion for legitimacy is liberal: Is it a reasonable, debatable interpretation in light of the words in the motion? Speakers should not challenge a motion simply because it wasn’t what they expected if it is still reasonable and debatable. In accordance with this, judges should not consider whether a definition helps one team or another, but whether it can still be reasonably debated. Don’t punish teams for making a ‘definitional debate’. This might be boring, but being boring doesn’t automatically imply that a team loses. If a team challenges the definition, they must explain why. That is, they must argue that the definition as it stands is illegitimate. If the definition is successfully attacked as being insufficiently explanatory, the OG team should be penalised only to the extent to which a lack of detail prevents teams from making arguments. After a definition has been challenged, the debate should only be changed if a position is tautologically untrue, unconscionable or impossible to argue. If the motion does change, judges must weigh the contributions teams made to the debate as they found it at the time and in relation to their directly opposing team. That means OO should be evaluated in light of what OG ran and how this was challenged by OO. CG may then successfully change the definition based on the fact that it is OO’s new definition is also wrong, If this happens, OO’s case must then be compared to what was raised by CG. Arguments must not simply be disregarded because ‘the debate became about something else.’ Definitional challenges are, and should be, highly uncommon. When speakers do this unreasonably, it not only messes up the debate for all the teams, but also makes it difficult for adjudicators to judge. They should not be taken lightly, and should be avoided in all cases where the definition IS reasonable and debatable. 

The Opposition: What they should do

After OG has set up the debate in a particular manner, the opposition must say that we shouldn’t do it. This can be done by disagreeing with the principle being raised, by introducing a counterpolicy (i.e. by saying that something is better than doing the policy proposed by OG), or by simply showing how what currently happens is preferable to what is proposed. This is called setting up the clash. The clash should be reasonable and constitute actual disagreement with the OG case. When OO decides to raise a counterpolicy, it should be mutually exclusive with the OG policy. If it is not mutually exclusive, there is no actual disagreement and therefore not a proper challenge to the policy provided. There is no obligation to run a counterpolicy if you are in OO, and OO should not be penalised for choosing not to run one. The counterpolicy is one tool OO may use to say the policy should not be followed. Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 5

Whip Speeches and New Matter

In a debate both sides of the house should be given the chance to engage with one another’s arguments. This cannot happen if a speaker cannot be responded to, and accordingly new arguments may not be made in the opposition whip speech. While the Government Whip is technically allowed to make new arguments, it is not advisable to do so in light of this. In light of the above, it is important to know what a ‘new argument’ is. A new argument amounts to a novel contribution to the debate, and would include things like new reasons to do things, a new point claiming that new things will happen, or claims that new moral truths are the case. What does not constitute new arguments are the following: o o o o

New defences of arguments already made Rebuttal of arguments made by previous speakers New examples to support existing arguments Further analysis or explanation of arguments raised in previous speeches

If CO makes a new argument in their whip speech, ignore it. That is all you should do. Don’t penalise it, don’t make them lose. Just ignore it. New material in the CO whip speech is just bringing material in such a way that it can’t be credited. Therefore, teams are advised to avoid wasting their time by doing so. ON RULES AND ROLE FULFILMENT You will notice how we haven’t said anything above about the roles of specific speakers. That is because we have only mentioned express rules above. The notion of role fulfilment has developed as a practice to facilitate debates rather than dictate specific criteria for them, and should only be a concern insofar as someone breaks one of the specific rules, namely that: o o o

a prime minister must define a debate, an opposition must clash, and the opposition whip cannot make new arguments as defined above.

It is not a ‘role fulfilment’ issue, for instance, if: o o o

a team or speaker does not explicitly rebut their preceding teams or speakers; If a team or speaker contradicts a preceding team or their teammate; or If CG does not extend

Note that by not doing the above, teams would probably not do well, given that they have made an insufficient contribution. However, this is not as a result of breaking a rule. Adjudicators should simply exclude rule-breaking material from consideration rather than penalising it. This means that there is no such thing as an automatic placing due to breaking a rule, it simply means Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 6

that this material cannot be credited. Role fulfilment is not a metric to adjudicate debates. If you do so, you’ll get it wrong. Just judge the arguments. ADJUDICATING A DEBATE As human beings, we think differently and therefore view arguments differently as well. That being said, in a debate, an adjudicator should strive to be reasonable and objective, to put aside what you know (or think you know) and to listen to what speakers are saying. At the end of the debate, you should be able to give actual, logical reasons for why you think one team places above another. This is, naturally, easier said than done, because we are after all not emotionless robots. How we try and address this in practice is through a couple of ways: o o o


By having more than one person on an adjudication panel, to deal with any potential individual bias By providing guidelines on what adjudicators should be mindful of when listening to debates, and what they should (or should not) take into account By allowing for “clashes” with teams where there might be bias or a perception of bias (such as teams from our own university or people who we have or have had a close relationship with) By providing a score sheet with detailed criteria on how speakers should be marked

In this section, we will discuss things like how an adjudicator should approach a debate in order to ensure they stay objective, how arguments should be weighed up (bearing in mind that some teams literally have more time to prepare and develop arguments than others), and ultimately deciding who should place where. APPROACHING THE DEBATE AS AN ORDINARY INTELLIGENT VOTER As adjudicators, we should strive to remain objective, and to ensure that the debate (and the results of the debate) is about the speakers’ arguments, and not about our own. This, in short means that an adjudicator should never bring:   

their own knowledge into the debate their own opinions into the debate their personal feelings about speakers into the debate

In order to benchmark ourselves as adjudicators, an objective standard, that of the “Ordinary Intelligent Voter”, has been developed. Let us now look at what this means and how we can learn to think like one.

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 7

The ordinary intelligent voter is still a judge!

Thinking as the ‘ordinary intelligent voter’ means we should still adjudicate the debate, but in a specific manner - that is to evaluate the logical flow of arguments and determine the extent to which teams have seemed to win them. Ideally the ordinary intelligent voter: 1. Attempts to evaluate logically what the best thing to do is in a debate 2. Makes this evaluation based on the arguments made by the teams in the context of the motion 3. Determines how persuasive the arguments should be looking at various aspects and ‘tools’ used by speakers 

The ordinary intelligent voter is open to persuasion!

Of all the ‘tools’ speakers have access to in order to persuade an adjudicator, logic and the use of relevant examples are the most important, but things such as style, neatness, clarity, humour, etc. can also affect persuasiveness, and may count for or against a speech. 

The ordinary intelligent voter is not simply a voter

The unfortunate truth about elections is that often people are more swayed by empty, rabble-rousing rhetoric than actual arguments. The ordinary intelligent voter does not refer to this kind of voter. Instead, it is the type of person where, if the debate was a real-world policy, they would listen carefully to politicians’ reasons, read their manifestoes and policies, and then after persuading themselves using logic and facts, make their decision. Accordingly, the ordinary intelligent voter NEVER: o o

Makes up his mind by simply listening to populist rhetoric Lets a speaker win because they were funny or sounded more eloquent or clever

Ultimately, the vote should go towards the best policy or proposal, not the best person making it (unless they happen to be one and the same)! Good style enhances the persuasiveness of content and bad style makes it difficult to follow. However, the manner in which a speaker speaks should not be the reason for awarding the debate to a particular team. 

You are probably not as ordinary as the ordinary intelligent voter, but they are just as intelligent as you

Debaters, due to their nature and the fact that we study different fields, often know large amounts of knowledge and technical language compared to others. This, in actual fact, makes us different from the ordinary intelligent voter. The ordinary intelligent person has the sort of knowledge you’d expect from someone who generally knows what is going on in the world, and who knows how to find out more if need be. They are not experts in any particular field, and do not know technical language bound to any particular field of study. That being said, while the ordinary intelligent person may not know as much as you do, they are genuinely intelligent, and should be able to understand something if it is properly explained to them.

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 8

As adjudicators, you should be aware of knowledge that you possess that might help or harm a particular side’s case, and make sure that you don’t bring it into the debate. You should also not penalise someone for stating something which you specifically know to be wrong, unless it is in fact generally known to be so, or attacked by the other side. If a speaker mentions something which you know of, but doesn’t actually go to the length of explaining what it means or showing how it is relevant, you should not fill in the gaps or give the speaker the benefit of the doubt. Instead, simply disregard it as if it had never been stated properly. 

The ordinary intelligent voter does not come from a particular country or speak in a particular manner

While you might come from a particular country the ordinary intelligent voter does not. This means that they do not know how your specific country’s political, social, economic or legal systems work, and you cannot take for granted that they do, even if you believe they do or should. Therefore, examples should always be fully elaborated on. Also, as the tournament is run in English, you can expect the ordinary intelligent voter to have a decent general ability to speak the language. However, bear in mind that people may have different ways of saying certain things, whereas the ordinary intelligent voter does not. This means that you should be arguing in a way that makes your case accessible, by making your English generally accessible. Making your case accessible is not the same thing as dumbing it down, and the ability a speaker to relay difficult concept in a simplistic manner will often add to their persuasiveness! HOW AN ADJUDICATOR SHOULD JUDGE TEAMS AND SPEAKERS It is important that speakers understand how an adjudicator approaches a debate, in order for everyone to be on the same page. If adjudicators are simply allowed to take things into account in whatever way they see fit, this is unfair to all the speakers in a debate. On the other side, it is also important for speakers to know and understand that an adjudicator approaches a debate differently to them, and to understand how and why this is the case, so that they are able to prepare and argue accordingly. 

Always remember the aims and nature of debate

Basically, every team in the debate, depending on the side they’re on, have to show that we should (or should not) do a particular thing, or that a particular principle is correct or not. Every team in the debate therefore has the same level of burden of proof, there is no position that has to do “less” to be able to win a debate. It isn’t enough for opposition to ‘question’ what the government wants to do – they need to show how what the government wants to do is wrong or how it will make things worse than it already is! It is also not a problem if there are issues which government does not address in their policy because they choose to focus on other aspects. It is practically impossible for government to solve all problems, just like opposition will not be able to outright show how a government policy will never work, and this is also not what an adjudicator should expect. It is wrong for an adjudicator to say ‘I agree that your case is the most persuasive overall, but because it doesn’t address one particular problem that was mentioned, it unfortunately fell flat.”

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 9

It is important to remember that a debate happens in theory and not in the real world. Even though we often use the real world as a basis for motions, it is not acceptable for a team to simply say “This will never happen in the real world.” These aren’t arguments about whether something is good or not; they are arguments about whether people are likely to do it. They are irrelevant, and should receive no credit whatsoever. However, it may be that there are related arguments about why the proposed case is a bad idea in practice, which are perfectly acceptable forms of analysis. Teams should make these arguments instead. 

Determining the criteria: What you should be looking at when deciding the debate

Sometimes, a team with a good idea or principle may end up losing a debate, mainly due to the fact that they themselves never actually showed why the idea or principle should be followed. It is important to note that, when adjudicating, the “how” can be just as important as the “why”. It is not the job of an adjudicator to agree with the team’s principle, but to assess whether their case actually supports it. With regard to such criteria, speakers will sometimes state what they believe needs to be proved in order to win their case, and sometimes there will be intense disagreement as to what is truly relevant. Then again, at other times it will be so obvious that it is simply assumed that everyone knows what the criteria are for determining whether a particular case is good or bad. If the speakers seem to be in agreement about what the important themes or principles are in a debate, those should be used to determine who has won the debate. It becomes a little bit trickier when speakers do not agree. In such cases, it is important for an adjudicator to always use criteria that are relevant and can be reasonably derived from the debate, rather than just making up their own. Ideally, an adjudicator must be able to show why the criteria that they used were, in fact, the most relevant and reasonable ones, just like a speaker would often have to do. 

Never make a team’s argument on their behalf

The outcome of the debate must only depend on what the teams do and don’t say. Don’t invent arguments for teams, and don’t complete arguments or rebut arguments on their behalf. Sometimes you’ll hear (or have the urge to say) that a speaker “was getting at a good point” even if they “didn’t quite get there”. This is just an excuse to invent an argument or fill in the blanks to an incomplete one. Don’t do it or allow for it to happen. Naturally, you also cannot penalise a team for NOT MAKING an argument which you feel should have been made (or not making an argument in the way which you would have made it). Only what has been brought up in a debate by the speakers must ultimately be assessed. 

Assessing whether a case “stands”

It is not an adjudicator’s job to rebut a case when teams have not. Also, we cannot simply consider claims invalid just because we disagree, or because we can see holes in their arguments. Arguments are seen to “stand” once they are properly made and until they are properly responded to. Here it is important to distinguish between a properly made argument, and a point. A single statement or two,

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 10

without any proper analysis or backing up, is not a properly made argument but merely an assertion, and may be disregarded. The above principle has an important effect, namely if a team makes arguments that opposing teams ignore, those arguments automatically still stand. It is important to note this, as sometimes speakers and adjudicators assume that ignoring an argument is some kind of sign that it is irrelevant because “the debate has moved away from it”. This is not the case, as we do not pass judgment on why a case still stands, but rather focus on the fact that it does. There is an obvious exception to this: If an argument is clearly absurd or irrelevant (at least, to any reasonable person) and if it was only a small part of the speaker’s case, then it is reasonable for a team to decide to spend their time dealing with stronger arguments. It is therefore important to note what arguments have been properly rebutted when adjudicating. Note that while many speakers will tell you when they are rebutting, they do not have to do so. It is up to the adjudicator to determine whether arguments were made to deal with the case that was raised on the other side. If a team does not deal with all the arguments made by the other side, an adjudicator does not punish that team. Remember, there might be “arguments” which are nothing more than assertions or obviously absurd/irrelevant, in which case a smart speaker will decide to spend more time building their own case than rebutting a bad one. 

Assessing whether a case is “strong” or “weak”

The relative strength or weakness of a case is determined by how persuasive the arguments presented by the team are, which is ultimately determined by the logic of those arguments. There are different ways to determine the persuasiveness of a case, which generally includes: o o o o

The level of analysis The level of rebuttal The style and structure of a speech The use of relevant examples

There are some things which will negatively affect the persuasiveness of a team, such as: o o

Speakers contradicting themselves, their partners or the other team on their side The use of fallacies

There are also certain things which are mostly irrelevant when determining whether a case is “strong” or “weak” such as: o o o

The number of arguments a team makes How “sophisticated” the argument sounds How interesting the argument sounds

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 11

Once an argument has been made, what matters most is how important its conclusion seems to be in the debate. This can sometimes be determined by looking at how much has been said about the particular argument, the extent to which people have rebutted (or tried to rebut) it seems, and how well the argument has remained standing. It is not about whether the adjudicator thinks the argument is important personally, but whether and to what extent it was important to the particular debate between the teams. 

Comparing teams to one another

Ideally, when ranking teams in the debate, you should compare them to one another, in order to see who ranks above who, and why. In order for this to happen, an adjudicator must bear in mind that different teams have different contexts both in the debate, and when preparing for it. Practically speaking, teams in the second half of the debate have more time to prepare and refine their case, and it is therefore often easier to come across as sounding more persuasive. It also becomes trickier to compare some teams due to them having no direct engagement and a likelihood that teams in the first half may not have any arguments left standing (for this reason, it is often difficult comparing OG to CO, for instance). As a result, inexperienced adjudicators often favour closing teams to be winners simply because they are adjudicating them incorrectly. In order to avoid this, it becomes very important to look at what the different teams have contributed to the debate given these aspects. The focus should therefore be on the new things that a team brings to the table. Sometimes it is easy to determine what is new: Anything that a team says that has not already been said yet (or is different) is a new contribution and should be assessed. This includes new arguments, rebuttal, examples, and analysis. New arguments and rebuttal are easy to identify, but other forms of new material may be trickier. A closing team should never be “rewarded” for making an argument sound better than an opening team if the opening team has already made it. It’s not the job of the closing teams to simply rehash or try to “grab” the arguments from their opening teams, but anything they do improve on should be credited to them. When it comes to comparing teams from the opening half to teams from the closing half, an adjudicator should ask themselves the following questions: o o o

To what extent is the new material relevant? Does the new material take the debate further, given the motion and how it was dealt with in the opening half? If the matter directly relates to what a team in the opening half were talking about, to what extent is the contribution from the closing team new, original and different?

Other aspects that adjudicators can also take into account include engagement between different teams through POIs, and whether, with regards to opening half teams, there are still arguments which are left standing or still being attacked and/or analysed by closing half teams. Note that there are no automatic deductions made on POIs. They are only taken into account as far as the team's overall responsiveness and engagement is concerned. As long as an adjudicator remembers the different contexts of the different teams, this comparison should not be too difficult.

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 12

Adjudicators must remember that there is no such thing as an automatic win or loss. Adjudication can only happen on a comparative level by evaluating how each team contributed to the debate and how important these contributions are in relation to those provided by the other teams. AFTER THE SPEECHES: HOW ADJUDICATORS SHOULD MAKE THEIR DECISIONS Due to the fact that there is normally very limited time to make a decision, it is very important for the chair of the adjudication panel to effectively manage their time and the discussion itself. This becomes even more important in later rounds where the teams may be very close to one another, and where different adjudicators may have different views as to which team won. 

Determine the initial rankings of individual adjudicators

The chair should begin by asking each panel member to give their independent ranking of the teams. This is simply a first impression, and helps to determine whether there might be consensus between the adjudicators and, if not, to what extent there are differences which should be discussed. Adjudicators should not feel any pressure to agree or disagree with one another or the chair in their initial call, as we are all human, and are allowed to change our minds. It is also not a problem to be honest about the fact that there might be some things you did not properly understand, or that your own views may have influenced your call (in fact, being honest with yourself and others is one of the best way to maintain your objectivity). 

If there is consensus, adjudicators should still discuss the result

Even if everyone has the same ranking, this does not mean the job of the panel is over! Speakers might disagree, even if the panel doesn’t, so it is important to have proper feedback to give to speakers, and there might still be some discussion as to how close the teams were and what the speaker points should be. 

If there is not consensus, discuss to what extent there might be

It might be that adjudicators view a debate somewhat differently, but they agree in principle which two teams should place either first or second, or which team should place last. Clearing up to what extent adjudicators agree on relative rankings helps to focus the discussion so that only unresolved team rankings are discussed. If it is a case where most adjudicators share the same view, ask for the minority to defend their position. Focus on specific, rather than general differences between the majority and minority opinion. For instance, if the difference is only about a particular argument or team, talk about that rather than other things. If there is total disagreement between all adjudicators, don’t panic! The chair should then set out the arguments of each teams, and allow each adjudicator some time to discuss how they viewed the relative strength of each argument and compared the teams. If there is a clear mistake with regards to how a particular argument of a team was interpreted, or if an argument was maybe mistakenly Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 13

attributed to a closing team instead of an opening team, this will become apparent now, and the chair should address it. Often this process will show to what extent different adjudicators actually DO agree with one another, and help to better frame the discussion from there on in. Don’t be afraid to ask during this process whether any adjudicators have changed their minds. 

If all else fails, vote!

Sometimes it is simply impossible to reach consensus. When this becomes clear, a chair should call a vote in order to move on. If need be, several votes can be called to determine, through a process of elimination, the rankings of the teams. AWARDING SPEAKER SCORES Once a ranking has been decided upon, the chair should lead a quick determination of speaker scores. It is important to note that speaker scores should reflect the majority decision and be in accordance with the Speaker Score Scale as determined by the Chief Adjudication Panel, and not be a random number as a result of a compromise between various opinions or for any other reason. 

The Speaker Score Scale

The Speaker Score Scale below has rough and general descriptions of where your speaker scores should fall given the general characteristics of the speech. Bear in mind that not all speeches will fit all of the criteria in a given category, so it is an adjudicator’s job to find the best fit. Importantly, please do use the full range, and please do not feel that certain debates should automatically get certain mark ranges. Speaker Points 90-100






This is a truly brilliant speech. The ideas are clearly expressed, well-integrated and extremely clever, and made you consider this debate/issue at a level you never had before. When your friends and family ask why you’re spending your weekends ‘doing debating’, this is the speech you’d like to show them. These should be quite rare.


Very Good

This speech is good, with no overt qualifications. Aspects such as structure (insofar as the speech and argument is easy to follow and remember), analysis (especially the ability to identify contentious points in the debate), rebuttal (showing how the counter-arguments actually relate to and attack arguments made by the previous speaker), the ability to argue principle and practice (depending on what is necessary and relevant) are all present in reasonable quantities, although you possibly might have seen better speeches. When the speaker asks you for feedback, you will be able to provide specific criticism, but have almost nothing to give them that they don’t probably already know or understand on some basic level. You’d be surprised if this speaker didn’t break, if they gave more speeches like this one.

You feel like your whole brain is crying, both at the awesomeness of this speech and at the painful knowledge that you will never be this good. All previous thoughts or ideas you had feel hopelessly inadequate next to the brilliance of this speaker’s points, and there isn’t a single flaw in their structure, logic or delivery.

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 14



A generally solid, enjoyable speech. There are some good ideas in here, with a reasonable attempt at an explanation of those ideas, and at least some engagement with the rest of the debate. There are also likely a number of flaws that stop it from being great, but not enough to detriment the overall internal consistency of the argument, and enough good ideas or moments of clarity that you wouldn't be averse to seeing this speaker again. This is the type of speaker who will have a shot at breaking, although probably (ironically) on speaker points.



Equal parts good and bad. The speaker made a few arguments, none of which were spectacular, none of which were terrible, and ticked the basic boxes of debating, showing (at least) some flair, skill and depth. This speech is essentially the colour grey turned into 7 minutes of talking – nothing in it made you want to throw things at the speaker, but nothing in it hugely endeared them to you either.



This speech showed signs of competence, but fell down in a few key areas. Maybe it was a lack of structure, maybe their points just weren’t well explained, maybe they were a closing team and barely mentioned the opening half in their speech. Whatever the reason, this speech was very definitely “not good”, though there’s enough substance in there that you don’t want to punish the speaker too much.



Moving into the area where we might tentatively, but accurately, term a speech “bad”. Very little of what this speaker said made sense. The bits that did weren't well-argued, compelling or relevant. Serious tactical errors, such as shafts, internal contradictions, or a complete lack of role fulfilment or engagement are likely to be seen here.



Oh man. This speaker is unlikely to have made time, and if they did, you were probably hoping they wouldn’t. Arguments are wafer-thin and tangential at best. Engagement amounts to them saying “Shut up! That’s why!” to opposing points. If you draw this team in a later round, you will seriously consider feigning death to avoid a repeat of this experience.



You feel like your whole brain is crying, because literally every word this speaker said caused you physical pain. Nothing in this speech could be described as an argument. Most of it could barely be described as ‘talking out loud’. When you quote extracts from this speech at the social, people will assume that you are lying for comic effect.

GIVING FEEDBACK AFTER THE DECISION After the ranking decision has been made and the speaker’s scores have been awarded, an adjudicator’s job is almost over, but not quite. At this point in time, the chair will normally deliver the feedback from the adjudication panel in justifying their decision. Where a chair has called for a vote and they were in the minority, they may decide to ask one of the other members of the panel to provide the feedback. If the chair decides to still provide feedback, they must provide the majority position, though they should state that they disagreed with it. 

Think of adjudication feedback as similar to a debate speech

The most important thing that the adjudication feedback should be comprised of is the reasons for the decision that the adjudicators have made. The feedback itself should therefore present a logical argument for the ranking, using as evidence the arguments made in the debate and how they influenced the judges. It should serve to persuade the speakers (just like how they tried to persuade Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 15

you!) that the ranking of the teams, given what was said in the debate, how it was said, and by whom it was said, is reasonable. Speakers don’t always have to agree with the call (some of them never will!), but the majority has to at least feel that the panel applied their mind to the debate. Ideally, a feedback speech should have the following structure: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Provide a general overview of the debate, and justify what the adjudication panel felt was relevant and took into account when making their decisions; Announce the ranking of the teams; Go through the rankings in a comparative manner, showing how and why one placed higher or lower than another team; Provide more detailed feedback if necessary and if time allows.

With reference to the above process, steps 1 and 3 are the most important. It will become very clear to the speakers during step 1 if the panel saw the debate differently to some (or all) of the speakers. There is a difference between viewing the debate differently to speakers (which is perfectly fine as long as the adjudicators can say why and how), and the adjudicators not following the debate. As long as you can provide reasons for your point of view and criteria used, this should not be a problem. With regards to step 3, comparing teams involves more than making basic or unjustified statements about why, for instance, OG placed higher than CO. It requires that you explain the relative interaction between the teams (and their arguments), and how the teams were compared to one another to establish who had the better argument. Just like you want a speaker during the debate to be structured, clear, and use relevant examples, an adjudicator should strive to do the same when delivering feedback – think of it as your turn to debate! Be specific and be detailed, as the vague use of descriptive words is not going to persuade anyone. You should rather identify arguments, whether and how they were responded to, and what the impact was of what remained standing. You should also identify which teams were given credit for what arguments, and how this influenced your decision. PROVIDING ADVICE TO TEAMS Sometimes adjudicators will feel the need to provide advice to speakers after the debate. Bear in mind that this should never be confused with the reasons for the decision. Advice is often about what speakers didn’t do or say, and should NEVER be taken into account when a decision is made, nor should speakers be made to feel as if it did. If you are going to provide advice during your feedback speech, you should clearly separate it from the reasons for the decision, and ideally leave it for the end of the feedback speech. If you are going to provide advice for a specific team or speaker in public, it should be constructive and general. If people want individual feedback, ask them to approach you at a later stage.

Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 16

IN CONCLUSION As should be clear from this manual, basically everything boils down to how persuasive a debater can be by using logic as a point of departure for their arguments and analysis. This counts not only for speakers when trying to persuade adjudicators, but also for adjudicators when making and justifying their decisions. If this is always kept in mind, debating at the tournament should always run smoothly.


Bush Banter 2013 Debate Manual

Page 17

Bush banter debate manual  
Bush banter debate manual  

The official SAUDC 2013 Debate manual compiled by the CAP of the tournament