Resources for Parents

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Prepping for Tournaments

Prepared tournaments

A prepared tournament is one where SEDA releases the debate motion in advance. This means that judges are expecting you to know much more about a topic. Let’s say SEDA has just released the motion for a tournament, how should you prepare? 

Step one: read the tournament brief

For impromptu and prepared tournaments, SEDA creates a short document designed to help you begin your search for information. More importantly, everyone else has access to the package, and you want to know what your opponents know. Here are some things to look for in the package.

  • Look at any tips the writer gives you. In the best packages, the writer includes a discussion of key themes and topics that are related to the motion. The writers of research packages are often alumni, so they have a good idea of what would be relevant in a motion.
  • Scan for reoccurring themes and key words. These will help you find better quality articles during your research.

Step two: read more

The briefing paper is not meant to be your only tool for a tournament. Use the recommended terms, themes, and links to begin your research. 

  • Use the research package as a starting point and look up reoccurring terms in the package
  • If you’re stuck use Wikipedia as a starting location to finding more reputable sources
  • Ask your teacher for tips on research and analyzing how reputable sources are

Step three: find a partner

Preferably one from your club, but if you don’t have a club or there is an odd number of people, you can partner with someone from another school. Some tips on picking a partner.

  • Your partner should be of a similar level of intensity. Partners with different levels of interest or investment in debate tend to struggle
  • Different styles and interests can complement each other. Partners who are opposite in style provide a good dynamic for judges to watch

Once you’ve picked your partner, meet together to discuss what research you have gathered to build a group understanding of the topic

Step four: basic prep

Apply your tools of prepping for an impromptu motion. If you don’t have any experience with impromptu (or want more techniques) check out our lesson on impromptu prep. Here we’ll just give you the basics:

  • Why are we having this debate
  • Who is involved in this debate
  • Brainstorm possible arguments on both sides
  • Develop a model/definition for proposition

Step five: refine and practice

Once you have a basic outline of your proposition and opposition cases, it is time to critique them. 

  • Take each case and put yourself in the position of the opposite side. What would you attack? Discuss with your partner ways to protect your cases from attack
  • Take extra time to walk through your model. Motions are selected for a prepared tournament for one of two reasons: they have a lot of complicated spec (specific knowledge), or the model is complicated. Read about building models.
  • Once you’ve found the holes in your case, write out your arguments in full making sure you have lots of evidence included in each argument. 
  • If there are any teams prepping but not attending the tournament, have a practice debate to work through any issues. This will also help you prepare potential lines of refutation, and POIs

Impromptu tournaments

 In SEDA, impromptu tournaments have a theme that the motions will be centered around. Coming into the tournament, you can only bring in paper, pens and pencils, a dictionary, and an almanac. Motions are released a half-hour before each round. How do you prepare for motions you don’t know?

Step one: read the tournament brief  

Each SEDA tournament has a research package prepared for them. They are particularly important for impromptu tournaments. Curators of the research packages make impromptu packages to teach debaters the required knowledge for the impromptu topics, without revealing the motions. Some things you should look for in the research package:

  • Key themes or ideas asked within the brief
  • Highlighted terms and definitions in the beginning of the package 

Step two: read more

Do more reading on your own to fill out your understanding of the theme

  • Read our posts about that theme in the resource section
  • Read the news, scanning for articles in the past several months about the chosen theme
  • Read journals or other articles on the topic 

Step three: find a partner

Preferably one from your club, but if you don’t have a club or there is an odd number of people, you can partner with someone from another school. Some tips on picking a partner.

  • Your partner should be of a similar level of intensity. Partners with different levels of interest or investment in debate tend to struggle
  • Different styles and interests can complement each other. Partners who are opposite in style provide a good dynamic for judges to watch

Step four: practice prepping

One of the most challenging elements of an impromptu tournament is the limited period you have to build a case. In most tournaments, you are given 30 minutes. You should strart by prepping cases. If you’re just beginning, start by giving yourself 40 minutes, and slowly work your way down to 20 minutes as you get more efficient. Check out our guide to prepping for impromptu and practice on motions that fit into the upcoming tournaments theme. 

  • If you have other friends in debate, work in larger groups when you’re first starting to practice prep
  • Identify common arguments or pieces of information that are useful in multiple debates
  • Work out a prep system with your partner so you feel comfortable during the tournament 

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