Everyone has made an argument before. If you’ve ever persuaded your parents to let you out of the house late, or convinced your teacher to raise your grade, you already know the basics of building an argument. In debate, argumentation is the foundation of every speech. In order to be successful at debate, developing the skills to make a persuasive, organized argument is key.
When constructing an argument for any case, it’s important to have organization not just in your speech as a whole, but in your argument as well. For younger debaters learning the basics of argumentation, we use an acronym to remember the structure of each argument.
Before developing an argument you need to tell the judges what your argument is about. A label should clarify to your judges the main idea of your argument in less than a sentence.
Once you’ve told the judges what your argument is about, you need to explain what exactly you meant. This section of your argument is also referred to as analysis. It is very important that as you explain your argument you walk your judge logically through the steps of your point. Your ultimate goal is to show the judges why your argument is true.
After explaining why your argument is true, it is very useful to provide an example or evidence to support your claim. In a prepared motion, you might use statistics or a very specific example. But in an impromptu round, it is unlikely that you know tons about the topic. If you do, that’s great! Otherwise, using general examples or linking your argument to another idea can be just as useful. Make sure to explain why your example is relevant; if you don’t tie it to your argument, the example doesn’t serve a purpose.
A tie back is a few sentences explaining what makes your argument so important to the round and why it belongs in your case. Think of it as the concluding sentence in a written paragraph.
An example of LEET (motion: THW install bike lanes in major cities)
Label: Bike lanes are safer for cyclists
Explain: Both being on sidewalks and unprotected roads can be dangerous for cyclists. If unknowing pedestrians or cars fail to see cyclists, it can be incredibly dangerous. Cyclists are threatened in both places making cycling an inaccessible option for people.
Example: In New York city, the introduction of smart bike lanes led to a 56% reduction in injuries to all street users. This included large reductions for cyclists, pedestrians, and fewer collisions overall.
Tieback: Because bike lanes provide a safer environment for all traffic it is critical that we form protected bike lanes on all major streets.
How do I practice?
Pick a motion and a side. Think of one argument that you would want to make, then following the steps of LEET, try to fill out your argument. When it’s written ask yourself:
- Does my argument have an introduction that would tell the judges what I was going to say?
- Does my argument have several lines explaining my topic sentence? Would judges now think my argument was true?
- Does my argument have examples or evidence that I can link to the explanation?
- Did I explain why my evidence is important or directly related to my argument?
- Does my argument have a concluding sentence that explains why my argument matters?
Practicing with a partner also helps. Even if you think your argument makes sense, another person might not understand it. Deliver arguments to another person and ask them the questions. If your argument doesn’t meet all the elements of LEET, how could you improve it?