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What is Comparative?

Comparative is a debate word that means comparing and weighing arguments in a debate. It is a strategy that debaters will use to show how they have won the debate. You typically see comparative being used in the top rooms of intermediate, or in the top rooms of high school debate. 

 Similar to clash, comparative is a way to take down your opponents arguments or case stance, however, you can do this without actually proving their case “wrong”. You compare the “worlds” that each side represents, and then you prove why yours is better.

Steps for a Basic Comparative

  1. Write out a fair representation of both sides. This can be with either:
    1. Two opposing arguments
    2. Your two opposing cases/case stances

    It is important to make sure that your representation of the other side is fair. Comparative is a strategy that only works when your judges believe you are being accurate about the round. That does not mean that you cannot make your side sound positive, it just means that you need to include the real material your opponents talk about.

  2. Deal with your opponents best case scenario:

    Lots of the time in debate, it is easy to look at your opponent’s case, see what happens in the worst-case scenario, and then only clash with that. However, in a comparative, you are trying to frame the debate with what happens most of the time on each side. 

  3. Explain the impacts of each side:

    There are many different ways that you can frame the impacts of each side, but try and find the most powerful ones. Find the round winning arguments and discuss their impacts. Compare the two outcomes for your judges. 

  4. Give your judges a choice:

    The easiest way to frame the final sentences of your comparative should be giving your judges a choice. However, you want this choice to be framed for your side. After you have presented them with both cases, and explained the impacts, describe why your side is preferable. It is okay, in a comparative, and necessary, to admit that you have harms on your side of the house. When you do this, you are telling the judge that you understand how the debate happened. Then, you explain how even with those harms, you are preferable to the other side because  of x. 

When to use comparative

  1. For Beginners

    If you are just starting to practice, your comparative are during replies. After theming the round, present your judges with the outcomes for both sides. The best time to use it can either be:

    1. After each reply question you could do a mini comparative.
    2. You could do it in the last 30-45 seconds of your reply, that way it is the last thing your judge thinks about, and they will use it either when deciding the debate, or to compare you to the next reply speaker.
  2. For more advanced people

    If you have mastered the comparative in the circumstances showed above, it is time to move on to a harder version of the skill. Sometimes, experienced debaters will weave clash in their arguments. So they might say a point, and then explain how that disproves an opponents' argument.

    Once you are practiced with comparative, you can do the same thing. Comparing your impacts to the other side’s impacts after, and during each argument, will mean that you have:

    • More engagement
    • Better Clash, and
    • An easier time with the reply

    Try weaving it into your refutation. As a response to an argument, if you are lacking a response that will disprove your opponent’s point, explain why on the comparative the judges should still prefer your world. 

An example of comparative

(Motion: THW deny developmental aid to countries who violate human rights)

"My opponents told you that states are currently denying human rights to their citizens and that denying aid is the only way to incentivise change. We acknowledged that human rights abuses are terrible, however, we questioned the outcome they proposed. In their best case scenario, some nations will be able to change and grant rights to their citizens. However, the vast majority of states won't have the capacity to do so without development aid. They may be able to grant those rights on paper, but they are meaningless unless individuals are able to access them. If a state can't provide basic necessities like water, infrastructure, or protected borders, individuals don't have the time, nor do they feel secure enough to exercise many of their primary rights. This is where our two characterizations compete. So here is the comparative. In our world, yes, you still have states harming the rights of their citizens, but that will largely occur on either side of the house. We present to you a world where we at least protect the way for citizens to access their most basic human rights, and a way for governments to keep building a better society."


  1. Find a fair, two sided motion
  2. Do a “rough prep” of both sides. This means make an outline for 3 arguments, and basic analysis under each one. 
  3. Practice delivering a comparative from the perspective of each side. Use the same arguments, but practice framing them so the side you are on would win. 

**If you are practicing with other debaters or a coach, you can have them prep one side, you another, and each deliver one comparative as well

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