Resources for Students

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Resources for Students FAQs


When teams are given a resolution, the proposition has several jobs including building a model or case stance, and defining the debate. Defining the terms means explaining what the important words in the motion mean and what the debate will look like. Most of the time when the debate needs a model, the definitions are melded into the model. But sometimes a debate doesn’t need a detailed model in which case you rely only on definitions. How do we make definitions?

  1. Find the important words in the motion 

    Resolutions can have a lot of words in them, and most of them don’t need to be defined. The words that need definitions are the ones that could drastically change the meaning of the motion depending on how you define them. Try identifying the important words in the following motions:

    THW lower the voting age 

    TH- what country or countries are we talking about? The debate is very different depending

    Lower- don’t define the word lower, but explain by how much you would be lowering.

    In this case you don’t need to define voting age, because it is fairly self-explanatory

     THW significantly increase funding in the arts

    TH- where is the motion being set, and who is giving funding

    The arts- any forms in particular? All arts? 

    In this case you would want to combine it with a rough model/case stance. How much would you increase, who you be providing funding and who would be receiving. 

  2. Create fair definitions for your selected words

    Once you have decided what words need definitions, you need to actually define them. Your goal is to lay the foundation for the highest quality debate, not the easy win. Definitions should be fair for both sides, while taking out silly or problematic arguments. While all definitions should be this way, pay specific attention to where the motion is being set, and if an action is provided who will carry it out. Try creating some definitions for the following motions:

    THW allow paid surrogacy 

    THW force politicians and their families to use public services 

    THR the rise of self-publishing 

  3. Create a frame for the debate 

    When you are first learning to create definitions and models, it’s perfectly acceptable to just list them out to provide context for the round. But as you get more experienced, use your model and definitions as an opportunity to explain to your opponents and the judges what you think the debate is about. By the end of the first minute, everyone should have a very clear idea what is happening in the round. Instead of simply listing out the definitions, try other methods of introducing the resolution: “On government, we support the following…” “The issue of the debate today is…” “The resolution is x, by this we mean…” This helps the introduction feel less mechanical, and provides a narrative for the round. 

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