As debaters become more experienced, patterns between motions become obvious. One of those patterns is theme. Debates about a certain theme have consistent arguments or pieces of analysis that get reused in different debates. For example, debates about the environment will often talk about how a certain action will negatively or positively impact the environment. SPLEEM is an acronym for beginner debaters to figure out the themes in a debate.
The resolution impacts a group of people or has to deal with the relationship between government and their citizens. Common arguments/points of discussion: rights analysis, or vulnerable actors.
The resolution deals with politics, or is related to government. Common arguments/points of discussion: the role of government, how governments interact with one another, or internal workings of one country's political system.
The resolution involves the courts, controversial laws, the police, or other actors in the legal system. Common arguments/points of discussion: the role of the courts, rights and freedoms, and how the justice system is impacted.
The resolution presents a moral dilemma or involves an actor being harmed. Common arguments/points of discussion: what is best for x person, or how we can justify a morally dubious action for a desired outcome.
The resolution discusses an action that will impact the environment, or the motion impacts the environment as a side effect. Common arguments/points of discussion: the importance of the environment, x thing will impact the environment.
The resolution explicitly discusses economics, or you can think of an economic impact. Common arguments/point of discussion: how it impacts people/businesses/country.
The resolution presents a moral dilemma or an actor is being harmed. Common arguments/points of discussion: solution to a moral dilemma, or why x actor has the moral obligation to help.
The resolution discusses the use of force, or the motion is about international relations and there is an implied sense of danger. Common arguments/points of discussion: ethical issues of military intervention, sovereignty, or discussion of the conflict.
Why is SPLEEM useful?
- SPLEEM helps debaters think of arguments they wouldn’t normally brainstorm by themselves. It is easy to fall into the pattern of just preparing the arguments you think of first, but they might not be the best arguments, or the most important arguments.
- Debates often cover many different key themes. Not every debate will have every part of SPLEEM, but they frequently have 3-4.
- If you can cover more areas of SPLEEM, your case will be harder to clash with and take down because you are covering many areas instead of just 1.
- When you can identify motions by their common themes, it is easier to anticipate the big ideas in a round. This can be useful when creating themes/questions for your reply. Practice identifying motions by common theme!