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What's the best debate format?
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British Parliamentary format allows for the most complex and nuanced ideas

The format emphasizes the explanation of ideas instead of trying to find evidence or expert opinion. Therefore, it allows speakers to think instead of to simply repeat someone else's words.

The Argument

In the British Parliamentary format, debaters are required to come up with entire cases and speeches just 15 minutes after a topic is announced.[1] This requires debaters to think on their feet and apply what they already know to an original topic. Because of this, British Parliamentary debates are able to escape from the trap of simply memorizing statistics and facts into what debate should truly be about: a discussion of human nature. Debaters have an opportunity to think about the fundamental and shared experiences of human beings around the world, making British Parliamentary an exercise in using thinking and arguing to empathize. Additionally, British Parliamentary is also special because it involves two separate houses— an opening and a closing. Therefore, to win, closing teams must find a way to distinguish themselves from the opening teams on the same side as them and give unique reasons for why their side is better.[1] This means that in British Parliamentary debates, the content is often not just a discussion of the intuitive arguments that have already been discussed over and over, but also the outside-of-the-box ones that had rarely been talked about—allowing for newer ideas to emerge and challenging debaters to think in a new way.

Counter arguments

Debating shouldn’t just be a bunch of elite college students talking about abstract concepts. It should be grounded in research and evidence. Fifteen minutes without any internet is nowhere near enough for an informed, critical debate to happen. Instead, the team that happens to be more knowledgeable or experienced ends up winning. It is good to encourage debaters to do research and learn about concepts before talking about them. Additionally, given that British Parliamentary places such an overemphasis on what is new instead of what is good, there is very little depth of analysis as teams scramble to cover as much ground as possible.



[P1] The fact that prep time is just 15 minutes forces debaters to think on their feet and relate the topic to what they already know. [P2] The two houses force debaters to think of new ideas in order to extend the debate.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] 15 minutes is nowhere near enough time for a well-informed debate to occur. [Rejecting P2] Debate should be about exploring depth, not covering new ground.


This page was last edited on Tuesday, 10 Nov 2020 at 04:35 UTC

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