Debate is a form of speech made either in support of or against a position. It is usually a formal occasion and is a competition between two sides with each side arguing for or against a motion (topic) that is usually stated in a positive sense. Eg. “A female president in Ghana is possible.” The motion is always put in inverted commas and students/candidates are strongly advised that when quoting in their writing, it should be written the same way as it appears in the question and put in inverted commas.
A winner is declared by the panel of judges at the end of the debate. There is usually a main speaker and a supporting speaker for each side. The main speaker usually presents the side’s major points and the supporting speaker is to rebut or refute the opponent’s points and add other points to the ones raised by his main speaker to get more points.
SOME BASIC/COMMON TERMS IN DEBATE
- CHAIRMAN/CHAIRPERSON/CHAIR: This is the person who presides over the competition; one who steers the affairs of the competition to a successful end.
- PANEL OF JUDGES: A group of knowledgeable persons who are appointed to serve as judges and to declare a winner at the end of the debate.
- GUESTS: These are people who have been invited to grace the occasion.
- TIME KEEPER: A person who indicates to the debaters by ringing a bell or beating a drum when their time is exhausted.
- AUDIENCE: People who witness the competition.
- HOUSE: All the people who are present during the competition. Thus, the officials, the debators as well as the audience together form the house.
- MOTION: This is the topic to be debated on.
- OPPOSER: The side that speaks against the motion or the side that is not in support of the motion.
- PROPOSER: The side that speaks in favour of the motion or the side that supports the motion.
SOME DEBATE CUSTOMS
- Occasional reference to the chair and or the audience.
- The use of controlled humour.
- The use of rhetorical questions.
- The use of connectives/transitional words.
- Raising points for opponents.
- Rebuttal or refutation.
NOTE: Clarity of thought, simplicity of language/diction and straight-forward analysis are crucial. Also, accuracy, unity, coherence and emphasis (on strong points) are what make a good presentation.
THE FORMAT/GUIDELINES FOR WRITING A DEBATE
- TITLE/HEADING: (The same as in a formal speech) In some advanced examinations, the title may be omitted as it is no longer necessary. But is safer to write it since you may not know what the marking scheme requires.
- INTRODUCTION: This should be one paragraph and three main things are required:
- Address the house with vocatives (titles), not names; the address is done in order of importance and the persons to be addressed depend on the occasion. This indicates people who are present and so do not address a person who is absent. There should be consistency in the use of capital or small letters for the initial letters of the addressees. Thus, if you decide to use capital letters for the initial letters for the addressees, this should be sustained throughout without bringing in small letters for the initial letters. After the last addressee, bring a comma (not a period or full stop)
- State the motion; This should be written and put in inverted commas the same way as it appears in the question.
- Declare your stance/stand; Either you are in support or against the motion.
A SAMPLE INTRODUCTION
”Mr. Chairman, Panel of Judges, Distinguished Guests, Co-Debaters, Ladies and Gentlemen, the motion before the house this afternoon is ‘Various Educational Reforms have not made the needed impact in the development of the African child.’ I am the CEO of the mintupdates.com, a proud student of University of Africa. I rise strongly as the principal speaker to speak in favour of the motion.”
NOTE: Do not bring a full stop or period after the last addressee because at that point, a sentence has not been constructed. Most students bring a full stop and lose marks in the examination.
- 2nd PARAGRAPH:
In this paragraph, explain the key words in the motion (topic) briefly and state the motion in your own words as you have understood it and what it requires you to do. Here, do not quote the motion from the question but do a paraphrase (summary) in your own words. For example: “Chairman, permit me to explain the key words in the motion”. Various means are: “Educational means”…… “Reforms refer to”…..”Impact is simply explained as”…. “Development can be defined as”… “African child is”……”In all, the motion simply means that”…. OR “Putting all together, the motion seeks/seems to explain or mean that”….. OR “The motion requires me to……”
- 3rd PARAGRAPH
In this paragraph, raise some points for the opponent; points that are likely to be raised against your side. For example, if you are to speak for the motion, raise some points against the motion. The rationale is that you will have them rebutted or refuted when discussing your main points. Do not forget that one of the debate customs is rebuttal or refutation so it helps to score high marks. The points raised for the opponent should not be explained; just state them in simple sentences. They should not be more than your main points and make sure that by the time you finish discussing your own points, all the opponents’ points have been rebutted.
Note very well that due to the fact that your side is not really in support of those points raised for the opponent but because you raise them for purposes of rebuttal in order to render them weak, you are required to use certain expressions before stating each point. For example: “Mr. Chairman, my opponents may blindly say that”……OR “Mr. Chairman, my opponents may erroneously argue/say that”…… OR “It may be said that” …..OR “It may be mistakenly said that….”
- 4TH PARAGRAPH
From this paragraph to the 10th or 11th paragraph (depending on the number of points) you have to discuss your major points in support of your side/stance and to rebut those of his opponents. Each paragraph must discuss one point or idea only, well developed with thought-provoking argument, accurate facts, figures, statistics and all the customs of a good debate discussed earlier. In the course of your discussion or analysis, bring in one of the opponent’s points and rebut it by making a strong case for your side/point.
NOTE: Before you start discussing your own points, you may say:
”Mr. Chairman, in spite of the above weak points that my opponents are likely to raise to throw dust into the eyes of the house, I still remain my stance and vehemently oppose the motion as I raise the following cogent and undisputable points to rebut those of my opponents. To start with, Mr. Chairman,… (add your first point)”
- CONCLUSION (LAST PARAGRAPH)
In this last paragraph, you are required to re-address the house (everybody) as you have done in the introduction. Summarise your points, and express the hope that based on the more convincing points you have raised in your argument, your side will definitely win the competition and that call on all and sundry to side with you. End by saying “Thank you” (and not “I’m done”).
”To conclude, Mr. Chairman, Panel of Judges, Distinguished Guests, Fellow Debaters, Ladies and Gentlemen, the points that I have raised in my speech are: that….that….that…and that… Thus, in view of these convincing points as against the weak ones raised by my already defeated opponents, there is no doubt as to which side has emerged victorious. I therefore call on all and sundry to join the winning team to support the motion (Quote the motion).”