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Debate is Different from Group Discussion

Debate or debating is a method of interactive argument. Though a debate is basically an argument, it is not an undisciplined shouting match between parties (individuals/teams) who hold a particular point of view.

Debate is different from Group Discussion:
Debate differs from group discussion in several ways. Debate is basically an argument where participants take a particular stand on a given topic and stick to it as they speak on it. Group discussion is a cooperative process in which members discuss a topic with a view to reach group consensus. You need to be very flexible in a group discussion. That is you consider others' points of view also. However, you need to have just one particular view point in a debate. In a debate the number of participants could be from 2 to 20 or more whereas in a GD usually between 5 and 15.

Conduct of Debate:
A topic is given for debating for individuals or teams. The team could consist of minimum two debaters and a maximum of 20 or more. A debate can be conducted depending on the number of participants in a debate. If there are more than 20 students in a class, the class can be divided into two teams.

It is possible to have a monitor who gives the topic and asks the teams to take a stand and argue for it. For instance, if a debate topic is "That the soft drinks be banned", one team would say YES and the other team would say NO. After the teams have taken a stand on the topic, the team that agrees with the topic may be called the affirmative and the team that disagrees with the topic may be called the negative.

The teams should arrive at a possible definition of the topic. The job of defining begins with the affirmative. The first speaker of the affirmative must explain in clear terms what they believe the topic means, explaining the meaning of the whole topic rather than each separate word. The negative team may agree with or choose to challenge the definition presented. If the negative team chooses to challenge the definition it should be done by the first speaker who should clearly outline why the negative is challenging and then propose a better definition.

If the number of debaters is large in a debate the monitor controls the debate by laying down certain guidelines like how much person should one person speak, what forms of behaviour is appropriate or in appropriate etc and intervenes when there is a chaos. If the number debaters is small in a debate the monitor's role is minimal. The monitor can give or ask the debaters to pick a topic they wish to debate on and then give the teams time to prepare for debating. Then the members of each team can specify for themselves the roles that they may wish to carry. Given below is a possible procedure in terms of roles if there are three members in each team.

1st affirmative should:
  • define the topic
  • present the affirmative's team line (the point of view/stand)
  • outline briefly what the other two in their team will talk about
  • present the first half of the affirmative argument

1st negative should:
  1. accept or reject the definition
  2. present the negative team line (the point of view/stand)
  3. outline briefly what other two will say
  4. rebut a few of the main points of the first affirmative speaker
  5. present the first half of the negative team's argument

2nd affirmative should:
  • reaffirm the affirmative's team line
  • rebut the main points presented by the 1st negative
  • present the second half of the affirmative's argument

2nd negative should:
  • reaffirm the negative's team line
  • rebut some of the main points of the affirmative's argument
  • present the second half of the negative's argument

3rd affirmative should:
  • reaffirm the affirmative's team line
  • rebut all the remaining points of the negative's argument
  • present a summary of the affirmative's argument
  • round off the debate for the affirmative
3rd negative should:
  1. reaffirm the negative's team line
  2. rebut all the remaining points of the affirmative's argument
  3. present a summary of the negative's argument
  4. round off the debate for the negative
When you are rebutting you voice your views countering the arguments put forth by your opponents. Criticizing your opponents' arguments is called rebuttal. Here are a few things to remember about rebuttal.

Have logic:
To say that the other side is wrong is not enough. You have to prove why the other side is wrong by countering each of the arguments of your opponents. If you don't have logic in what you say you will not be able to prove that the points presented by your opponents do not really make sense.

Concentrate on major arguments:
Rebut only the major arguments of the opponents. Listen carefully to detect loopholes/inconsistencies in their arguments. By picking on major points you could render your opponents' stand weak easily and also this helps you to save time and stay focused.

Essentials of a debate
Spare the debater:
Do not criticize the individual speakers, criticize what they say. Do not call people names. It is an art to prove people wrong without offending them. Remember that a debate is a battle of ideas, but not a clash of personalities.

Essentials of a debate:
Presented below are a few essentials you should concentrate on as you take part in a debate. They are content, structure and delivery.

Content is what you say. In other words it is the subject matter of your speech. To present your content effectively keep the following in mind:

Use examples:
You should divide your matter into arguments and examples. An argument is a statement. An example is a fact or piece of evidence which supports an argument. For the topic "That the soft drinks should be banned", if your argument is: "that the soft drinks should be banned because they contain harmful substances" then an example might be: "if you take one glass of a soft drink (specify the brand name) the pesticide content is this much (specify quantity)".

Have unity:
A good debating team ensures unity in their debate. Unity is created by all members being aware of the definition, what the other speakers have said and what the team line is. Each member of the team needs to reinforce the team line and be consistent with what has already been said and what will be said by the other members of their team.

Structure refers to how you organize your content. Structuring your arguments properly will make your ideas clear. Have a clear idea of your own arguments and which examples you will be using to support those arguments. As you speak, make a clear division between arguments and let the opponents know when you are moving from one argument to the next. This is called sign posting and is a very important debating tool.

Delivery is how you present what you say. There are various aspects of delivery that you need to be aware of like eye contact, voice, body and enunciation.

Eye contact:
Look in the eyes of your opponents as you present your view point. This helps you to hold their attention.

There are many things you can do with your voice to make it effective. Use volume, pitch and speed to emphasize important points in your speech. A sudden loud burst will grab your audience's attention while a period of quiet speaking can draw your audience in and make them listen carefully.

Your body is a tool for you to use. Make hand gestures deliberately and with confidence. If you are going to stand still, stand with confidence. Don't let your body apologize for your presence by appearing nervous. Use your whole person to effect and to persuade the audience.

Speak clearly, carefully and slowly so that the impact is good. Learn to differentiate the pronunciation of some words like 'personal' and 'personnel'.

The outcome of a debate:
The outcome of a debate may be decided by voting, by judges, by monitor or by a combination of any of these. Sometimes debates are conducted just to have fun. Individuals can obtain feedback informally from monitor or judges or a teacher or any evaluator.
Published date : 11 Jan 2011 07:15PM

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