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May 14, 2010 / compassioninpolitics

Arguing about Theory

Arguing about Theory: Mastering the Theory Debate

Why is theory strategic:

Helps in answering counterplans and critiques.  Helps in making comparisons on topicality. (also helps in running all three)

Also helps provide some generics for the 2ac.  Also can give the block an advantage in framework/critique debaters.

Fundamentals of Theory: Part I

Making the distinction between offense and defense on theory is critical  (

Three other key skills:



–identifying warrants

–making argument comparison

–providing impact comparison

Fundamentals of Theory: Part 2

Most theory debate resolves down to three core values:

1) Fairness (also called fair ground.  Also ground isn’t intrinsically an issue as much as fair and predictable grround)

2) Education

3) Best Policymaking/real world (arguably this is a subset education)

Thinking about why each of these is important is key to mastering theory.  Knowing that most theory gets back to these three core areas can help you group arguments and strategically divide/organize others.

Impact comparison with theory.

Each of the above potentially becomes a mechanism for weighing.  Determining which is important to the activity, the value to debates, and the future of the activity are all important.

Strategic theory

Mixing theory and making it unique to the situation can make your arguments better.

Judge adaptation and theory

1) Judges vary on ability to flow and understand theory

2) Judges vary on potential to vote on theory

3) Judges vary about biases about fairness of theory

Gotta have a voter

Each time you extend theory and plan on going for it you should extend it as a voting issue.

When in doubt customize

1) Customize to the situation

2) Customize to the argument (aka generic blocks aren’t enough).  Make the blocks yours–it will help you understand the arguments

(see also Topicality, Critiques, and Framework)


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