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December 24, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Thinking Big in Policy Debate

One of the most useful skills someone can learn from debate is the ability to think about the “big picture”–the ability to step back from the line by line (also called the micro-level) and see the big picture (also called the macro-level).

4 ways to think big in debate:

1. Think like a matrix. When writing 2 ac…what positions will create paradoxes for the negative. (similarly it helps when you are negative so you don’t put yourself in these types of positions). This can also work for arguments which have similar patterns (i.e. movements arguments, trade-off arguments….or de-dev and hege bad or the sets of political arguments)

This can also work like a checklist. If I do this…and they do that….what can I strategically say that will help me win.

2. Think like a web **** It helps to write this out at least one time. You should do this on the affirmative & the negative. You can also think through this with a potential affirmative you are trying to evaluate OR write a strategy against. (you want to stretch the ideas out….but you want to realize that going 4 to 5 levels deep to get a hegemony or economy impact may be misguided). This can also be used as an inventory of your argumentative arsenal.

It may be helpful to map this a couple levels deep. It may also be helpful to think about it on the “impact level” as well as on the card by card basis level (for instance Khal. can get me to X, Y, Z….and Kagan can get me to R, S, T, and Y….and Ferguson can get me to P, R, & Q).

3. Think across the flow. Begin with the end in mind, but think about the middle-range strategy too, because that sets up the final moves. (this obviously means thinking about what your opponent will say)

It helps for me to visualize this…but ultimately the first couple times with 2 & 3 it might help to write it out. This also helps to get both you and your partner on the same page–and now you have something which can potentially be integrated into your blocks (particularly as you access the impacts they are talking about in their DAs, etc..)

4. Think like a champion. You have at least 2 inputs for champion level inputs available virtually 24/7 if you have a computer–the debate wiki and the Open evidence project. Use those models to spur your own development as a writer, communicator, and thinker. Ask, why did they do this? What makes this strategic? Can or should I do this?

If you manage to use these 4 tools, combined with preparation, reasons, and rhetoric–you are likely to go far in debate and these are respectively each mental tools you can take out later in life, which give you an advantage in your lifelong persuasive efforts.

One other way to think on a grid format for meta-strategy. Divide the topic up by its component parts–and develop meta-strategies for each area:
1. Military Cases
2. Development/Economy Cases
3. Eco-advantage cases (which are similar to the econ cases, perhaps)
4. Squirrel Cases (explore earth, etc…)
5. Critical/Performative cases (for instance into 2 or more categories–those that defend the rez. & those that don’t–most don’t in my experience).

Obviously there are some under each area which may not quite fit. Also, the topic may be slightly different than my division.

Three other sets of questions:
1. What will be the go-to strategies against this position? How will I answer them and provide a more credible and strategic response?
2. What are my vulnerabilities? How can I overcome those vulnerabilities (i.e. minimize them and optimize for my strengths)?
3. How can I prepare myself for positions I’m not entirely sure? (to save prep time & win debates).

Two core questions:
In policy debates: How can I minimize the difference between what I am saying & what the negative is saying–and impact that difference? (this is what you are going for in the 2nr, not what you may start out arguing in the 1nc)
In performative debates: How can I find a difference in perspective or assumption and impact that? (sometimes this means isolating a small difference OR isolating large differences)

1) Frontlines
2) Mapping the arguments across the flow
3) See also think like a web (its about options)


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