Skip to content
July 26, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

The 30 thinking tools that will help you win more policy debates

I did debate in high school and college and later coached it. If I were to narrow down the tools we used–I would suggest the following 30 tools or tactics for being a good debater:

• Re-framing discussions
• Getting to the heart of the matter (the nexus question as one debate scholar is noted for saying)
• Prioritizing (Comparison & Contrast)
• Defining
• Analogies & metaphors
• Case studies, examples, and history
• Research, science, & data
• Logical syllogisms (or more simply if-then statements)
• Determining & assessing root causes
• Determining & assessing risk (on both sides)
• What constitutes proof?
• What constitutes value?
• Examining assumptions (on both sides)
• Examining opportunity cost in terms of policy but also the discussion (SWOT does this a bit)
• Ball parking–defining the criteria where all roads lead to your position
• Pre-empting. This is answering your opponents argument before they make it. (this can be dangerous)
• Framing your opponents
• Learning & specifying what your opponent advocates
• Creating agreements on core issues if possible (this way you narrow the discussion)
• Brainstorming possible alternatives (what debaters often call counterplans). This is also really important in negotiations.
• What is your distinction or nuance? (using contrast is super-key in debate). This along with alternatives is the way you get around saying the exact opposite of what your opponent says.
• Know your opponents case–or the possible directions it could take.
• Big picture. Understanding the connections (relationships & inter-relationships). This can also be important in terms of creating your over-arching narrative or theme or framing of the discussion and your case for it or against it. This relates pretty directly to the nexus question & the possible shapes it could take
• Reflection & attention. Allow your ideas to incubate. Constantly refine (aka kaizen improvement based on research, discussion, & feedback)
• Clearly identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as your opponents strengths and weaknesses.
• Context that the debate considers. This is also a question of framing of proof and what the ultimate problem is.
• Thinking both/and
• Think on a continuum–not just in polar terms.
• Even-if. Even if you win that…..we will still win that. It can serve as a form of internal prioritization (or creating extra fire-walls).
• “Imagine a world in which…..” is a thought experiment of sorts.

Here is a quick summary of the 7 most important:

1. Proof (why or reason)
2. Priorities (i.e. values & objectives)
3. Research (think creatively here. follow the footnotes that seem most important)
4. What is your distinction (or nuance)
5. Thinking through the options (brainstorming with reflection)
6. Always think of the nexus question will be–what is the end game.
7. Alternatives & counterplans (this is arguably most useful for the “negative”)–but can be helpful for answering questions raised by the negative.

Advertisements

8 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. compassioninpolitics / Jul 26 2012 11:32 pm

    Micro & macro can also be helpful.

    This can be a way of re-framing–it can be a way of answering arguments too. You probably also want to win that your form of proof = best (ie most general or more specific).

  2. compassioninpolitics / Jul 26 2012 11:45 pm

    I did debate in high school and college and later coached it. If I were to narrow down the tools we used–I would suggest the following 34 tools or tactics for being a good debater:

    Re-framing discussions
    Getting to the heart of the matter (the nexus question as one debate scholar is noted for saying)
    Prioritizing (Comparison & Contrast)
    Defining terms
    Analogies & metaphors
    Case studies, examples, and history (ideally multiple forms of truth are best–your argument can reflect diverse perspectives & be multi-disciplinary)
    Research, science, & data
    Logical syllogisms (or more simply if-then statements)
    Determining & assessing root causes
    Determining & assessing risk (on both sides)
    What constitutes proof? What constitutes the most credible type of proof?
    What constitutes value? What are we trying to achieve? What is paramount?
    Examining assumptions or the limits of arguments (on both sides)–think about this before your discussion.
    Examining opportunity cost in terms of policy but also the discussion (SWOT does this a bit)
    Ball parking–defining the criteria where all roads lead to your position
    Pre-empting. This is answering your opponents argument before they make it. (this can be dangerous)
    Framing your opponents
    Learning & specifying what your opponent advocates
    Creating agreements on core issues if possible (this way you narrow the discussion)
    Brainstorming possible alternatives (what debaters often call counterplans). This is also really important in negotiations.
    What is your distinction or nuance? (using contrast is super-key in debate). This along with alternatives is the way you get around saying the exact opposite of what your opponent says.
    Know your opponents case–or the possible directions it could take.
    Big picture. Understanding the connections (relationships & inter-relationships). This can also be important in terms of creating your over-arching narrative or theme or framing of the discussion and your case for it or against it. This relates pretty directly to the nexus question & the possible shapes it could take
    Reflection & attention. Allow your ideas to incubate. Constantly refine (aka kaizen improvement based on research, discussion, & feedback)
    Clearly identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as your opponents strengths and weaknesses.
    Context that the debate considers (consider the whole scene–not just isolated or abstracted). This is also a question of framing of proof and what the ultimate problem is.
    Thinking both/and
    Think on a continuum–not just in polar terms.
    Even-if. Even if you win that…..we will still win that. It can serve as a form of internal prioritization (or creating extra fire-walls).
    “Imagine a world in which…..” is a thought experiment of sorts.
    Identify generalizations & unpack them. Do this on both sides of the issue.
    Be clear about the constraints or limitations of your argument. This is argument 101 by Stephen Toulmin.
    Select the most credible for your proof & compare the relative credibility on each side. This is persuasion 101 from Aristotle.
    Arguably you could study logical fallacies & human biases–but there are usually just a couple that are handy. The process of learning to identify the argument is probably more useful than the fallacies themselves.

    Here is a quick summary of the 7 most important:

    Proof (why or reason)
    Priorities (i.e. values & objectives)
    Research (think creatively here. follow the footnotes that seem most important)
    What is your distinction (or nuance)
    Thinking through the options (brainstorming with reflection)
    Always think of the nexus question will be–what is the end game.
    Alternatives & counterplans (this is arguably most useful for the “negative”)–but can be helpful for answering questions raised by the negative.

  3. compassioninpolitics / Jul 26 2012 11:46 pm

    1. Offense/defense
    2. Chains of argument (theory of contraints)

  4. commpassioninpolitics / Sep 19 2012 12:28 am

    This pdf might also be helpful in terms of creating a rubric for critical thinking.
    http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/Concepts_Tools.pdf (mostly page 5 and 12)

    I also had a post on here which spoke to the issue of Bloom taxonomy I believe or at least critical thinking prompts.

  5. compassioninpolitics / Jan 11 2013 4:49 am

    Hopefully this post will now show up for the search “critical thinking tools”

  6. Nathan Ketsdever / Apr 13 2013 11:02 pm

    Compared to what?
    Mismatch between argument & evidence.
    Mismatch between warrant & argument.

  7. Nathan Kets / Apr 15 2013 4:45 pm

    Thinking about arguments:
    1. Specificity, generality
    2. Scale of Credibility
    3. Reason
    4. Segmentation (what it really proves)
    5. Distinction, Nuance
    6. Contrast, Juxtaposition

    Rest of the debate:
    1. Link turns
    2. Impact turns
    3. Uniqueness/Inevitability
    4. Impact Comparison
    5. Add-on
    6. Contradictions, tension

    Contradictions explained:
    1. Hege good, Economy good, & State good
    2. Their relation to the resolution. Transportation works or doesn’t
    3. Most Ks and DAs have tension
    4. Ideological tension/contradiction (???)

Trackbacks

  1. My best policy debate and cross examination debate posts | Learn Policy Debate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: