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August 10, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Argument Tools for Policy Debate: How to Make an Argument–the Simple Version

What types of argument? Strategic, geo-political/military/security, political, cultural, economic?

Here are a couple types of argument

• Arguments from If-Then (often of intuition & causality)
• Arguments from Historical Example
• Arguments from Data/Science
• Arguments from Analogy/Precedent
• Arguments from Story/Example
• Arguments from Metaphor

Here are 13 possible tools:

• Framing (this can be looking at things in context, rather than just the abstract–althought its use certainly transcends that. For instance I think pointing to the inevitable is a form of framing. Framing is often used with economic statistics in terms of which years are relevant).
• Objectives/Criteria (using value filters to focusing on the important and ignore the unimportant). For instance, this often gets to fundamental American or Constitutional values in discussions of American politics. It may involve comparisons of national security risk or lives versus economic or personal freedom.
• Direct comparison of proof & credibility (types & sources of proof)
• Comparing concrete pictures or scenarios (ie a world in which you did X, Y, or Z)
• Dealing with alternatives (i.e. alternatives that don’t involve some egregious violation which you are pointing out is caused by your opponent)
• Nuance & distinction (that only proves your point for a limited number of cases, it excludes these types of cases).
• Addressing the scope & gravity in concrete terms.
• Overall comparison and contrast

• Openly discussing the limits of both arguments, proof, or conclusion.
• Some knowledge of logical fallacies. (as heuristics & rules of thumb, not auto-argument wins).
• Understanding the difference between offense & defense in arguments. Pointing out and highlighting the difference.
• Alternative causalities. Other things are really to blame. (obviously you have to specify what those are, perhaps why, and the degree or scope of the impact)
• Understanding and pointing out the inevitable–and making comparisons based on that. However, in general in moral arguments this doesn’t work. Also in linear arguments this doesn’t work. (for instance, pointing out the inevitability of poverty or racism in general and perhaps even always isn’t much of an argument, IMHO). This helps when you are dealing with issues of cost/spending (ie we pay now or pay later). Or it can be used to mitigate some of the harms associated with something your side caused.



Leave a Comment
  1. Alfred Snider / Aug 11 2012 5:14 pm

    Nice work. Who are you? I am always trying to share debate instructional material but it would be nice to evaluate the source, as you indicate in this post. Keep it up!

  2. commpassioninpolitics / Aug 17 2012 3:39 am

    Thanks Tuna,

    Nathan Ketsdever. I believe you recommended me for my job at U of R.

    Thanks for all you do!

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