Preparing a debate

How to prepare a debate

• The way you organize a debate depends on its purpose. There are some common guidelines that most Departments and Faculties follow. Check if there are any at your university.

• The students taking part in a debate are usually are divided into two groups: one group will have to argue in favour and the other one against a topic.

• Each group will put forward a controversial topic, which should have, at least, two opposite views.

• Each group will be further divided into two other subgroups: one subgroup will be in favour and the other one will be against the topic assigned. This will help to foresee possible arguments your opponents will raise and have answers ready.

• Students in each group will do research about their side of the topic and also about their opponents´. Please note that the research stage is very important: the more research you do, the easier it will be to find weaknesses in your opponents´ arguments.

• Having a guideline with relevant ideas may help you during the debate.

• Counter arguments and questions should also be prepared. 

On Debate Day

• One of the two groups will introduce the topic that is going to be discussed.

• There could be a moderator who organizes the debate and gives turns to the different speakers.

• The debate between both groups will be conducted in an orderly manner and speakers will take turns to defend their views. The moderator will also invite the speakers to take part in the ongoing discussion.

• At the end of the debate some sort of agreement should be reached. There are cases when due to the nature of the topic and the nature of the debate no agreement is reached.

• There will be time at the end of the debate for the audience to take part and pose questions to the speakers or ask for clarification on certain points.

After the Debate

It is important to assess how successful your team has been, which linguistic strategies have worked and which have failed. Spotting mistakes and learning from them can be very helpful to gain in confidence and perform better in future debates.