Rebuttal is an essential element of debating – it provides the “clash of ideas” that makes debating different from public speaking. Rebuttal requires debaters to listen to what is being said by the other side and respond to their arguments. An audience member or more importantly, an adjudicator, might be listening to a point made by the other team and think “that’s a good argument” and find themselves convinced by the other side. In this sense, it’s important to deal with all the major points being made by the other team.
School debaters often complain that rebuttal is too difficult – most debaters find it easier to give a speech that they have prepared and practised beforehand than to think up rebuttal on the spot. Luckily for debaters, DAV Adjudicators are reasonable people – we have been there before ourselves and understand that rebuttal can be very difficult. From inexperienced debaters, we don’t expect brilliant rebuttal – we just want you to have a go! Even if the delivery of your rebuttal lacks the smooth delivery of your positive material, adjudicators will appreciate your efforts and will go easy on you. Very often, Adjudicators find that one team establishes a clear advantage by being able to deal with some or all of the major points being made by the other team.
The most common complaint coming from adjudicators is not that rebuttal is done badly, but that speakers are not doing enough rebuttal! Rebuttal needs to come from all speakers in the debate except for the first speaker for the affirmative. Rebuttal should not be left entirely to the third speaker – you should be looking to respond to each argument from the other side as soon as it is raised. The sooner that you can knock an issue on the head, the better and more responsive your team will look. So be prepared to give rebuttal a go!
In this section you will find tips on rebuttal, and some worked examples to show you how it's done. Click on the links on the menu bar to the left, or choose from the links below.
What is Rebuttal
Ways to rebut an argument