Welcome to the DAV Website
The DAV is a non-profit association which exists to promote debate. It is the peak debating body in Victoria and runs large competitions for adults and for schools across Victoria. It provides training and resources for debaters, teachers and adjudicators.
Debating is a team sport – you must work together when preparing you case and during the debate. Each speaker within the team has a certain role to play. It is important that each speaker understands and fulfils their role.
These speaker roles might sound a bit restrictive, but they help the debate run smoothly and clearly, so that everyone in the room understands what the debate is about and what each team stands for.
In each debate, there are two teams of three speakers. The team which argues for the topic is called the affirmative. The team arguing against the topic is called the negative. Each speaker speaks once for a defined period. The order of speakers is: first affirmative, first negative, second affirmative, second negative, third affirmative, third negative. Following this final speech, the debating component is done, and the adjudicator takes time to give feedback and award the win.
The first affirmative’s role is to set out their team’s interpretation of the topic (the contention/team case), define the topic, outline the team split, and present arguments.
Define the topic
The first task of the first affirmative speaker is to define the topic. The definition specifies the important issue(s) in contention, and places boundaries on the issues that can be argued in the debate. Certain words will have vague or multiple meanings. The definition should note the meaning of key words in the topic. Definitions of words do not need to be dictionary definitions/quote directly from the dictionary.
For example, if the topic was ‘that we should ban junk food in schools,’ the words which are vague and may need definition are: we, junk food, and, schools. Defining ‘we’ says who or where the topic applies (Australia, Victoria, the world). Defining ‘schools’ says what is being impacted - is it primary, secondary schools, or both? Defining ‘junk food’ notes the subject, and can be used to include certain foods, or exclude certain foods. However, as there is a common sense understanding of what junk food is, it can be fine to just say ‘junk food’ if the affirmative team wants. The words in the topic like ‘that’, ‘should’, ‘ban’ and ‘in’ don’t require definition as they are not the issues of contention.
A definition can be short, and to the point. Using the sample topic, the first affirmative could define the topic in their speech as: ‘we define the topic to mean that Australia should ban junk food from all schools, both primary and secondary.’
The team split
It is essential to let the audience know early on in the debate exactly which way your team will be heading and the approach they will be taking to the debate. The split introduces the first and second speakers, and notes what their arguments will be.
First and second speakers of both teams present arguments. The arguments said by the first speaker should be different, and not overlap, with the arguments of the second speaker. The arguments should be supporting your team’s contention (agreeing or disagreeing with the topic). The first affirmative should present the arguments allocated to the first speaker.
The role of the first negative is very similar to the first affirmative. The first negative’s role is to outlines their team’s contention, team split, rebut the arguments of the first affirmative, and present arguments.
The main difference between first affirmative and negative is that the first affirmative defines the topic, which the first negative does not (typically) do so, and, that the first negative offers rebuttal.
The Definitional Challenge
In most circumstances, the definition provided by the affirmative is sufficient for the debate. On occasion, the negative may have a substantial disagreement with the definition provided by the Affirmative. If this is the case, then these must be dealt with immediately. To successfully challenge the definition, the first negative must prove to the adjudicator that they have the most reasonable definition (thus showing the affirmative’s definition was not reasonable).
A rebuttal is a counterargument. The speaker should attack the main theme of the affirmative argument, as well as the specific issues raised by the first affirmative speaker. It is important to remember that you are rebutting the arguments the opposing speaker has raised, not the opposing speaker personally.
Outline team split
Like the first affirmative, they should give an outline of the team case and the arguments to be dealt with by each speaker.
First and second speakers of both teams present arguments. The arguments said by the first speaker should be different, and not overlap, with the arguments of the second speaker. The arguments should be supporting your team’s contention (agreeing or disagreeing with the topic). The first negative should present the arguments allocated to the first speaker.
Second Affirmative & Second Negative
The second speakers of both teams have the same speaker role. They both rebut their opposition’s arguments, and present their own arguments.
Defend the definition if necessary
If there are any definitional issues in the debate, then these need to be dealt with and hopefully fully cleared up. Both speakers should keep in mind, like the first negative, that they are trying to prove that their definition is the most reasonable.
Each speaker should attack the main arguments of their opponents. The second affirmative should clearly identify the major areas of disagreement with the with the negative case and attack the specific arguments of the first negative.
The second negative needs to attack the main arguments of the affirmative, focusing on the specific arguments raised by the second affirmative.
The speaker should then present their allocated arguments.
Third Affirmative & Negative
The third speakers of both teams have the same role: to rebut their opposition’s arguments, and to summarise their team’s arguments.
Third speakers do not present arguments! New matter is illegal from the third speaker from the Negative, and whilst it is legal for the third Affirmative speaker to introduce new material, you are best advised to leave that speaker as much time as possible for rebuttal. If it is an important argument, it should not be left to the last speaker in your team!
The third speaker should rebut all the arguments raised by their opposition across the debate, not just the arguments raised by the speaker before them. They should to present an overview by analysing the main themes of the debate. They should identify the essential issues on which the teams have disagreed, rebut the important arguments of the opposing team and defend any important attacks made against their own team’s case.
Summary of their team’s arguments
Both speakers should conclude their speech with a brief summary of their teams’ case.