Lincoln-Douglas Debate

NFA Lincoln-Douglas Debate is a one-person, persuasive policy debate on traditional stock issues. Competitors will be evaluated on their analysis, use of evidence, and ability to effectively and persuasively organize, deliver, and refute arguments. Rapid-fire delivery, commonly called "spread delivery," is considered antithetical to the purpose and intent of this event.

Typically, the membership proposes several different topic areas that are used for an entire season. The membership votes on those areas, selecting one. The LD committee then proposes several resolutions. 

The 2009–2010 resolution is: Resolved: That the United States Federal Government should substantially reform domestic transportation infrastructure.  

Time limits for the LD debate are: 

  • 1st Aff. constructive: 6 minutes
  • Cross Examination: 3 minutes
  • 1st Neg. constructive: 7 minutes
  • Cross Examination: 3 minutes
  • 1st Aff. rebuttal: 6 minutes
  • Neg. rebuttal: 6 minutes
  • 2nd Aff. rebuttal: 3 minutes
  • Prep time: 4 minutes 

Paradigm for Judging

All affirmative proposals must fit within the jurisdiction established by the NFA LD resolution. The negative may challenge the topicality of the affirmative proposal during the negative constructive. If, at the end of the debate, the negative has convinced the judge that the affirmative proposal has violated the parameters set by the resolution, then the decision in that debate should be awarded to the negative. Topicality is a voting issue. 

The official decision-making paradigm of NFA LD is that of Stock Issues: Harm (Advantage or Goals), Inherency, and Solvency. The affirmative is required to meet three initial burdens. The affirmative must prove:  

  • The harm of the present system or that a comparative advantage or goal can be achieved over the present system.
  • The inherency, which prevents solving those harms or achieving those advantages or goals.
  • The proposed plan's ability to solve the harm or achieve the advantage or goal claimed by affirmative. 

The negative may attack any of these issues, but need only win one to win the debate. The negative may also challenge the jurisdiction (topicality) of the affirmative proposal or argue that disadvantages to the proposal outweigh its benefits.  

The plan need not be detailed, but should be sufficient to prove a propensity to solve the problem area. The affirmative need only prove that the resolution should be adopted. Solvency is to be a function of the plan's ability to work after the adoption of the policy by the agent/agents of change.  

Definitions of terms in the affirmative constructive are optional, and they are not required until challenges to topicality are made by the negative. The negative may present one counterproposal specific to the affirmative problem area. By this, we mean that the counterproposal must deal with the problem area defined by the affirmative, and not the form of government, economic system, or need for further study (UNLESS SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED AS A KEY ISSUE IN THE RESOLUTION).

Counterproposals should be:

  • used to demonstrate that a reasonable alternative plan would be better policy than either the status quo or the affirmative plan.
  • logically consistent with all other negative arguments constructed during the debate. If inconsistencies arise and the affirmative points them out, the judge should reject the arguments inconsistent with the counterproposal.
  • non-topical and are subject to the same burdens of solvency as are required for affirmative plans.

Rebuttals are to be used to respond to the opposition's lines of argument and to extend arguments made in constructive speeches. No new lines of argument may be presented in rebuttals. By new lines of argument, we mean those that are not clarifications or responses made to arguments made in constructive, but those that are completely new and unrelated to previous argumentation. New evidence to extend or clarify constructive arguments is permitted in rebuttal. 

Speeches should be pleasant, comprehensible, and persuasive in tone, especially since not all judges will have traditional debate experience. Speech delivery and quantity of evidence should not be excessive. 

Since LD debate adheres to the communication principles of individual events, judges are encouraged to give a verbal warning to debaters speaking too rapidly in a round. If the speaker does not heed the warning in that particular round, the judge is strongly encouraged to give that speaker a loss for that round even if the student has otherwise "won" the debate on the basis of the stock issues. 

On the other hand, judges who encourage students to speak rapidly should be reported to the tournament director. At the national tournament, these judges will be pulled from the judging pool and their schools assessed judging fees for the rounds not covered. Local tournament directors are encouraged to develop their own responses to such judges.

Evidence in Debate

Students should only use evidence that is accurate and thoroughly referenced in their speeches. (ALL EVIDENCE MUST BE FROM A PUBLISHED SOURCE, AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC, AND VERIFIABLE AT THE TOURNAMENT.) In both prepared speeches and speeches composed with limited preparation time, debaters should use evidence that is accurately and directly quoted. The evidence should be quoted with proper respect to the context of the original source. 

The first time a source is presented, the debater must state the full source when introducing the evidence. A "full source" is assumed to include author's name, author's qualifications (when apparent in the original), full date, and title of source. Page numbers need not be read during the debate, but should be available upon request. Once a source has been cited, evidence subsequently cited from the source need only include the author's and/or publication's name as well as a phrase along the lines of "previously cited." 

Both speakers in a debate are required to make available to their opponent copies of any evidence used in the round, including the affirmative constructive speech. The evidence must be returned to the speaker at the end of the debate. 

If a debater, during the course of the debate, charges his/her opponent with violating an ethical standard, the debate shall immediately cease. The judge will bring the students to a member of the tournament committee and the debater making the charge will fill out a formal complaint according to the provisions under (1) in the section "Violation of the Code of Ethics." The complaint will then be adjudicated as in any other complaint. If the debater making the charge during the round refuses to file a formal complaint, that debater will receive a loss for the debate. Complaints made after a round will follow the standard procedure listed in the "violation" section of the Code of Ethics.  

Students may use evidence from non-written sources as long as the veracity of the evidence may be verified. Information gathered from personal and/or phone interviews, as well as information from electronic sources, may be used, provided the student does the following:

  1. Indicates during the performance the name of the source, date the information was collected, and method used to collect the information; and,
  2. Possesses a means to verify the accuracy of the evidence should it be formally challenged.

Verification may include a transcript of the interview, broadcast, etc., a notarized letter of authenticity from the source identifying specific passages from the performance as accurate, and/or phone numbers at which the source may be reached to verify the veracity of the information. (This last option is not recommended as the sole option since the source may not be reachable at the time an ethical charge is made.)

*This information is provided by the National Forensic Association. Learn more...