A debate round has two teams with two debaters each. The Government team proposes a case that the Opposition team has to try to disprove. Simple, huh? The trick is that there is no in-round preparation time, and the opposition never knows the exact case ahead of time, so you are forced to think fast on your feet and improvise a great deal of every speech.
Order and timing of speeches:
- Prime Minister Constructive (PMC): 7 minutes
- Leader of the Opposition Constructive (LOC): 8 minutes
- Member of the Government Constructive (MGC): 8 minutes
- Member of the Opposition Constructive (MOC): 8 minutes
- Leader of Opposition Rebuttal (LOR): 4 minutes
- Prime Minister Rebuttal (PMR): 5 minutes
Note: Each speech has a thirty second grace period
Cases and resolutions:
- Not status-quo
- Not tight or tautological
- Not specific knowledge - the 'average college student' test
Otherwise anything goes!
Time-space cases: Limit knowledge to a specific person, time, or place, and make arguments within that context. No future knowledge allowed! Example: You're President Lincoln, before the start of the Civil War - let the south go.
Points of information, clarification and order:
Different ways of standing up and interrupting the other side's speech in order to ask a question or make a point.
- Point of Clarification: Questions usually asked by the opposition during the first minute (or two) of the first speech, in order to help establish a common ground for the debate. Ask these if you're not sure what your opponent is trying to argue, or if a crucial piece of their case is unclear, but use points of clarification sparingly because people get annoyed when they're abused. Time stops for both the question and the answer.
- Point of Order: Used when a speaker is way over time, or when someone tries to introduce a new argument in one of the rebuttal speeches. Again, should be used sparingly.
- Point of Information (POI): Your opponent just said something that doesn't make sense, is factually incorrect, or you think you can turn against him/her. Stand up and ask them about it! A good POI is very similar to a good cross-examination: make it a question, but make sure you only leave your opponent with bad answers. POIs can also be used strategically to slow down a speaker who is on a roll. You can offer POIs at any time during an opponent's speech, except for the first and last minute, otherwise known as 'protected time'. Just stand up - the speaker has the option of accepting your question or not. If you're accepted, ask your question (in 15 seconds or less) and sit down. As a speaker, you generally want to take two questions from the opposite side during any given speech.
Some useful references:
The 'official' blurb:
Parliamentary debate is an off-topic, extemporaneous form of competitive debate which stresses rigorous argumentation, logical analysis, quick thinking, breadth of knowledge, and rhetorical ability over preparation of evidence. It is patterned after the style of platform debate first made famous at Oxford University. The format pits two two-person teams against each other in a contest of argument, wit and rhetoric which roughly simulates debate in a House of Parliament.
Parliamentary debate on APDA focuses on skills which are not greatly emphasized by other forms of intercollegiate debate. Rather than concentrating on extensive preparation of evidence, APDA encourages a breadth, as well as a depth, of knowledge -- as students can be forced to debate almost any topic at short notice, they must have a working knowledge of all manner of political, economic, social and philosophical issues. A high premium is placed on quick thinking and logical, rigorous analysis. APDA debate is audience-centered; speaking skills learned on APDA can be directly appreciated by the general public, not only specially-trained judges. By focusing on argumentation and rhetoric rather than rapid recitation of evidence and technical rule-based strategies, parliamentary debate is an activity which is easily learned, extremely adaptable, and widely accessible, yet still rigorous, intellectually demanding, and rewarding.
The legacy of parliamentary debate can clearly be seen in the resumes of APDA alumni. In the past few years, APDA graduating classes have included several Rhodes, Marshall and Truman scholars, with numerous other alums attending top-rate graduate institutions like Harvard, Yale and Stanford Law Schools, Yale Medical School, and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School.