Novice T lecture

James Stevenson, with due credit to Mike Hester
What is topicality?
• Think of the topic like a circle—topical,
relevant cases fall within this circle, and all
other possible cases lie outside it.
• Debate is cool because, unlike any other
game, part of the competition involves
deciding how big that circle should be—the
fundamental rule, the basis of discussion
for the round, is completely up for debate.
The Ingredients of a T debate
• The resolution:
• Resolved: The United States federal government should
substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space
beyond the Earth's mesosphere.
• The plan
• The negative’s interpretation of the resolution and
explanation of how the plan violates this interp
• Reasons why the judge should prefer the neg interp and
why this is a voting issue
Topicality is like every other argument.
• All debate arguments are composed of two basic
components—a link and an impact. An aff
advantage describes a symptom of the status quo
(link) and the impact to that. A DA has a link to
the aff and an impact.
• Topicality is exactly the same. Your ‘link’ is the
way the affirmative violates your interpretation,
and the ‘impact’ are the reasons why failing to
meet your interp is a voting issue.
How to run T
• Remember the basic ingredients
• The shell:
• Interpretation—supported by definitions
• Violation
• Standards (A.K.A. reasons to prefer)
• Voting issues
Interpretation & violation
• Define terms in the resolution in a way that doesn’t
include the aff plan
• Evidence is key
• Explain in a sentence why the aff doesn’t meet this
• The heart of the T debate—why your interpretation of the
resolution should be treated as the correct one
Internal links between your interpretation/violation and
either fairness or education
What does your interp do compared to the aff’s?
Why is the aff not a relevant or fair aff to be discussing?
General standards:
• Limits
• Predictability
• Ground
• Education (topical)
Voting issues
• The key to winning any arg is impact
explanation—why it matters. T is no
• Two voting issues: fairness and
• Jurisdiction is not a voting issue.
Effects and extra-topicality
• Independent voting issues—reliant on winning your interp
• Effectual topicality: the plan isn’t within the resolution, but
causes topical action.
• Unpredictable—neg can’t possibly prepare for everything that
causes the topic
• Ground division—steals generic neg args.
• Extra topicality: the plan includes topical action—but also
includes action outside of the topic.
• Unpredictable—see above, but moreso
• Topic education—diverts focus away from the res—nullifies the
educational value of the topic
This is what a topicality shell looks like
• <insert word doc here>
• How do we evaluate topicality?
• Competing interpretations:
• This is what the neg likes—probably most intuitive
• Neg interp’s costs and benefits vs. aff interp’s costs and benefits
• Causes “race to the bottom”—the neg just has to find a slightly
more limiting interp
• Reasonability
• This is what the aff likes—makes it much easier to avoid losing on
• Who cares about the neg—is the aff interp reasonable enough?
• Arbitrary—how much ground is ‘enough’?
Advanced T tricks
• Lots of good cards
• Topical version of the aff
• Explain/read a caselist
• Effects/extra T
AFF: Answering T
• We meet: answering the violation
• Counter-interpretation: what is a better way to look at the
topic (that the aff meets)
• The standards debate: why is the aff interpretation better
than the neg’s?
• Read new standards and try to answer the neg’s.
• Answer the voting issues (impact defense): don’t vote on
potential abuse
• Reasonability
Topicality questions on the topic
• Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially
increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the
Earth's mesosphere.
• “Exploration” – WTF does that mean
• “Development” – see above
• “beyond the Earth’s mesosphere” – from which side?
Which mesosphere?
• “its” – inclusive of private companies?

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