CX Debate Intro Part II - Minnesota Urban Debate League

A Firm Foundation:
CX Debate Basics (Part II)
- The Minnesota Urban Debate League -
Definition of Topicality
 Topicality (abbreviated “T”): an argument
where teams debate the meaning of certain
words in the resolution in an attempt to prove
that the affirmative either is or is not debating
the topic.
 Remember discussing fairness earlier?
Topicality is a guarantee that the affirmative
presents a case that the negative could
reasonably expect and prepare for given the
current resolution.
Again, the resolution:
 Resolved: The United States federal
government should substantially increase its
exploration and/or development of space
beyond the Earth’s mesosphere.
 Each word, phrase and clause of the
resolution establishes meaning within the
context of the debate.
Another way of looking at it…
United States.
(Scope of Resolution)
Topicality & Presumption
 The affirmative does NOT need to define the entirety
of the resolution in the 1AC.
 Unlike the other stock issues, it is the negatives
burden to define what word they believe the
affirmative is violating in the resolution. Presumption,
in this instances, lies with the affirmative.
 If the negative manages to show why the aff is non-
topical, they will often win the round without the judge
ever considering the aff case. For this reason,
topicality is often called an a priori issue.
Topicality Format
 Definition: Define the word or phrase you would like
to argue (definition can come from dictionaries, legal
statute, international treaties and just about anywhere
 Interpretation: Why the affirmative use of the word
either meets or does not meet the definition.
 Standards: Why listening to the case creates either a
fair or unfair debate (hint: it has to do with fairness).
 Voters: Why the judge should or should not consider
voting against a non-topical affirmative on Topicality
grounds alone.
Writing a Case
 The First Affirmative Constructive (1AC) presents the
affirmative case.
 Observations (sometimes called Contentions)—the
1AC is usually outlined in specific observations.
 Observations make it easier for everyone (including
the judge) to identify the nature of the evidence being
 Order and congruity are important.
 Plan Planks—the plan is usually broken into
separate plan planks.
 Example of Plan Planks:
 Plank One: An explanation of exactly what the federal
government should do (i.e. pass a law, abolish a law,
or create a program)
 Plank Two: Funding—where the funds will come from
to pay for the existence of the plan.
 Plank Three: Enforcement—the means in which the
plan will be imposed.
 Be sure that plans and plan planks mirror the
language used by your plan/solvency advocate.
Fiat – The Four Letter “F” Word
 Fiat is Latin for the phrase “let it be done.”
 Often describes as a “magic wand” that
allows the passage of the plan.
 Should v. Would—Fiat allows the focus of
the debate on should the affirmative plan
pass and not would the affirmative plan pass.
Normal Means
 Normal Means is the general operating
procedures that the federal government
undertakes to pass legislation.
 Funding and Enforcement are generally done
through Normal Means.
There are advantages to specifying exactly
where the funds are allocated from.
For example, budget trade-off advantage and
answers to disadvantages.
Normal Means
 Two catch phrases that are used in plan text to
explain the implementation of normal means:
“funding and enforcement guaranteed”
“funding and enforcement through normal means”
 These statements answer the question “how much
does the plan cost?”
 These statements derive from the affirmative power
of fiat.
Putting It All Together: A Sample Plan
 Observation One: Inherency
 US space programs are being cut in the status quo
 Evidence (with Citation)
 Observation Two: Harms
 US scientific advances stagnate without robust space
program; harms should come with a significant impact
 Evidence (with Citation)
 Plan: The USFG will fund new space exploration (specify
Language must reflect solvency evidence and overcome
inherent barrier
 Observation III: Solvency
 New space program solves for scientific advances (cards
must state that plan will solve for stated harms
 Evidence (with Citation)
Additional Notes
 Each contention can have multiple subpoints,
spinning additional inherency, harms and
solvency scenarios
 Oftentimes, teams will create additional
advantages following from the case’s
solvency (e.g. “Case solves Sino-US
Relations” (S); “Sino-US relations key to
economic recovery” (Adv.))
Flowing: Note Taking for the Argumentative
 Flowing is a logical form of note taking that
allows an individual to keep contentions and
subpoints separate in order to understand
what has and has not been argued.
 WARNING: There is no substitute for flowing.
You can’t remember everything…
 Organization is the key to winning a debate
and flowing is the key to organization. Ergo…
A few quick “how tos” on flowing
 Practice – Flowing takes time, repetition, and lots of practice.
 Space – Flowing requires a lot of paper. Put different arguments on
different paper (i.e. disadvantages, topicality, counter-plans, harms,
 Color – Using different color pens helps distinguish between affirmative
 Abbreviate – Nvr wrt cmplt sntcs. (A few common ones: → (leads to);
↑ (increases); ↓ (decreases); ∆ (changes); THISS (the stock issues))
Come up with your own shorthand if needed.
 Prioritize – First write the tag (main idea of the evidence), then write
the citation, then write any other important details.
 It’s easiest to understand seeing it in action.
An example of flowing
I. Abstinence-based
education is
incapable of slowing
epidemic in subSaharan Africa
A. It imposes a
B. It has failed
where it has been
C. It undermines
education programs
Just the opposite is
true: African cultures
have traditional values
which would be
undermined by
programs are primarily
responsible for
Uganda’s remarkable
success against
Untrue: The “ABC”
approach used in
Uganda and elsewhere
combines abstinence
education and condom
The Bush
approach imposes U.S.
religious values on
African cultures.
Uganda’s success is
primarily the result of
its condom promotion
efforts – not
abstinence promotion.
The “ABC” approach is
confusing because it
sends mixed
messages; education
programs could be
more successful with
condom promotion.
 Research…Research…
 Google Alerts for topic area
 Be Creative
 Follow blogs (;;;
 Write your own cases and arguments!
PowerPoint available at

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