Hawai'i Speech League

Public Forum Debate

Public Forum Debate addresses current events and issues of great historical relevance. Research can be conducted by watching TV news programs, reading news magazines, and through the Internet. The hallmark of Public Forum Debate is that topics are brief, balanced, and require no plan. Public Forum Debate focuses on advocacy of a position derived from the issues presented in the resolution, not a prescribed set of burdens.


Coin Toss: Prior to EVERY round and in the presence of the judge(s), a coin is tossed by one team and called by the other team. The team that wins the flip may choose one of two options: EITHER the SIDE of the topic they wish to defend (affirmative or negative) OR the SPEAKING POSITION they wish to have (begin the debate or end the debate). The remaining option (SIDE or SPEAKING POSITION) is the choice of the team that loses the flip. The debate begins once speaking positions and sides has been determined. It is possible in Public Forum Debate for the negative team to begin the debate.

Plans/Counterplans: A plan or counterplan is defined as a formalized, comprehensive proposal for implementation. Neither the affirmative nor negative side is permitted to offer a plan or counterplan; rather, they should offer reasoning to support a position of advocacy. Debaters may offer generalized, practical solutions.

Time Limits for Public Forum Debate

First Speaker Team A (A1) 4 minutes
First Speaker Team B (B1) 4 minutes
Crossfire between A1 & B1 (first question asked by A1) 3 minutes
Second Speaker Team A (A2) 4 minutes
Second Speaker Team B (B2) 4 minutes
Crossfire between A2 & B2 (first question asked by A2) 3 minutes
Summary: First Speaker Team A (A1) 2 minutes
Summary: First Speaker Team B (A1) 2 minutes
Grand Crossfire (All Speakers) 3 minutes
Final Focus: Second Speaker Team A (A2) 2 minutes
Final Focus: Second Speaker Team B (B2) 2 minutes

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Lincoln-Douglas is a one-on-one values debate. The debate present logical arguments at a normal speed to persuade the judge. A round of Lincoln-Douglas lasts about forty minutes.

The first speech is the affirmative’s, called the 1AC, and presents the debater’s case for the resolution. The affirmative debate delivers a prepared speech which argues for the resolution in its entirety. Expect a brief introduction in which the resolution is stated followed by definitions of the resolution’s terms, then an assertion of value (such as liberty, justice, or social good) with analysis to prove its importance. Criteria may be given to show how the debater intends to further that value. A few argument, perhaps labeled “contentions” or “levels of analysis,” show how the affirmative meets the criteria or the central value for the debate.

The negative debater will next cross-examine the affirmative speaker for three minutes. Both debaters should maintain eye contact with the judge, rather than with each other.

After the cross-examination period ends, the negative debater may use some of the allotted three minutes of preparation time to organize for the next speech. The debater may ask to have time called out in regular intervals to avoid using all, or most of it.

The next speech is the negative’s. called the NC. The negative debater usually gives a prepared speech similar to the 1AC which negates the resolution in its entirety. The speech may include a counter0value or counter-criteria. Midway through the debater’s time, the 1NC begins to refute the affirmative’s case, clashing with values, criteria, or ways to meet an agreed-upon value.

The affirmative debater cross-examines the negative for three minutes, then will usually use some preparation time.

The first affirmative rebuttal, 1AR, speech that follows is very difficult as it requires the affirmative to refute the negative case as well as the negative’s responses to the affirmative case in just four minutes. Thus, the debater will address main issues without being obligated to refute each and every argument, detail, or example advanced by the NC.

The negative may next use the remaining preparation time.

The negative gives a six-minute NR to respond to the affirmative points and to wrap up the negative position. The debater may present new responses to arguments, but may not initiate entirely new arguments. New arguments should not affect your decision at the end of the rounds.

The affirmative uses the rest of the preparation time, if he/she wishes, and rises to give a three-minute 2AR, wrapping up the main issues of the debate and the affirmative positions on them. Crystallization is the key to a good 2AR. No new arguments should be presented. The 2AR is the last speech of the round.


A good debater presents good, clear, logical arguments with plenty of analysis to prove the position. Evidence may be used alone to prove a point, but analysis should accompany a clear argument. Evidence and analysis are ideal. Examples are useful only as illustrations. The debate should involve conflicts that center around a key value or around the clash between values.


Parallel Burdens: No question of values can be determined entirely true or false. This is why the resolution is debatable. Therefore neither debater should be held to a standard of absolute proof. No debater can realistically be expected to prove complete validity or invalidity of the resolution. The better debater is the one who, on the whole, supports his or her side of the resolution as a regulatory ideal or guiding principle.

Burden of proof: Each debater has the equal burden to prove the validity of his/her side of the resolution as a general principle. Given that an LD resolution is a statement of value, there is no presumption for either side.

Burden of clash: Each debater has an equal burden to clash with his/her opponent’s position. After a case is presented, neither debater should be rewarded for presenting a speech completely unrelated to the arguments of his or her opponent.

Resolutional burden: The debaters are equally obligated to focus the debate on the central questions of the resolution, not whether the resolution itself is worthy of debate. Because the affirmative must uphold the resolution, the negative must also argue the resolution as presented.

Value Structure: The value structure (or framework) is established by the debater to serve two functions: a) to provide an interpretation of the central focus of the resolution, and b) to provide a method for the judge to evaluate the central questions of the resolution. The value structure often consists of a statement of the resolution (if affirming), definitions (dictionary or contextual), the value premise (or core value), and the value criterion (or standard). This structure is commonly but not always employed.

Definitions: The affirmative should offer definitions, be they dictionary or contextual, that provides a reasonable ground for debate. The negative has the option to challenge these definitions and to offer counter‐definitions.

Value premise/core value: A value is an ideal held by individuals, societies, governments, etc. that serves as the highest goal to be protected, respected, maximized, advanced, or achieved. In general, the debater will establish a value which focuses the central questions of the resolution and will serve as a foundation for argumentation.

Value criterion/standard: In general, each debater will present a value criterion (a standard) which the debater will use to: (a) explain how the value should be protected, respected, maximized, advanced, or achieved, (b) measure whether a given side or argument protects, respects, maximizes, advances, or achieves the value, and (c) evaluate the relevance and importance of an argument in the context of the round.

Note: The relationship between the value premise and the criterion should be clearly articulated. During the debate, the debaters may argue the validity or priority of the two value structures. They may accept their opponent’s value structure, prove the superiority of their own value structure, or synthesize the two.

Argumentation: Because Lincoln-Douglas Debate is an educational debate activity, debaters are obligated to construct logical chains of reasoning which lead to the conclusion of the affirmative or negative position. The nature of proof may take a variety of forms (e.g., a student’s original analysis, application of philosophy, examples, analogies, statistics, expert opinion, etc.). Arguments should be presented in a cohesive manner that shows a clear relationship
to the value structure. Any research should be conducted and presented ethically from academically sound and appropriately cited sources.

Cross-Examination: Cross‐examination should be used by the debater to clarify, challenge, and/or advance arguments in the round.

Effective delivery: Lincoln-Douglas Debate is an oral communication activity that requires clarity of thought and expression. Arguments should be worded and delivered in a manner accessible to an educated non‐specialist audience. This encompasses:

Written communication: Cases and arguments should be constructed in a manner that is organized, accessible, and informative to the listener. The debater should employ clear logic and analysis supported by topical research.

Verbal communication: The debater has the obligation to be clear, audible and comprehensible, and to speak persuasively to the listeners. Additionally, debaters should strive for fluency, expressiveness, effective word choice, and eloquence.

Nonverbal communication: The debater should demonstrate an effective use of gestures, eye contact, and posture.

Note: Throughout the debate, the debaters should demonstrate civility as well as a professional demeanor and style of delivery.


Cross-Examination 3 minutes
Cross-Examination 3 minutes

Policy Debate

Policy debate (also called Oxford or Cross-Examination Debate) is a debate based on which team demonstrates the greater proficiency of the art of debate. Proficiency in debate shall include knowledge of the question, organization of materials, soundness of argument, adaptation to opponent’s case, force of rebuttal, and effectiveness of delivery. No definite percentage of value need be assigned to these factors, but together they shall determine the decision.

Judges will be reminded that the teams are debating each other and should not be expected to meet arguments occurring only in the mind of the judge. That a well constructed, well supported, comprehensive argument is as valuable as a good rebuttal; that they should be punished severely for any misinterpretation of evidence or of opponent’s case either by misquoting or by drawing unwarranted conclusions from what really has been said; and that the debate is held not to settle a question of policy, but simply to reveal which of the two teams has shown the greater skill in debate.

The purpose of the cross-examination period is to clarify arguments and evidence presented in the debate. On the basis of the questioning and answers the debaters should build subsequent argument or refutation. The questioner is judged on how well s/he achieves this purpose and the respondent on his/her forth-rightness and ability to answer the pertinent questions. The time belongs to the debater asking the questions. Questions should be specific and the answers should be brief. Tricky questions and time consuming answers are unethical. During the questioning period, the respondent should not refute nor should the questioner comment on the answers.

The negative is not required to advance a counterplan, unless they wish to do so. The negative team may elect to destroy the affirmative case by straight refutation, or to support the status quo with some modification to correct defects. The negative team is given free choice of these ways, and judged on the effectiveness with which it supports its position it has chosen to take.

Debaters are expected to be polite. If a teams is rude during the debate, they can be downgraded and their style may affect the outcome of the debate if the judge feels that the rudeness was a serious enough breach of manners.

Evidence is important to the debate round but two things must be kept in mind. (1) New evidence may be introduced during the rebuttals; however, new arguments may not be introduced during the rebuttals. (2) Homemade or fabricated evidence means an automatic loss for the team using it and elimination from the tournament as well.

The rules of debate require that students present their arguments in a limited time frame. This is not usually encountered in normal conversation and requires the debater to make adjustments in speech of delivery, use of word economy, or the omission of some arguments. These are strategies that become an important part of the debate. The key problem faced by some judges is speed of delivery to the point of unintelligibility. Judges differ in their willingness and ability to tolerate rapid delivery. If the judges feels that s/he might demands a slower delivery than most judges, it would not be out of place to inform the debaters of this fact prior to the start of the debate round.

It is a generally accepted practice that if the judge deliberately puts down his/her pen in the middle of the speech, the speaker is going too fast. If a speaker fails to heed to the signal, continue to take notes as best you can. Obviously, unintelligible arguments are out of the debate, but do not discount entire arguments just because you missed a few words. It is very common in ordinary conversation for us to miss words and still piece together the meaning. Please use the same courtesy as you would in a conversation. The judge may consider excessive speech when awarding points but please do not throw out an argument because you weren’t happy with the speed.

Time limits for Policy Debate

Cross-Examination (2NC -> 1AC) 3 minutes
Cross-Examination (1AC -> 1NC) 3 minutes
Cross-Examination (1NC -> 2AC) 3 minutes
Cross-Examination (2AR -> 2NC) 3 minutes

Congressional Debate

In Congressional Debate, high school students emulate members of the United States Congress by debating bills and resolutions. Before the event, each school submits mock legislation to each tournament. After the legislation has been compiled, it is distributed to each participating team. Each team attempts to research as many topics as possible, with the goal of being able to speak on both sides of every legislation.

Congressional Debate speeches last up to three minutes. The first speech on each legislation, known as the "authorship," goes to a debater who wrote the legislation, or from the same school of the author. If nobody from the author's school is present, another debater gives a sponsorship speech, which is functionally identical to an authorship. This first speech is followed by a two-minute questioning period. One three-minute speech in opposition (negation) follows it, with another mandatory two minutes of questioning. After these initial speeches, debate alternates in favor and opposition to the legislation with three-minute speeches and one minute of questioning. Within each speech, contestants develop two or three organized, logical arguments supported by credible evidence for why the chamber should vote for or against the given legislation.

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