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How to Start a Debate

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Authored by Lee Wright in Self Improvement 
Published on 12-19-2009

Debate teams are making a comeback in schools these days. It is a great activity to have on a transcript for college applications. Participating in debate can build confidence builder and prepare a student for many aspects of college. You learn how to research topics, how to marshal arguments, and present them in a coherent fashion. Being on the debate team can improve research, vocabulary, note taking, and writing skills.

The first step to prepare for a debate is research. Developing research skills to prepare for a debate can also be a great tool for college preparation. In order to form your arguments and be prepared to argue your side, you will need to research both sides of the issue. Thorough research is essential to preparing for a debate. You should read everything you can find on a topic and keep careful notes on both the pro and con sides of the issue. Take special note of any particularly effective argument for either side.

Given the huge amount of information available through online research you may find conflicting information. After you have thoroughly researched a topic, the next step is fact checking. You should do your best to find a reliable source for information and confirm that the facts you found are accurate. You should not use information you cannot confirm. One of the worst errors you can make during a debate is using information the other side can prove is wrong. A mistake like that can destroy your team’s credibility and cast doubt on all your arguments. When in doubt, do not use information you cannot confirm, but keep the information in your notes in case the other team refers to it.

After research and fact checking, you should write an outline covering the main points that you intend to argue. Organize the information in support of your arguments and double-check your sources. You should also prepare an outline and resources for the counter argument to help you pinpoint any weaknesses in your arguments.

When first starting out you should practice arguing both the pro and con sides of an issue. This will help you understand and develop the art of presenting arguments and answering opposing points. As you practice debate you will be able to spot weaknesses in your research and debate skills and make adjustments and improvements before competitions. Practice in front of friends and teammates to help refine such presentation skills as how fast you talk and speaking clearly. Many teams hold mock debates to give team members the chance to practice opening statements and the pace and flow of arguments.

Joining the debate team can be a great asset when it comes to applying for college. Some of the skills gained from participating in debate will translate perfectly into skills essential for college success. The research, writing, persuasion, and vocabulary skills developed as a member of a debate team can help when it comes to research, note taking, writing, and test taking for college classes.

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