Guidelines & Formats

point-cpThe American Civic Debate Union doesn’t rely on rules so much as we do principles and guidelines. If it works, our member are encouraged to use it. If it doesn’t then create a better way.

Following are two formats that can be used to structure the debate = a one-vs-one format and a two-on-two.

  • 1v1
  • 2v2
  • Audience Participation

1v1 (ACDA Modified Lincoln-Douglas)

Feel free to review the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Wikipedia page if you’d like a deeper look into the history and current use of this one-on-one 19th century style.

Those familiar with LD know that it’s primarily designed for discussions of values, as opposed to harder debates on policy (which is generally the domain of 2v2/Varsity debates). However, there is no stricture against debaters wading deeper into relevant policy considerations if they choose.

For ACDU purposes, here’s how it works.

In each debate, one participant is the affirmative speaker – he or she affirms the agreed-upon resolution – and the other the negative. The speakers have an equal amount of floor time, although that time is apportioned in a fashion that may strike some as counter-intuitive.

1: The format:

Time (minutes)   Speech   Description
7 Affirmative Constructive (AC) The Affirmative speaker presents a pre-written case.
3 Cross Examination (CX) The Negative speaker asks the Affirmative questions about the Affirmative case. The questioner may ONLY ask questions and the Affirmative must reply directly.
8 Negative Constructive (and first negative Rebuttal) (NC/1NR) The Negative (usually) reads a pre-written case and (usually) moves on to address the Affirmative case.
3 Cross Examination (CX) The Affirmative asks the Negative questions. Again, the questioner may only ask questions and the Negative must reply directly.
5 Audience Cross Examination (CX) The Moderator invites the audience to ask questions of both speakers.
4 First Affirmative Rebuttal (1AR) The Affirmative addresses both the negative case and his or her own. This speech is generally regarded as the most difficult.
7 The Negative Rebuttal (2NR) The Negative addresses the arguments of the previous speech and summarizes the round for the judge.
4 The Second Affirmative Rebuttal (2AR) The Affirmative addresses the arguments of the previous speech and summarizes the round for the judge.
5 Audience Cross Examination (CX) The Moderator invites the audience to ask final questions of both speakers. Formal time allotment may be exceeded indefinitely at Moderator’s discretion.

2: Preparation time: Speakers will be allowed five minutes of prep time to be used at their discretion.

3: Allotted time: If each speaker uses all five minutes of prep time the debate will last roughly 56 minutes bell to bell. Depending on a variety of circumstances total debate time may be scaled up or down.

4: No interruptions allowed: Debaters may, under no circumstances, interrupt or in any other way impose upon the other speaker’s time.

2v2: Modified Varsity Format

ACDU’s four-person debate (two teams of two each) is modeled on the formats employed by the National Speech & Debate Association (high school) and American Forensic Association (college), which oversee competitive debate in the US. These competitions are usually designed to emulate policy debates, and while values are important, more attention is focused on the pragmatics of what should be done and how.

1: The format: As with the 1v1 format, teams have an equal amount of speaking time, with the structure reversing the order of affirmative and negative speeches in rebuttals.

Time (minutes)   Speech   Description
6 First Affirmative Constructive (1AC) The First Affirmative speaker presents a pre-written case. In it, a problem area is described, the inability of the current system to solve the problem without the proposed intervention is articulated, a plan to address the problem is presented and one or more advantages of the plan are outlined.
2 Cross Examination (CX) The Second Negative speaker asks the First Affirmative questions about the Affirmative case and plan. The questioner may ONLY ask questions and the Affirmative must reply directly.
6 First Negative Constructive (1NC) The First Negative responds to the case area (usually), explaining that the problem isn’t significant (if it exists at all) and/or that the mechanisms of the present system can adequately address it.
2 Cross Examination (CX) The First Affirmative asks the First Negative questions. Again, the questioner may only ask questions and the Negative must reply directly.
6 Second Affirmative Constructive (2AC) The Second Affirmative deals with the 1NC’s objections and expands on the case as presented in the 1AC.
2 Cross Examination (CX) The First Negative interrogates the 2AC.
6 Second Negative Constructive (2NC) The Second Negative addresses the Affirmative’s plan, explaining how it won’t work and/or presenting disadvantages to its implementation.
2 Cross Examination (CX) The Second Affirmative interrogates the 2NC.
3 The First Negative Rebuttal (1NR) 1NR responds to the 2AC’s case arguments.
3 First Affirmative Rebuttal Typically the most difficult speech of the debate, the 1AC must address both the 2NC and 1NR objections.
3 Second Negative Rebuttal 2NR replies to the 1AR and summarizes the rationale for a Negative decision.
3 Second Affirmative Rebuttal 2AR replies to 2NR and summarizes the rationale for an Affirmative decision.

2: Preparation time: Speakers will be allowed five minutes of prep time to be used at their discretion.

3: Allotted time: If each speaker uses all five minutes of prep time the debate will last roughly 54 minutes bell to bell. Depending on a variety of circumstances total debate time may be scaled up or down.

4: No interruptions allowed: Debaters may, under no circumstances, interrupt or in any other way impose upon the other speaker’s time.

Audience Participation

The chair is strongly encouraged to involve the audience formally. One possibility: a three-minute cross-examination period may be interjected after the affirmative speeches where the house can pose questions to the competitors. Alternately, the debaters may be asked to stand and field questions for a period of time after the final speech.

While a good debate will ideally spark informal conversations that last well into the night, it’s a good idea to assure that everyone feels a chance to invest during the formal proceedings.