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Discourse, debate, and analysis

Cambridge re:think essay competition 2024.

Competition Opens: 15th January, 2024

Essay Submission Deadline: 10th May, 2024 Result Announcement: 20th June, 2024 Award Ceremony and Dinner at the University of Cambridge: 30th July, 2024

We welcome talented high school students from diverse educational settings worldwide to contribute their unique perspectives to the competition.

Entry to the competition is free.

About the Competition

The spirit of the Re:think essay competition is to encourage critical thinking and exploration of a wide range of thought-provoking and often controversial topics. The competition covers a diverse array of subjects, from historical and present issues to speculative future scenarios. Participants are invited to engage deeply with these topics, critically analysing their various facets and implications. It promotes intellectual exploration and encourages participants to challenge established norms and beliefs, presenting opportunities to envision alternative futures, consider the consequences of new technologies, and reevaluate longstanding traditions. 

Ultimately, our aim is to create a platform for students and scholars to share their perspectives on pressing issues of the past and future, with the hope of broadening our collective understanding and generating innovative solutions to contemporary challenges. This year’s competition aims to underscore the importance of discourse, debate, and critical analysis in addressing complex societal issues in nine areas, including:

Religion and Politics

Political science and law, linguistics, environment, sociology and philosophy, business and investment, public health and sustainability, biotechonology.

Artificial Intelligence 


2024 essay prompts.

This year, the essay prompts are contributed by distinguished professors from Harvard, Brown, UC Berkeley, Cambridge, Oxford, and MIT.

Essay Guidelines and Judging Criteria

Review general guidelines, format guidelines, eligibility, judging criteria.

Awards and Award Ceremony

Award winners will be invited to attend the Award Ceremony and Dinner hosted at the King’s College, University of Cambridge. The Dinner is free of charge for select award recipients.

Registration and Submission

Register a participant account today and submit your essay before the deadline.

Advisory Committee and Judging Panel

The Cambridge Re:think Essay Competition is guided by an esteemed Advisory Committee comprising distinguished academics and experts from elite universities worldwide. These committee members, drawn from prestigious institutions, such as Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, and MIT, bring diverse expertise in various disciplines.

They play a pivotal role in shaping the competition, contributing their insights to curate the themes and framework. Their collective knowledge and scholarly guidance ensure the competition’s relevance, academic rigour, and intellectual depth, setting the stage for aspiring minds to engage with thought-provoking topics and ideas.

We are honoured to invite the following distinguished professors to contribute to this year’s competition.

The judging panel of the competition comprises leading researchers and professors from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, and Oxford, engaging in a strictly double blind review process.

Essay Competition Professors

Keynote Speeches by 10 Nobel Laureates

We are beyond excited to announce that multiple Nobel laureates have confirmed to attend and speak at this year’s ceremony on 30th July, 2024 .

They will each be delivering a keynote speech to the attendees. Some of them distinguished speakers will speak virtually, while others will attend and present in person and attend the Reception at Cambridge.

Essay Competition Professors (4)

Why has religion remained a force in a secular world? 

Professor Commentary:

Arguably, the developed world has become more secular in the last century or so. The influence of Christianity, e.g. has diminished and people’s life worlds are less shaped by faith and allegiance to Churches. Conversely, arguments have persisted that hold that we live in a post-secular world. After all, religion – be it in terms of faith, transcendence, or meaning – may be seen as an alternative to a disenchanted world ruled by entirely profane criteria such as economic rationality, progressivism, or science. Is the revival of religion a pale reminder of a by-gone past or does it provide sources of hope for the future?

‘Religion in the Public Sphere’ by Jürgen Habermas (European Journal of Philosophy, 2006)

In this paper, philosopher Jürgen Habermas discusses the limits of church-state separation, emphasizing the significant contribution of religion to public discourse when translated into publicly accessible reasons.

‘Public Religions in the Modern World’ by José Casanova (University Of Chicago Press, 1994)

Sociologist José Casanova explores the global emergence of public religion, analyzing case studies from Catholicism and Protestantism in Spain, Poland, Brazil, and the USA, challenging traditional theories of secularization.

‘The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere’ by Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West (Edited by Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Columbia University Press, 2011)

This collection features dialogues by prominent intellectuals on the role of religion in the public sphere, examining various approaches and their impacts on cultural, social, and political debates.

‘Rethinking Secularism’ by Craig Calhoun, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (Oxford University Press, 2011)

An interdisciplinary examination of secularism, this book challenges traditional views, highlighting the complex relationship between religion and secularism in contemporary global politics.

‘God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World’ by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (Penguin, 2010)

Micklethwait and Wooldridge argue for the coexistence of religion and modernity, suggesting that religious beliefs can contribute to a more open, tolerant, and peaceful modern world.

‘Multiculturalism’ by Tariq Modood (Polity Press, 2013)

Sociologist Tariq Modood emphasizes the importance of multiculturalism in integrating diverse identities, particularly in post-immigration contexts, and its role in shaping democratic citizenship.

‘God’s Agents: Biblical Publicity in Contemporary England’ by Matthew Engelke (University of California Press, 2013)

In this ethnographic study, Matthew Engelke explores how a group in England seeks to expand the role of religion in the public sphere, challenging perceptions of religion in post-secular England.

Ccir Essay Competition Prompt Contributed By Dr Mashail Malik

Gene therapy is a medical approach that treats or prevents disease by correcting the underlying genetic problem. Is gene therapy better than traditional medicines? What are the pros and cons of using gene therapy as a medicine? Is gene therapy justifiable?

Especially after Covid-19 mRNA vaccines, gene therapy is getting more and more interesting approach to cure. That’s why that could be interesting to think about. I believe that students will enjoy and learn a lot while they are investigating this topic.

Ccir Essay Competition Prompt Contributed By Dr Mamiko Yajima

The Hall at King’s College, Cambridge

The Hall was designed by William Wilkins in the 1820s and is considered one of the most magnificent halls of its era. The first High Table dinner in the Hall was held in February 1828, and ever since then, the splendid Hall has been where members of the college eat and where formal dinners have been held for centuries.

The Award Ceremony and Dinner will be held in the Hall in the evening of  30th July, 2024.


Stretching out down to the River Cam, the Back Lawn has one of the most iconic backdrop of King’s College Chapel. 

The early evening reception will be hosted on the Back Lawn with the iconic Chapel in the background (weather permitting). 


King’s College Chapel

With construction started in 1446 by Henry VI and took over a century to build, King’s College Chapel is one of the most iconic buildings in the world, and is a splendid example of late Gothic architecture. 

Attendees are also granted complimentary access to the King’s College Chapel before and during the event. 

Confirmed Nobel Laureates

Dr David Baltimore - CCIR

Dr Thomas R. Cech

The nobel prize in chemistry 1989 , for the discovery of catalytic properties of rna.

Thomas Robert Cech is an American chemist who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Sidney Altman, for their discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA. Cech discovered that RNA could itself cut strands of RNA, suggesting that life might have started as RNA. He found that RNA can not only transmit instructions, but also that it can speed up the necessary reactions.

He also studied telomeres, and his lab discovered an enzyme, TERT (telomerase reverse transcriptase), which is part of the process of restoring telomeres after they are shortened during cell division.

As president of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he promoted science education, and he teaches an undergraduate chemistry course at the University of Colorado


Sir Richard J. Roberts

The nobel prize in medicine 1993 .

F or the discovery of split genes

During 1969–1972, Sir Richard J. Roberts did postdoctoral research at Harvard University before moving to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he was hired by James Dewey Watson, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and a fellow Nobel laureate. In this period he also visited the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology for the first time, working alongside Fred Sanger. In 1977, he published his discovery of RNA splicing. In 1992, he moved to New England Biolabs. The following year, he shared a Nobel Prize with his former colleague at Cold Spring Harbor Phillip Allen Sharp.

His discovery of the alternative splicing of genes, in particular, has had a profound impact on the study and applications of molecular biology. The realisation that individual genes could exist as separate, disconnected segments within longer strands of DNA first arose in his 1977 study of adenovirus, one of the viruses responsible for causing the common cold. Robert’s research in this field resulted in a fundamental shift in our understanding of genetics, and has led to the discovery of split genes in higher organisms, including human beings.

Dr William Daniel Phillips - CCIR

Dr Aaron Ciechanover

The nobel prize in chemistry 2004 .

F or the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation

Aaron Ciechanover is one of Israel’s first Nobel Laureates in science, earning his Nobel Prize in 2004 for his work in ubiquitination. He is honored for playing a central role in the history of Israel and in the history of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Dr Ciechanover is currently a Technion Distinguished Research Professor in the Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute at the Technion. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the Russian Academy of Sciences and is a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences. In 2008, he was a visiting Distinguished Chair Professor at NCKU, Taiwan. As part of Shenzhen’s 13th Five-Year Plan funding research in emerging technologies and opening “Nobel laureate research labs”, in 2018 he opened the Ciechanover Institute of Precision and Regenerative Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen campus.


Dr Robert Lefkowitz

The nobel prize in chemistry 2012 .

F or the discovery of G protein-coupled receptors

Robert Joseph Lefkowitz is an American physician (internist and cardiologist) and biochemist. He is best known for his discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family G protein-coupled receptors, for which he was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Brian Kobilka. He is currently an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as well as a James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at Duke University.

Dr Lefkowitz made a remarkable contribution in the mid-1980s when he and his colleagues cloned the gene first for the β-adrenergic receptor, and then rapidly thereafter, for a total of 8 adrenergic receptors (receptors for adrenaline and noradrenaline). This led to the seminal discovery that all GPCRs (which include the β-adrenergic receptor) have a very similar molecular structure. The structure is defined by an amino acid sequence which weaves its way back and forth across the plasma membrane seven times. Today we know that about 1,000 receptors in the human body belong to this same family. The importance of this is that all of these receptors use the same basic mechanisms so that pharmaceutical researchers now understand how to effectively target the largest receptor family in the human body. Today, as many as 30 to 50 percent of all prescription drugs are designed to “fit” like keys into the similarly structured locks of Dr Lefkowitz’ receptors—everything from anti-histamines to ulcer drugs to beta blockers that help relieve hypertension, angina and coronary disease.

Dr Lefkowitz is among the most highly cited researchers in the fields of biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, and clinical medicine according to Thomson-ISI.


Dr Joachim Frank

The nobel prize in chemistry 2017 .

F or developing cryo-electron microscopy

Joachim Frank is a German-American biophysicist at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate. He is regarded as the founder of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 with Jacques Dubochet and Richard Henderson. He also made significant contributions to structure and function of the ribosome from bacteria and eukaryotes.

In 1975, Dr Frank was offered a position of senior research scientist in the Division of Laboratories and Research (now Wadsworth Center), New York State Department of Health,where he started working on single-particle approaches in electron microscopy. In 1985 he was appointed associate and then (1986) full professor at the newly formed Department of Biomedical Sciences of the University at Albany, State University of New York. In 1987 and 1994, he went on sabbaticals in Europe, one to work with Richard Henderson, Laboratory of Molecular Biology Medical Research Council in Cambridge and the other as a Humboldt Research Award winner with Kenneth C. Holmes, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. In 1998, Dr Frank was appointed investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Since 2003 he was also lecturer at Columbia University, and he joined Columbia University in 2008 as professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and of biological sciences.


Dr Barry C. Barish

The nobel prize in physics 2017 .

For the decisive contributions to the detection of gravitational waves

Dr Barry Clark Barish is an American experimental physicist and Nobel Laureate. He is a Linde Professor of Physics, emeritus at California Institute of Technology and a leading expert on gravitational waves.

In 2017, Barish was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”. He said, “I didn’t know if I would succeed. I was afraid I would fail, but because I tried, I had a breakthrough.”

In 2018, he joined the faculty at University of California, Riverside, becoming the university’s second Nobel Prize winner on the faculty.

In the fall of 2023, he joined Stony Brook University as the inaugural President’s Distinguished Endowed Chair in Physics.

In 2023, Dr Barish was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Biden in a White House ceremony.


Dr Harvey J. Alter

The nobel prize in medicine 2020 .

For the discovery of Hepatitis C virus

Dr Harvey J. Alter is an American medical researcher, virologist, physician and Nobel Prize laureate, who is best known for his work that led to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. Alter is the former chief of the infectious disease section and the associate director for research of the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In the mid-1970s, Alter and his research team demonstrated that most post-transfusion hepatitis cases were not due to hepatitis A or hepatitis B viruses. Working independently, Alter and Edward Tabor, a scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, proved through transmission studies in chimpanzees that a new form of hepatitis, initially called “non-A, non-B hepatitis” caused the infections, and that the causative agent was probably a virus. This work eventually led to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus in 1988, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2020 along with Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice.

Dr Alter has received recognition for the research leading to the discovery of the virus that causes hepatitis C. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award conferred to civilians in United States government public health service, and the 2000 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.


Dr Ardem Patapoutian

The nobel prize in medicine 2021 .

For discovering how pressure is translated into nerve impulses

Dr Ardem Patapoutian is an Lebanese-American molecular biologist, neuroscientist, and Nobel Prize laureate of Armenian descent. He is known for his work in characterising the PIEZO1, PIEZO2, and TRPM8 receptors that detect pressure, menthol, and temperature. Dr Patapoutian is a neuroscience professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. In 2021, he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with David Julius.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I participate in the Re:think essay competition? 

The Re:think Essay competition is meant to serve as fertile ground for honing writing skills, fostering critical thinking, and refining communication abilities. Winning or participating in reputable contests can lead to recognition, awards, scholarships, or even publication opportunities, elevating your academic profile for college applications and future endeavours. Moreover, these competitions facilitate intellectual growth by encouraging exploration of diverse topics, while also providing networking opportunities and exposure to peers, educators, and professionals. Beyond accolades, they instil confidence, prepare for higher education demands, and often allow you to contribute meaningfully to societal conversations or causes, making an impact with your ideas.

Who is eligible to enter the Re:think essay competition?  

As long as you’re currently attending high school, regardless of your location or background, you’re eligible to participate. We welcome students from diverse educational settings worldwide to contribute their unique perspectives to the competition.

Is there any entry fee for the competition? 

There is no entry fee for the competition. Waiving the entry fee for our essay competition demonstrates CCIR’s dedication to equity. CCIR believes everyone should have an equal chance to participate and showcase their talents, regardless of financial circumstances. Removing this barrier ensures a diverse pool of participants and emphasises merit and creativity over economic capacity, fostering a fair and inclusive environment for all contributors.

Subscribe for Competition Updates

If you are interested to receive latest information and updates of this year’s competition, please sign up here.

Literacy Ideas

How to Write a Winning Debate Speech

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What is a Debating Speech?

A classroom debate involves students delivering persuasive speeches to present and support their opinions on a given subject. This activity helps develop critical thinking and communication skills, enabling students to gain a more comprehensive grasp of various topics.

Debating speeches are written according to a set of rules so a moderator can assess their effectiveness and provide an opportunity for others to question or challenge their statements within a formal debate.

A classroom debate is not an unruly fight or pointless argument but a structured formal conversation on a chosen topic in which two teams argue for or against in an attempt to convince the neutral moderator that they hold the stronger position.

Debating is a form of persuasive communication, and while we will be sticking to the fundamentals of how to write a debating speech, we also have a great guide to persuasive essay writing that elaborates on specific persuasive techniques.

Complete Teaching Unit on Class Debating

debate speech,debating | class debating unit 1 | How to Write a Winning Debate Speech |

This unit will guide your students to write excellent DEBATE SPEECHES and craft well-researched, constructed ARGU MENTS ready for critique from their classmates.

Furthermore, this EDITABLE UNIT will provide the TOOLS and STRATEGIES for running highly engaging CLASSROOM DEBATES.

How To Run A Classroom Debate

Before jumping in headfirst to write your debating speech, ensure you understand how a debate is run so that you can maximise your strategy and impact when it counts.

Debates occur in many different contexts, such as public meetings, election campaigns, legislative assemblies, and as entertainment on television shows. These contexts determine the specific structure the debate will follow.

This guide provides a basic step-by-step debate structure we can comfortably run with students in a classroom. By familiarizing students with this structure, they will effortlessly transition to other debate frameworks.

Running a classroom debate can be an engaging and educational activity that helps students develop critical thinking, communication, and research skills. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to organize and facilitate a successful classroom debate:

1. Choose a Topic For Your Debate.

Also called a resolution or a motion , the topic is sometimes chosen to debate. This is usually the case in a school activity to practice debating skills. 

The resolution or motion is usually centered around a true or false statement or a proposal to change the current situation. Often, the motion starts, ”This House believes that….”

Select a topic relevant to your curriculum and the students’ interests. Ensure that it is debatable and has multiple perspectives. Further down this article, you can find a list of popular classroom debating topics.

2. Form Two Debating Teams

Two teams of three speakers each are formed. These are referred to as ‘ The House for the Motion ’ or the ‘ Affirmative ’ team and ‘The House Against the Motion ’ or the ‘ Negative ’ team.

Preparation is an essential aspect of debating. The speech and debate team members will need time to research their arguments, collaborate, and organize themselves and their respective roles in the upcoming debate.

They’ll also need time to write and rehearse their speeches. The better prepared and coordinated they are as a team, the greater their chances of success in the debate.

3. Assign Roles to Students.

Each team member should have a specific role, such as speaker, researcher , or rebuttal specialist . This encourages teamwork and ensures that each student is actively involved.

4. Research and Preparation:

  • Allocate time for teams to research and prepare their arguments. Encourage students to use multiple sources, including books, articles, and reputable websites. Make sure you read our complete guide to powerful student research strategies.

5. Set Debate Format:

  • Define the debate format, including the structure of each round. Common formats include opening statements, cross-examination, rebuttals, and closing statements.

6. Establish Rules:

  • Set ground rules for the debate, such as time limits for each speaker, etiquette, guidelines for respectful communication, and consequences for rule violations.

7. Conduct a Practice Debate:

  • Before the actual debate, conduct a practice round. This helps students become familiar with the format and allows you to provide feedback on their arguments and presentation skills.
  • On the day of the debate, set up the classroom to accommodate the format. Ensure that each round has a clear structure, and designate a timekeeper to keep the debate on schedule.

9. Facilitate Q&A Sessions:

  • After each team presents their arguments, allow time for questions and cross-examination. This encourages critical thinking and engagement among the students.

10. Evaluate and Debrief:

  • After the debate, provide constructive feedback to each team. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments, presentation skills, and teamwork. Also, encourage students to reflect on what they learned from the experience.
  • Have a class discussion about the debate, exploring different perspectives and opinions. This can deepen students’ understanding of the topic and enhance their critical thinking skills.

Consider integrating the debate topic into future lessons or assignments. This reinforces the learning experience and allows students to delve deeper into the subject matter.

Remember to create a supportive and respectful environment throughout the debate, emphasizing the importance of listening to opposing views and engaging in constructive dialogue.

Each speaker takes a turn making their speech, alternating between the House for the Motion, who goes first, and the House Against the Motion. Each speaker speaks for a pre-agreed amount of time.

Ensure your debate is held in front of an audience (in this case, the class), and occasionally, the audience is given time to ask questions after all the speeches have been made.

Finally, the debate is judged either by moderators or by an audience vote. 

debate speech,debating | debate Organizer Free | How to Write a Winning Debate Speech |

Download our Debate Organizer

Stay fousssed with this handy template to keep all your ideas organized.

How to Write a Debate Speech

In highly competitive speech and debate tournaments, students are only provided the topic on the day, and limited time is allowed for preparation, but this is not recommended for beginners.

Regardless of the stakes of your classroom debate the speech writing process always begins with research. Thorough research will provide students with both the arguments and the supporting evidence for their position on a topic and also generate forward-thinking about what their opponents might use against them.

Writing Your Introduction

The purpose of the introduction in a debate speech is to achieve several things:

  • Grab the attention of the audience,
  • Introduce the topic
  • Provide a thesis statement
  • Preview some of the main arguments.

Grab The Attention Of Your Audience With Strong Hooks

Securing the audience’s attention is crucial, and failure to do this will have a strong, negative impact on how the team’s efforts will be scored as a whole. Let’s explore three proven strategies to hook your audience and align their thinking to yours.

Introduce Your Topic With Efficiency and Effectiveness

Once the audience’s attention has been firmly grasped, it’s time to introduce the topic or the motion. This should be done straightforwardly and transparently to ensure the audience understands the topic of the debate and the position you are approaching it from.

For example, if the topic of the debate was school uniforms, the topic may be introduced with:

Provide Your Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a concise declaration summarizing the points and arguments of your debating speech.

  • It presents a clear stance on a topic and guides the reader on what to expect in the content.
  • A good thesis statement is debatable and allows for opposing viewpoints and discussion.
  • It serves as a roadmap for the writer, ensuring coherence and focus in the piece.
  • It helps the audience understand the purpose and direction of the work from the beginning.

The thesis statement should express the student’s or the team’s position on the motion. Clearly explaining the speaker’s side of the debate. An example can be seen here.

Provide A Preview Of Your Arguments

The final part of the introduction section of a debate speech involves previewing the main points of the speech for the audience.

There is no need to go into detail with each argument here; that’s what the body of the speech is for. It is enough to provide a general thesis statement for each argument or ‘claims’ – (more on this to follow).

Previewing the arguments in a speech is especially important as the audience and judges only get one listen to a speech – unlike a text which can be reread as frequently as the reader likes.

Examples of strong opening statements for a debate

Attention Grabbers Task

After explaining the different types of attention grabbers and the format for the rest of the introduction to your students, challenge them to write an example of each type of opening for a specific debate topic. 

When they’ve finished writing these speech openings, discuss with the students which one best fits their chosen topic. Then, they can continue by completing the rest of the introduction for their speech using the format described above.

You might like to try a simple topic like “Homework should be banned.” you can choose from our collection further in this article.

Writing T he Body of the Speech

The body paragraphs are the real meat of the speech. They contain the in-depth arguments that make up the substance of the debate, and How well these arguments are made will determine how the judges will assess each speaker’s performance, so it’s essential to get the structure of these arguments just right.

Let’s take a look at how to do that.

How to structure an Argument

With the introduction out of the way, it’s time for the student to get down to the nitty-gritty of the debate – that is, making compelling arguments to support their case.

There are three main aspects to an argument in a debate speech. They are:

  • The Warrant

Following this structure carefully enables our students to build coherent and robust arguments. Ttake a look at these elements in action in the example below.

Brainstorming Arguments

Present your students with a topic and, as a class, brainstorm some arguments for and against the motion.

Then, ask students to choose one argument and, using the Claim-Warrant-Impact format, take a few moments to write down a well-structured argument that’s up to debate standard.

Students can then present their arguments to the class. 

Or, you could also divide the class along pro/con lines and host a mini-debate!

Concluding a Debate Speech

The conclusion of a speech or a debate is the final chance for the speaker to convey their message to the audience. In a formal debate that has a set time limit, the conclusion is crucial as it demonstrates the speaker’s ability to cover all their material within the given time frame.

Avoid introducing new information and focus on reinforcing the strength of your position for a compelling and memorable conclusion.

A good conclusion should refer back to the introduction and restate the main position of the speaker, followed by a summary of the key arguments presented. Finally, the speaker should end the speech with a powerful image that will leave a lasting impression on the audience and judges.

debate speech,debating | classroom debating | How to Write a Winning Debate Speech |

Examples of strong debate Conclusions

The Burden of the Rejoinder

In formal debates, the burden of the rejoinder means that any time an opponent makes a point for their side, it’s incumbent upon the student/team to address that point directly.

Failing to do so will automatically be seen as accepting the truth of the point made by the opponent.

For example, if the opposing side argues that all grass is pink, despite how ridiculous that statement is, failing to refute that point directly means that, for the debate, all grass is pink.

Our students must understand the burden of the rejoinder and ensure that any points the opposing team makes are fully addressed during the debate.

The Devils Advocate

When preparing to write their speech, students should spend a significant proportion of their team collaborating as a team. 

One good way to practice the burden of the rejoinder concept is to use the concept of Devil’s Advocate, whereby one team member acts as a member of the opposing team, posing arguments from the other side for the speaker to counter, sharpening up their refutation skills in the process.

20 Great Debating Topics for Students

  • Should cell phones be allowed in schools?
  • Is climate change primarily caused by human activities?
  • Should the voting age be lowered to 16?
  • Is social media more harmful than beneficial to society?
  • Should genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be embraced or rejected?
  • Is the death penalty an effective crime deterrent?
  • Should schools implement mandatory drug testing for students?
  • Is animal testing necessary for scientific and medical advancements?
  • Should school uniforms be mandatory?
  • Is censorship justified in certain circumstances?
  • Should the use of performance-enhancing drugs be allowed in sports?
  • Is homeschooling more beneficial than traditional schooling?
  • Should the use of plastic bags be banned?
  • Is nuclear energy a viable solution to the world’s energy needs?
  • Should the government regulate the fast food industry?
  • Is social inequality a result of systemic factors or individual choices?
  • Should the consumption of meat be reduced for environmental reasons?
  • Is online learning more effective than traditional classroom learning?
  • Should the use of drones in warfare be banned?
  • Is the legalization of marijuana beneficial for society?

These topics cover a range of subjects and offer students the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking debates on relevant and impactful issues.


debate speech,debating | 1 STUDENts love to share their opinions | The Ultimate Guide to Opinion Writing for Students and Teachers |

The Ultimate Guide to Opinion Writing for Students and Teachers

debate speech,debating | PersuasiveWritingSkills | Top 5 Persuasive Writing Techniques for Students |

Top 5 Persuasive Writing Techniques for Students

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5 Top Persuasive Writing Lesson Plans for Students and Teachers

debate speech,debating | persuasive writing prompts | 23 Persuasive writing Topics for High School students |

23 Persuasive writing Topics for High School students

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How to Write Perfect Persuasive Essays in 5 Simple Steps

Debating strategies for students.

Research and preparation are essential to ensure good performance in a debate. Students should spend as much time as possible drafting and redrafting their speeches to maximize their chances of winning. However, a debate is a dynamic activity, and victory cannot be assured by pre-writing alone.

Students must understand that the key to securing victory lies in also being able to think, write (often in the form of notes), and respond instantly amid the turmoil of the verbal battle. To do this, students must understand the following keys to victory.

When we think of winning a debate, we often think of blinding the enemy with the brilliance of our verbal eloquence. We think of impressing the audience and the judges alike with our outstanding oratory.

What we don’t often picture when we imagine what a debate winner looks like is a quiet figure sitting and listening intently. But being a good listener is one of our students’ most critical debating skills.

If students don’t listen to the other side, whether by researching opposing arguments or during the thrust of the actual debate, they won’t know the arguments the other side is making. Without this knowledge, they cannot effectively refute the opposition’s claims.

Read the Audience

In terms of the writing that happens before the debate takes place, this means knowing your audience. 

Students should learn that how they present their arguments may change according to the demographics of the audience and/or judges to whom they will be making their speech. 

An audience of retired school teachers and an audience of teen students may have very different responses to the same arguments.

This applies during the actual debate itself too. If the student making their speech reads resistance in the faces of the listeners, they should be prepared to adapt their approach accordingly in mid-speech.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The student must practice their speech before the debate. There’s no need to learn it entirely by heart. There isn’t usually an expectation to memorize a speech entirely, and doing so can lead to the speaker losing some of their spontaneity and power in their delivery. At the same time, students shouldn’t spend the whole speech bent over a sheet of paper reading word by word.

Ideally, students should familiarize themselves with the content and be prepared to deliver their speech using flashcards as prompts when necessary.

Another important element for students to focus on when practising their speech is making their body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures coherent with the verbal content of their speech. One excellent way to achieve this is for the student to practice delivering their speech in a mirror.

And Finally…

Debating is a lot of fun to teach and partake in, but it also offers students a valuable opportunity to pick up some powerful life skills.

It helps students develop a knack for distinguishing fact from opinion and an ability to assess whether a source is credible or not. It also helps to encourage them to think about the other side of the argument. 

Debating helps our students understand others, even when disagreeing with them. An important skill in these challenging times, without a doubt.

Debating Teaching Strategies

Clearly Define Debate Roles and Structure when running speech and debate events: Clearly define the roles of speakers, timekeepers, moderators, and audience members. Establish a structured format with specific time limits for speeches, rebuttals, and audience participation. This ensures a well-organized and engaging debate.

  • Provide Topic Selection and Preparation Time: Offer students a range of debate topics, allowing them to select a subject they are passionate about. Allocate ample time for research and preparation, encouraging students to gather evidence, develop strong arguments, and anticipate counterarguments.
  • Incorporate Scaffolded Debating Skills Practice: Before the actual debate, engage students in scaffolded activities that build their debating skills. This can include small group discussions, mock debates, or persuasive writing exercises. Provide feedback and guidance to help students refine their arguments and delivery.
  • Encourage Active Listening and Note-taking during speech and debate competitions: Emphasize the importance of active listening during the debate. Encourage students to take notes on key points, supporting evidence, and persuasive techniques used by speakers. This cultivates critical thinking skills and prepares them for thoughtful responses during rebuttals.
  • Facilitate Post-Debate Reflection and Discussion: After the debate, facilitate a reflection session where students can share their thoughts, lessons learned, and insights gained. Encourage them to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments and engage in constructive dialogue. This promotes metacognitive skills and encourages continuous improvement.

By following these tips, teachers can create a vibrant and educational debate experience for their students. Through structured preparation, active engagement, and reflective discussions, students develop valuable literacy and critical thinking skills that extend beyond the boundaries of the debate itself.


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How to Write a Good Debate Essay

When the word “debate” occurs in an essay title, you are being asked to examine a subject in which there are opposing views. The aim is that your essay will lead to support for one side, based on clear argument, effective judgement and justification for the decisions presented and arguments presented. The foundation of a good debate essay is effectively completing research combined with being able to refer to facts and credible information. The biggest challenge is to remain unemotional, whilst still persuading your audience of the validity of the arguments you are making in support of your chosen side.

Writing your debate essay


Your introduction should ensure that your reader understands what topic is being debated and encourage them to read more. One effective way to start is with a question, which sets the stage for you to state your position on the subject (your thesis statement). For example, “Does online learning creates laziness in students?”.

The aim is that your readers will have an immediate answer to the question, and this then drives the arguments you are presenting. An alternative approach is to refute a statement, framing the subject negatively, for example, “There are studies which suggest online learning creates laziness, however, studies have shown that online learning actually increases motivation”. In this case you are encouraging the reader to support your argument. In both cases, you have set a foundation with your introduction which needs to be built on by effective arguments and evidence.

The body text of your debate essay should be separated into paragraphs, each one of which will cover a different reason / rationale for the viewpoint you set out in your introduction. For each point you should provide back-up information from credible sources, which demonstrates that you have evaluated evidence before drawing a conclusion and opinion. Each paragraph should introduce your argument for or against, depending on your perspective, and include where appropriate, statistical evidence, illustrative data and clearly referenced sources. A good tip with a debate essay is to also present the counterargument for your point and refute it with viable sources to demonstrate why it is incorrect, demonstrating your understanding of the subject. The structure of the body text should be logical, moving from one argument to another with effective connections such as “Furthermore”, “Notwithstanding”, “Moreover” or similar to ensure coherence of argument.

The conclusion to your debate essay should be a summing up of all the positive points you have made, reaffirming your stance on the issue and should refer back to your thesis statement or original question. This enables you to demonstrate that you have effectively provided a strong justification for your point of view and in so doing, persuaded the reader of the accuracy of your perspective and opinion.

Key Words for a Debate Essay

  • In the same way
  • On the other hand
  • Nevertheless
  • On the contrary
  • Subsequently
  • Specifically
  • Furthermore
  • In consequence

Tips For Writing A Debate Essay

An argumentative paper depends on various aspects that can either build the conversation or break it. Here is how to write a debate essay step by step and get your point through in a convincing manner:

  • Choose the topic wisely. Make sure it is a controversial topic that can have a debate both ways. You can pick any topic from child education to medicinal marijuana. The topic itself needs to have a compelling pull to keep the audience involved.
  • Once the topic is decided, figure out which side you are on. For topics like domestic violence, most people will be against it, but you can still create an argument around it confidently.
  • Make sure you have done your research to articulate the facts and stats which go both in favour and against the topic. Your opponents may have a different perspective than you, but if you have solid grounds that can prove your stance, you can make them agree with you.
  • Know your audience. The readers of your essay will be very crucial to you building your argument. If you are writing a term paper, you may focus more on sentence building, structuring, and formatting. But if you are drafting for a competition, you need solid supporting research which can be cited and argued.
  • Have your facts ready. Without figures and numbers, a paper loses credibility. It becomes more of an opinion-piece than a debate essay grounded in facts.
  • The last, the most important factor. Select an issue you are most passionate about. If you feel strongly about it, you will be able to express your thoughts and also be able to research it with dedication.

Consider these tips combined when you think about how to make a debate essay convincing and interesting. Don’t forget, your opponent may not agree at all with your verdict, but at least you would present your vision with strong arguments and leave a good impression on the readers.

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Mr Greg's English Cloud

Report Writing: Inter-School Debate Competition

A couple of examples to help with your report writing on inter-school debate competition!

Table of Contents

Inter-school debate competitions are an excellent platform for students to showcase their critical thinking, public speaking, and analytical skills. Such competitions are not only important for a student’s academic growth but also play a significant role in their personal development. It helps to boost their confidence and provides them with an opportunity to express their opinions and ideas in a structured and organized manner.

The first round of the competition consisted of several schools from across the district. The topic of the debate was “Should students be allowed to use mobile phones in schools?” Each school was represented by two participants, who had to present their arguments in front of a panel of judges. The participants were evaluated based on their content, delivery, and overall performance. The judges were looking for a well-constructed argument, supported by relevant evidence, and delivered with conviction.

After a rigorous selection process, the top two teams advanced to the final round of the competition. The final round was a much-anticipated event, and the topic of the debate was “Should social media platforms be held accountable for spreading fake news?” The finalists had to present their arguments in front of a larger audience, including students, teachers, and parents. The atmosphere was electric, and the participants had to contend with some tough questions from the audience. However, they remained composed and delivered their arguments with confidence.

The final round was a closely contested affair, but in the end, the team from St. Mary’s High School emerged as the winners. The judges were impressed with their well-structured arguments, supported by relevant evidence, and delivered with conviction. The runners-up, from St. Joseph’s School, also put up an excellent performance and were commended by the judges. Overall, the competition was a resounding success, and all the participants were praised for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to the art of debating.

In conclusion, inter-school debate competitions provide an excellent platform for students to develop their critical thinking, public speaking, and analytical skills. It not only helps to boost their confidence but also provides them with an opportunity to express their opinions and ideas in a structured and organized manner. Such competitions are a testament to the importance of extracurricular activities in a student’s overall growth and development.

The Inter-School Debate Competition was held last week at the city hall, and it was a highly anticipated event. The competition saw the participation of twelve schools from the city, and the judges included esteemed members of the academic community. The atmosphere was electric as the participants and audience eagerly awaited the start of the competition.

The first round of debates saw the participants engage in intense discussions on various topics ranging from climate change to social media. The participants were well-prepared and presented their arguments with conviction and clarity. The judges were impressed with the performances and had a tough time selecting the winners. The audience was also captivated by the debates and cheered on their favorite participants.

The final round of the competition was a nail-biting finish, with the top two schools competing for the championship. The participants were given a topic on the importance of education, and they presented their arguments with passion and eloquence. The judges had a tough time deciding the winner, and the tension in the hall was palpable. Finally, after much deliberation, the winner was announced, and the audience erupted in applause.

In conclusion, the Inter-School Debate Competition was a huge success, and it showcased the intellectual prowess and eloquence of the young minds of our city. The participants displayed remarkable confidence and maturity, and the judges were highly impressed with their performances. The competition was a testament to the importance of critical thinking and effective communication skills, and we look forward to more such events in the future.

Inter-school debate competitions are an excellent platform for students to showcase their debating skills and enhance their knowledge on various topics. These competitions provide an opportunity for students to engage in healthy discussions and develop their critical thinking abilities. In this essay, I will describe the inter-school debate competition, highlighting the competition venue, participants, and debate topics.

The competition venue is a spacious auditorium with bright lighting, a raised stage, and comfortable seating arrangements for participants and the audience. The auditorium is equipped with the latest technology, including microphones and projectors, which facilitate effective communication between participants and the audience. The seating arrangement is such that the participants sit on one side of the stage, while the audience sits on the other side. The competition venue is well-maintained and provides a conducive environment for healthy debates.

The participants in the debate competition are well-dressed, confident, and equipped with persuasive arguments and counter-arguments, representing their respective schools. They come from diverse backgrounds and possess a range of skills, including research, public speaking, and critical thinking. The participants are selected through a rigorous screening process, ensuring that only the best debaters represent their schools. The participants are respectful towards each other and engage in healthy discussions, promoting a culture of intellectual exchange.

The debate topics in inter-school competitions are current and relevant issues, ranging from politics to social issues. Each participant is given a fair chance to present their viewpoints and rebut opposing arguments. The topics are designed to challenge the participants’ knowledge and critical thinking abilities, encouraging them to think beyond their comfort zones. The judges evaluate the participants based on their content, delivery, and rebuttal skills, ensuring that the competition is fair and transparent.

In conclusion, inter-school debate competitions provide an excellent platform for students to develop their critical thinking abilities and enhance their knowledge on various topics. The competition venue, participants, and debate topics are carefully selected to ensure a conducive environment for healthy debates. Such competitions promote a culture of intellectual exchange and prepare students for real-world challenges.

About Mr. Greg

Mr. Greg is an English teacher from Edinburgh, Scotland, currently based in Hong Kong. He has over 5 years teaching experience and recently completed his PGCE at the University of Essex Online. In 2013, he graduated from Edinburgh Napier University with a BEng(Hons) in Computing, with a focus on social media.

Mr. Greg’s English Cloud was created in 2020 during the pandemic, aiming to provide students and parents with resources to help facilitate their learning at home.

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debate competition essay


Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 55 great debate topics for any project.

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General Education


A debate is a formal discussion about a topic where two sides present opposing viewpoints. Debates follow a specific structure: each side is given time to speak either for or against the topic at hand.

Many students study debate in high school to improve their speaking skills. As a debater, you learn how to clearly structure and present an argument. The skills you develop as a debater will help you on everything from a college admissions interview to a job presentation.

Selecting debate topics is one of the most important parts of debating. In this article, we’ll explain how to select a good debate topic and give suggestions for debate topics you can use.

How to Select Good Debate Topics

A good debate topic is one that lets the participants and the audience learn about both sides of an issue. Consider the following factors when selecting a debate topic:

Interest: Are you interested in the topic? Would the topic be interesting to your fellow classmates, as well as to the audience listening to the debate? Selecting a topic that you’re interested in makes the preparation part of the debate more exciting , as well as the debate more lively.

Argument Potential: You want to choose a debate topic that has solid argument potential. If one side is clearly right, or if there isn’t a lot of available information, you’ll have a hard time crafting a solid debate.

Availability of Data: Data points make an argument more robust. You’ll want to select a topic with lots of empirical data that you can pull from to bolster your argument.

Now that we know how to select a debate topic, let’s look at a list of good debate topics.

Debate Topics Master List

If you’re searching for your next debate topic, here are some suggestions.

Social and Political Issues Debate Topics

  • All people should have the right to own guns.
  • The death penalty should be abolished.
  • Human cloning should be legalized.
  • All drugs should be legalized.
  • Animal testing should be banned.
  • Juveniles should be tried and treated as adults.
  • Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity today.
  • Violent video games should be banned.
  • The minimum wage should be $15 per hour.
  • All people should have Universal Basic Income.
  • Sex work should be legal.
  • Countries should be isolationist.
  • Abortion should be banned.
  • Every citizen should be mandated to perform national public service.
  • Bottled water should be banned.
  • Plastic bags should be banned.

Education Debate Topics

  • Homework should be banned.
  • Public prayer should not be allowed in schools.
  • Schools should block sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram on their computers.
  • School uniforms should be required.
  • Standardized testing should be abolished.
  • All students should have an after-school job or internship.
  • School should be in session year-round.
  • All high school athletes should be drug tested.
  • Detention should be abolished.
  • All student loan debt should be eliminated.
  • Homeschooling is better than traditional schooling.
  • All schools should have armed security guards.
  • Religion should be taught in schools.
  • All schools should be private schools.
  • All students should go to boarding schools.
  • Sexual education should be mandatory in schools.
  • Public college should be tuition free.
  • All teachers should get tenure.
  • All school districts should offer school vouchers.


Health Debate Topics

  • Healthcare should be universal.
  • Cosmetic procedures should be covered by health insurance.
  • All people should be vegetarians.
  • Euthanasia should be banned.
  • The drinking age should be 18.
  • Vaping should be banned.
  • Smoking should be banned in all public places.
  • People should be legally required to get vaccines.
  • Obesity should be labeled a disease.
  • Sexual orientation is determined at birth.
  • The sale of human organs should be legalized.
  • Birth control should be for sale over the counter.

Technology Debate Topics

  • Social media has improved human communication.
  • The development of artificial intelligence will help humanity.
  • Individuals should own their own DNA.
  • Humans should invest in technology to explore and colonize other planets.
  • Governments should invest in alternative energy sources.
  • Net neutrality should be restored.
  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies should be encouraged or banned.
  • Alternative energy can effectively replace fossil fuels.
  • Cell phone radiation is dangerous and should be limited.

How to Prepare for a Debate

Once you’ve selected your debate topic, the next step is to prepare for your debate. Follow these steps as you get ready to take the podium.

Read Your Evidence

The most important step to building your debate confidence is to familiarize yourself with the evidence available. You’ll want to select reputable sources and use empirical data effectively.

The more well read on your topic you are, the better you’ll be able to defend your position and anticipate the other side’s arguments.

Anticipate the Other Side’s Arguments

As part of your debate, you’ll need to rebut the other side’s arguments. It’s important to prepare ahead of time to guess what they’ll be talking about. You’ll bolster your own side’s argument if you’re able to effectively dismantle what the other side is saying.

Plan to Fill Your Speech Time

Each speaker at a debate is limited to a certain amount of time. You should plan to use every second of the time that you’re allotted. Make sure you practice your talking points so that you know you’re within the time frame. If you’re short, add in more evidence.

Practice to Build Confidence

It can be scary to take the stage for a debate! Practicing ahead of time will help you build confidence. Remember to speak slowly and clearly. Even if your argument is great, it won’t matter if no one can understand it.

Final Thoughts

Debate is a great way to hone your public speaking skills and get practice crafting and defending an argument. Use these debate topics if you're searching for a focus for your next debate.

What's Next?

Looking for ways to keep the debate going in non-academic life? Then you'll love our list of 101 "this or that" questions to argue over with your friends.

Thinking about how you can use your argumentative skills in a future career? Read up on the five steps to becoming a lawyer to see if that's a path you want to pursue.

Getting ready to take an AP test? Here’s a list of practice tests for every AP exam, including the AP literature exam .

It can be hard to schedule time to study for an AP test on top of your extracurriculars and normal classwork. Check out this article on when you need to start studying for your AP tests to make sure you’re staying on track.

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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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National Speech & Debate Association

Competition Events

debate competition essay

Competition Events Guide

Speech  involves a presentation by one or two students that is judged against a similar type of presentation by others in a round of competition. There are two general categories of speech events, public address events and interpretive events.  Public address events  feature a speech written by the student, either in advance or with limited prep, that can answer a question, share a belief, persuade an audience, or educate the listener on a variety of topics.  Interpretation events center upon a student selecting and performing published material and appeal to many who enjoy acting and theatre. 

Debate involves an individual or a team of students working to effectively convince a judge that their side of a resolution or topic is, as a general principle, more valid. Students in debate come to thoroughly understand both sides of an issue, having researched each extensively, and learn to think critically about every argument that could be made on each side.

To learn more about each event, click on the event name.

Interp events.

  • Dramatic Interpretation (DI)
  • Duo Interpretation (DUO)
  • Humorous Interpretation (HI)
  • Poetry (POE)
  • Program Oral Interpretation (POI)
  • Prose (PRO)
  • Storytelling (STO)

Public Address Events

  • Commentary (EXC)
  • Declamation (DEC)
  • Expository (EXP)
  • Impromptu (IMP)
  • Informative Speaking (INF)
  • International Extemporaneous Speaking (IX)
  • Mixed Extemporaneous Speaking (MX)
  • Original Oratory (OO)
  • Original Spoken Word Poetry (SW)
  • Pro Con Challenge (PCC)
  • United States Extemporaneous Speaking (USX)

Debate Events

  • Big Questions (BQ)
  • Congressional Debate (House & Senate) (CON)
  • Extemporaneous Debate (XDB)
  • Lincoln-Douglas Debate (LD)
  • Policy Debate (CX)
  • Public Forum Debate (PF)
  • World Schools Debate (WS)

Students are presented with prompts related to societal, political, historic or popular culture and, in 20 minutes, prepare a five-minute speech responding to the prompt. Students may consult articles and evidence they gather prior to the contest. At the National Tournament, students may use internet during preparation. Some other tournaments may not. The speech is delivered from memory and no notes are allowed.

About Declamation

About Dramatic Interpretation

About Duo Interpretation

About Expository

About Humorous Interpretation

About Impromptu

Impromptu is a public speaking event where students have seven minutes to select a topic, brainstorm their ideas, outline and deliver a speech. The speech is given without notes and uses an introduction, body, and conclusion. The speech can be light-hearted or serious. It can be based upon prompts that range from nursery rhymes, current events, celebrities, organizations, and more.

An adapted version of Impromptu, Prepared Prompt Speaking, has been used at online tournaments. In Prepared Prompt, students will be given a list of topics prior to the tournament, select one prompt from the official list, prepare a speech, and submit it through the recording process.

Impromptu is a public speaking event that tests a student’s ability to analyze a prompt, process their thoughts, organize the points of the speech, and deliver them in a clear, coherent manner. Students’ logic is extremely important. They must be able to take an abstract idea, such as a fortune from a fortune cookie, and put together a speech that has a thesis and supporting information.

About Informative Speaking

Informative is a speech written by the student with the intent to inform the audience on a topic of significance. Students in informative may use a visual aid. Informative gives students the unique opportunity to showcase their personality while educating the audience. An Informative is not simply an essay about the topic—it is a well researched and organized presentation with evidence, logic, and sometimes humor to convey a message. Topics are varied and interesting. Whether it be a new technological advance the audience is unaware of or a new take on a concept that everyone is familiar with, Informative is the students opportunity to teach the audience. Types of topics and structure vary greatly.

About International Extemp

International Extemporaneous Speaking, typically called International Extemp, is a speech on current International events with limited preparation time. A student’s understanding of important political, economic, and cultural issues is assessed along with critical thinking and analytical skills. Students report to a draw room (often referred to as Extemp prep) where all of the Extempers gather at tables, set out their files, and await their turn to draw topics. Students may access research brought with them to the tournament during the 30-minute preparation period. Some tournaments, including the NSDA National Tournament, will permit students to use the internet to research during preparation time. When prep time is up, the student reports to the competition room to deliver a 7 minute speech. Students have a lot to do in 30 minutes—they must select a question, review research, outline arguments with supporting materials, and practice at least part of the speech before time expires. Many tournaments prohibit the consultation of notes during the speech in which case speech structure and evidence need to be memorized during prep time as well.

Mixed Extemp

Mixed Extemp combines international and domestic issues (as opposed to two separate events like high school). Mixed Extemp is an event at the NSDA Middle School National Tournament. Students are presented with a choice of three questions related to national and international current events. The student has 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech answering the selected question. Students may consult articles and evidence to help with their preparation. The internet may be used during preparation time at the NSDA Middle School National Tournament, though local events may not allow use of internet.

About Original Oratory

About Original Spoken Word Poetry

The maximum time limit is 5 minutes with a 30-second grace period. The delivery must be memorized, and no book or script may be used. No more than 150 words of the original poetry may be direct quotation from any other speech or writing. A successful performer will craft a piece that elicits critical thought, reflection, or emotion. As opposed to traditional Poetry, Spoken Word Poetry is created to be performed aloud and may feature rhythmic flow, vivid imagery, word play, gestures, lyrical elements, and repetition. Use the Getting Started with Original Spoken Word Poetry guide as a helpful tool to explore ways to express thoughts and experiences through poetry.

About Poetry

Poetry is characterized by writing that conveys ideas, experiences, and emotions through language and expression. Often Poetry is very creative in terms of vocabulary and composition. While Poetry may tell a story or develop a character, more often Poetry’s focus on language and form are designed to elicit critical thought, reflection, or emotion. Students may choose what the National Speech & Debate Association refers to as traditional Poetry, which often has a formal meter or rhyme scheme, or nontraditional Poetry, which often has a rhythmic flow but lacks formal rhyme or meter. Poetry is different than Original Spoken Word Poetry in that students in Poetry will perform works written by others. In Poetry, students may chose to perform one long poem or create a program of poetry from one source or multiple sources.

Pro Con Challenge

Students select the National Tournament topic for CX, LD, or PF or a piece of legislation in the Congressional Debate Docket and write a 3-5 minute affirmative speech and a 3-5 minute negative speech on that topic. This event allows students to explore debate topics in a new and exciting way while showing off their writing, research, and delivery skills.

About Progam Oral Interpretation

About Prose

About Storytelling

Storytelling consists of sharing a story with an audience, performed as if the audience were a group of young children. Some tournaments have themes that the story selection must fit in; the National Tournament does not have a theme, and any story selection is acceptable. The story must not exceed five minutes. Students may use a full range of movement to express themselves and may incorporate a chair in a variety of different ways, though the chair may not be used as a prop during the performance. Students may be seated but most commonly performers use a full range of stage space available to them. As there are so many different types of stories that can be performed, it is important to observe rounds to see what other students and teams are using. The Association has final rounds of Storytelling from both the high school and middle school level to review. Local and regional tournaments may vary in the selection of stories performed.

About United States Extemp

About Big Questions Debate

Time limits.

*Each team is entitled to three minutes of prep time during the round.

About Congressional Debate

About Extemporaneous Debate

About Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Lincoln-Douglas Debate typically appeals to individuals who like to debate, but prefer a one-on-one format as opposed to a team or group setting. Additionally, individuals who enjoy LD like exploring questions of how society ought to be. Many people refer to LD Debate as a “values” debate, as questions of morality and justice are commonly examined. Students prepare cases and then engage in an exchange of cross-examinations and rebuttals in an attempt to convince a judge that they are the better debater in the round.

About Policy Debate

About Public Forum Debate

About World Schools Debate

Debating For Everyone | Debating Training for Schools | Set up Debating Club at School | Debating Advice School Students

Debating For Everyone | Debating Training for Schools | Set up Debating Club at School | Debating Advice School Students

How to succeed at competitions.

How to succeed at competitions

Trophies in the cabinet at school; certificates on the kitchen wall at home. These are the outward and visible signs of success in debating competitions. Competitions give students focus and purpose when they are training, and a sense of achievement and recognition when they win. But how best to maximise your chances of success? What should coaches and students be doing before, during and after a competition?

Before a competition

Long prep competitions Coaches Make sure you forward the motion to the team as soon as you receive it. Add some suggestions for places to research / angles to take. Make sure this covers both their side and the other side; debaters need to spend at least as long on understanding and analysing the counter-arguments as on their own arguments. But don't give them too much. They need to own their arguments, not repeat their coach's. Run a practice debate with the motion, using non-competing members of the debating club as sparring partners. Start by having the team take their side; then run another one where they have to speak for the other side. Be encouraging with your feedback, but also frank. If there are problems, now is the time to fix them. Students will appreciate your candour provided it is accompanied by clear targets and practical strategies. Students Get together with your teammates as soon as possible, either in person or online. Start by generating as many arguments as possible, without selection or question. Then rank them in order, and pick out the best. For a five minute speech, three arguments per speaker is optimal. Do some research for useful facts and figures, but not too much. The greatest danger for long prep debaters is overpreparation. You will win a debate by having well focused arguments, not by reciting long paragraphs from Wikipaedia. Listen to your coach's feedback on your practice debate, and write it down in your debating notebook. Refer back to it frequently, until it is fixed on your mind for you to act on. Short prep debates Coaches In the run up to the competition, focus particularly on preparation skills. Run through the basics of how to prepare for a debate with students. Try some of these training exercises . Do some supervised preparation: give students a motion, then listen in on their preparation, making notes on how effectively they use their time. Give them frank but helpful feedback, suggesting how to use their time better. For debates in British Parliamentary format, performing in role is an often overlooked but vital skill. If you have time, run enough practice debates to give students one go in each of the four positions. Focus particularly in your feedback on how well they have fulfilled their role. Students Assemble a list of likely motions in your debating notebook . These might be motions you have used in previous competitions or in your debating club. If you don't have these, try making some up. Choosing a motion is a very valuable exercise to help you understand how motions work. When you have the motions, spend as much time as you can with your team mate, either in person or online, analysing them and discussing how you would approach them in a debate. Set up a Whats App group for quickfire discussion of a motion or two when you have a spare moment (not during lessons). Carry on the discussion in the lunch queue and in the playground, on the bus or the Tube. Ignore the funny looks you get. It's unlikely (though possible) that you will get one of the motions you have prepared, but that doesn't matter; the important thing is that you will be building up your motion-analysing muscles.

On the day of the competition

Coaches Get to the venue early, to be there to greet students when they arrive. If you're accompanying them, use the journey for a bit of last minute coaching. Check in with each student individually, looking out especially for nerves which may need calming, or other things happening in their lives which may be distracting them. Remind them of their key targets. Add a triple dose of encouragement. Watch as many of the debates as you can. If you have several teams, divide your time as evenly as possible between them. Listen to the judges' feedback, and reinforce it with students afterwards. Give as much encouragement as you can manage (especially if students have performed disappointingly), allied with a simple, focused target for the next debate. Subject to the necessary permissions / safeguarding protocols, take as many pictures as you can for social media / school publications. Students Get to bed early the night before and have a good breakfast on the morning of the competition. Leave early, to avoid the stress of arriving late in case of transport difficulties. If it's an after school competition, try to get any outstanding homework out of the way so you're not stressing about it. Bring to the competition:

  • Your debating notebooks.
  • Several pens / pencils.
  • Highlighters.
  • Index cards.

The Debating Book

  • As many magazines and newspapers as you can assemble. The Week and The Economist are particularly recommended.
  • A water bottle.
  • Lunch (for an all day competition).

Pace yourself through the day / evening. Use snacks / caffeine as appropriate to keep your energy up, but don't overdo it. Keep hydrated. It is normal to feel tired by the last debate, but manage your energy levels to minimise this. Give each other lots of encouragement. If someone makes a mistake, now is not the time to dwell on it. Listen to judges' feedback and write it down in your notebook. Use the feedback immediately, in your next debate.

After the competition

Coaches In the next meeting of the club, spend some time debriefing. Talk through what went well, and what students would do differently next time. Be generous with praise and encouragement. Bring in cake / pastries to thank students for their participation. If you won, make sure the whole school and most of the internet know about it. If you haven't, still congratulate the students on their efforts and focus on whatever was positive about the experience. Students Reflect, both individually and with your teammates, on the experience. Focus on the positive. If you won, make the most of it. Accept teachers' praise (especially if they're writing your UCAS reference) and allow your parents to swamp social media with pictures of you holding the trophy. If you lost, start making a plan to win next time.


Written with authority, passion and wisdom, it will tell you everything you ever need to know about debating.

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To contact Julian Bell, please email him on [email protected] . Alternatively, send Julian a message here .

Do you want to start debating, but don't know what to do? Written with authority, passion and wisdom, it will tell you everything you ever need to know about debating. Buy Now

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Ohio University Speech and Debate Team named National Champion

Speech and Debate

Ohio University’s Speech and Debate Team is preparing for its next national competition after being named National Champion in Individual Events (Speech events) at Pi Kappa Delta Nationals in Phoenix, AZ on March 11. The team also placed 13 th in Debate Sweepstakes and 2 nd Overall in Combined Sweepstakes (Speech and Debate).

“It’s amazing,”  Jennifer Talbert, the John A. Cassese Director of Forensics, said. “It’s been a long time since Ohio University’s Speech and Debate Team was a national champion. This is another sign of resurgence for us.” 

The Speech and Debate team competes each year from September through April, providing the opportunity for students to meet outstanding undergraduates from 300 or more colleges or universities in intellectual competition. Approximately 20 tournaments at other schools and several held on the Athens campus enable students to develop skills in debate, extemporaneous speaking, oratory, rhetorical criticism, and oral interpretation. The group is made up of students from many different majors. About a third of the team members are communication majors.

Emily Osborne

Emily Osborne, a sophomore from Cleveland who is a child and family studies major in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, won First Place National Champion in the Informative Speaking category. Her winning speech was about the negative impact of using diagnostic medical terms incorrectly in casual conversation.

“People misuse many diagnostic terms. Examples include the words ‘gaslighting’ and ‘traumatized’ or ‘traumatic.’ They use them in casual ways that are not ways the word was intended,” said Osborne. “The main takeaway in my speech is that therapy speak blurs a line between empathy and manipulation. In some cases, people manipulate someone by using a big fancy diagnostic word to describe their situation. And because of that, it desensitizes people to the word. So, when people are gaslit or traumatized, they don’t realize it because the word has been used to describe smaller events or emotions.”

Osborne participated with her high school speech and debate team so continuing with speech and debate at Ohio University just made sense to her. She has enjoyed the support and growth she has received through working with Talbert and the different students she has met through the program.

“It’s been awesome. It is so different from anything I’ve ever done. It is so diverse,” said Osborne. “There are so many opportunities. I really just love to try different events and see what I can talk about and share my passions. I love the team. Everyone on it is awesome. We have a lot of fun.”

“I’m incredibly proud of Emily. She’s only a sophomore,” said Talbert. “I think that she really has been able to find her voice, not only through informative speech, but through her other events. It’s always great to see someone who invests and puts in the time and energy to be able to reap those rewards.”

Talbert has been coaching the Ohio University team for the last six years but has been coaching speech and debate for a total of 25 years. There are about 25 students on the team, and they compete against 80 to 100 other students in each event.

“Speech and debate teaches such a unique skillset. It teaches students how to speak in public, which I think is so vital. I want students to be good civic citizens and be able to speak up for themselves and voice their opinions. But it also teaches research skills, writing, critical thinking, how to get along with other people, how to get along with a group, and how to dress professionally,” Talbert added. “It also teaches them to take criticism. There is an opportunity to flourish and win, but you don’t always win. It teaches how to lose in a safe environment.”

Osborne says she already sees the positive impact of speech and debate in her day-to-day life and how it’s going to help her in her future career. She plans to become a child life specialist. Child life specialists are pediatric health care professionals who work with children and families in hospitals and other settings to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, and disability.

“Anything I do with presentations and interviews, I’ve seen a big improvement,” said Osborne. “With Child and Family studies, speech and debate is helping me learn a lot of different perspectives. I hear others speak and make arguments about their passions and I become more well-rounded as a person. It helps me understand more about who I am going to be working with in the field and what they are going through.”

Osborne also appreciates the coaching and support she has received from Talbert. She says Talbert’s guidance and commitment helped her become the national champion.

“Jen has been a huge help,” said Osborne. “She helped me learn to pick topics and stories that are important to me and that I care about. It has been a huge difference. Jen pushed me in the right direction.”

“Emily and I did research together and went through a bunch of edits of her speech,” said Talbert. “My coaching role is the equivalent of private lessons for an instrument. She came in and delivered the speech. I listened and gave her feedback and then she did it again.”

Osborne and her teammates will seek the national champion title again during their next tournament which begins on April 18.

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