is the art of persuasion and therefore persuasiveness is the paramount criteria
for judging a debate round. There are three, equally weighty, sub-criteria that
specify what makes a team persuasive: content,
strategy, and style.
- Was the speech germane
to the motion and/or definition? Did it clearly avoid specific issues that
needed to be addressed? Was its humour relevant or irrelevant?
- Did the speaker
demonstrate perceptive understanding of the big issues, and relate smaller
points to that? Were examples used to prove a point, or merely thrown away? Were
unsubstantiated assertions, logical flaws and case contradictions spotted in the
- The relevance of
examples and authorities is vital to the persuasiveness of a speaker. Their
absence should be penalised. You may find as a judge that your expert knowledge
in a particular field reveals a mistaken use of an example in a speaker's case;
however, if the opposition do not highlight this, it is probably unfair to
of the Speaker - As
described above (see Guide for Debaters),
each speaker has a role to fill. Did they do their job? Did 1st Prop define the
motion clearly, and was it a fair definition? Did 1st Opp challenge that
definition, and if so, was it a fair challenge? Did 1st Opp and both 2nd
speakers rebut previous arguments satisfactorily? Did the summary speakers
identify the major issues of the debate?
- Did the two speakers work together well, and did their arguments complement
each other? The first speaker should lay out the basic meat of their case and
the second should develop this or look at it in a different context. The summary
speeches should go over all the major issues that have been raised.
Rebuttal - The most demanding and
interesting feature of a good debate. After the first proposition speaker, each
subsequent speech must spend some time addressing arguments raised by the other
side. Did the speaker fail to do this? Or did he/she only address trivial
arguments, instead of dealing with the potentially damaging ones? A speaker who
undermines their opposition while consolidating their own defence should be
- Were the speeches
clearly structured and easy to follow? Was the team argument logically ordered
in a sequence that flowed naturally from point to point?
- Were the speeches
well-timed, both externally - i.e. Not overstepping or falling short of the time
limits by much - and internally - i.e. Devoting an appropriate proportion of the
speech to each point?
of Information - Points of information (POIs)
are questions or comments offered by an opposing speaker during a speech. POIs
are meant to throw a speaker off track, to stump a speech, or show how foolish a
point may be. POIs can only be offered during non-protective times: any time
between (but not including) the first and last minutes of a speech. POIs should
be offered by each member of the opposition whenever they feel they have
something to contribute. To offer a POI, an opposition speaker should stand up
and say “On a point of information,” or “Information,” or “On that
point,” and so on. Sometimes those offering POIs prefer to make a statement
that clues-in the speaker on what they will say, for example, “on the
costs,” or “on legality,” or “on your irrelevant point” and so on.
POIs should not be a means of harassing the speaker. Those offering POIs should
be wary about the thin line separating a POI and harassment. POIs are meant to
show adjudicators that a debater is an active participant in the debate, and so
POIs are meant to help not hurt. Accepting POIs is at the sole discretion of the
speaker. Whom a speaker chooses to recognize for a POI is up to them, and it is
the speaker’s right to end a POI even if the point wasn’t fully made or
explained. Some POIs run longer
than they should and speakers get easily agitated by the rambling. Once you
understand what the POI is hinting at, ask them to sit down. However, when a
speaker does accept a POI, it is their responsibility to respond to it, though
they should not spend too much time on it. Each speaker should accept two POIs.
- You should consider
the debater's public speaking skills: 'listenability', humour, plausibility, use
of gesture, fluency, audibility, variety of tone, and ability to relate to the
audience, for example by establishing eye contact. The speeches, while
benefiting from the use of humour and gesture, should not become pantomimic or
reliant on gimmickry. Props are not allowed. Reading from notes or prepared speeches is not allowed.
have to decide on two specific things during a round based on the above stated
criteria: they must first distribute speaker points, from 14 (lowest) to 30
(highest), which coincided with the descriptions given below; second, a judge
must decide on the rank of each team for each round. The rank is to be
calculated by adding the individual speaker points; whichever team has the
highest total speaker points ranks first in the round, that which has the lowest
total speaker points ranks fourth.
brilliant speech, among the best you have heard. "I have a
excellent speech. Engages with audience extremely well, easy to follow and
understand, intelligent argument backed-up with relevant examples. Not
tied to notes and responds well to other team's arguments. Could feasibly
win the competition.
strong speech. Generally a clear and well-argued speech with perhaps only
one or two minor flaws. Good engagement with audience through use of
effective rhetoric or humour – strong analysis, structure and use of
examples. Perhaps mishandled a supporting argument, for example.
good speech. Possibly lacks a subtler appreciation of the arguments, or
falls in to traps set by other teams, but on the whole has good analysis,
examples and style. Does nothing wrong, but does not necessarily
reasonable speech. Some good points, some bad points. Nothing compelling
stylistically but definitely listenable. Speaker deals with opposition
points in structured manner, if not always devastatingly.
average speech. The speaker has some reasonable arguments (which might not
differ from ‘stock’ issues), but fails to deliver them effectively.
There is some structure to the speech, and the speaker has a basic
understanding of debate.
speech that needs some improvement. The speaker manages to speak for the
full time, and makes some attempt to not only to advance their case but
also to rebut arguments. They are generally consistent, and attempt to use
speech that needs significant improvements. May contradict partner or lose
thread of argument noticeably. May have trouble speaking for the allotted
time; allows opposing teams to interrupt. Very weak arguments.
non-speech. If a debater does not show up, they earn a zero.
The most important thing a judge must do is be consistent. Giving one
team a loss, for example, for not fulfilling their duties, yet giving another
team the win, which also doesn’t fulfill their duties, is wrong – unless all
teams fail in this respect.
Make sure all three criteria: content, strategy, and style are taken into
account. These criteria should be considered equal and a good judgment will take
all three into account.
Chair adjudicators have the final say in a decision though they are
seriously asked to come to a decision with the advice of supporting
Pros and Cons or pre-prepared cases are strictly forbidden. Debaters who
take their cases straight from books, or binders should be given an automatic
loss. Props and citations are not
a decision is reached allow debater to re-enter the room and disclose their
standing in the round. Do not disclose individual speaker points. Also share the
reasoning for your decision. Advice should be given unless specifically
proscribed by the Chief Adjudicator. For the last preliminary round, 3rd
round, advice is not given, because we want to keep debaters in suspense about
who may break to the semi-finals.
adjudicator in each round is also given the duty to maintain order. This done in
two principle ways: a constructive and a punitive way.
unfortunate part of maintaining order is sometimes having to admonish bad
behaviour, this is done by making a point of order or accepting a point of order
on behalf of a complaining debater. Points
of Order concerning the procedure of the debate are exceptional, but can be made
at any time and by any member of the House if the Standing Orders are being
contravened. They must be addressed to the Chair who will ask for the clock to
be stopped while the Point is considered. The Chairman may then rule on the
point or act in consultation with the Organisers of the Debate. A Chairman may
also warn and has the discretion to take action against any member of the House
who acts in a discourteous manner, harasses the speaker holding the Floor, or
obstructs the Debate in any way. In any event, Points of Order should be rare.
The Guide for Adjudicators has significantly borrowed from the ESU John Smith Memorial Mace Manual. The remainder of these pages was written by Austin D’Souza. Complaints, Comments, Applause to L.A.D’Souza@lse.ac.uk or email@example.com.