Impact Turns in PF

Gus Gerlach | Sep 22, 2021
4 min read

The Opinions Expressed In This Blog Post Are Solely Those of the Author And Not Necessarily Those Of DebateDrills

It’s a first speaker’s worst nightmare. Four minutes of straight offense that they have to frontline in approximately one minute. In prep time they desperately attempt to find a way to kick out of at least some of the turns, but alas, there was no defense read in rebuttal, forcing the first speaker to address each impact turn individually.  

This nightmarish scenario is certainly a scary prospect but is surprisingly uncommon in PF. Despite the obvious strategic benefits reading straight impact turns in rebuttal brings, teams still refuse to do it. This hesitancy is likely created from a mix of lazy preparation and a propensity to read defensive arguments in rebuttal, meaning first speakers rarely need to address four minutes of impact turns individually. First, teams rarely prepare responses to impacts that are regarded as beneficial in societal discourse, such as democracy or economic growth. Despite the large harms these impacts can bring about, teams typically ignore responding to them in favor of addressing the links. Second, teams often put too much emphasis on defensive responses, meaning even if they do read impact turns, teams can typically kick out of them. Teams should embrace the philosophy “they say something is good, we say something is bad,” rather than trying to respond to arguments by arguing they are non-unique or using another defensive response. 

Despite being one of the most underutilized arguments in PF, reading impact turns brings immense strategic benefits. Impact turns force your opponent to address each turn individually, often creating a time exchange in your favor. Even if they do respond, the responses are typically rushed and incoherent as they are trying to move on to their primary source of offense. This scenario is where the true benefit of impact turns can be realized – reading offense in rebuttal creates so many more routes to the ballot, increasing our strategic flexibility. If case is well-responded to, teams can simply extend the links to their opponent’s contention and extend the impact turns read in rebuttal. If the impact turns are well-responded to, chances are contention level arguments were under covered. 

Ironically, impact turns have a relatively low preparation burden due to their versatile nature. No matter the topic, there will almost certainly be teams reading economic growth impacts and internal links. Similarly, any topic that deals with foreign policy generally has impacts regarding democracy. Prepping out these arguments once at the start of a season means teams can immediately have a prep advantage on the next topic. 

What’s certain is that any team who can effectively prepare and utilize impact turns puts themselves ahead on the strategic level of a debate. For the upcoming season, I would highly recommend prepping impact turns to economic growth, democracy, climate change and other common impacts. 


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