Structure of a Case

How do you structure your case? This article will begin by discussing the fundamentals that apply in all contexts, but then discuss case construction with a specific timing breakdown.

Case Construction Fundamentals:

The purpose of a case is always the same: to establish your points of offense for the round. In a case, you aren’t focused on responding to your opponent (yet) – this will happen in rebuttals. Instead, the purpose is to make your core points that you’ll carry through the entire round, the points that you will use to establish your offense.

Many debaters wonder whether they should be using “cards” (quotes from experts) or “analytics” (their own analysis). The answer is that the case should be a combination of both. Cards are useful for establishing credibility and providing strong warrants for your points, while analytics can contextualize and explain the cards, connecting them to the topic.

A typical case will have multiple “contentions” which are separate arguments for your side. Within each contention you might have a brief analytic explaining the thesis of your contention, a card, an analytic summarizing the card, and then a new card, new analytic, and so on.

Note that Lincoln-Douglas is a blend of Public Forum and Policy. Some Lincoln-Douglas debaters will have more policy-style cases, with extensive use of cards. However, given the activity’s emphasis on philosophy and reason, many cases will also have a strong push on analytics, explaining logical reasoning that undergirds cases.

Timing Breakdown:

Since your case is 6 minutes, you have a fair amount of time to allocate here. However, it’s always important to be thoughtful about where you’re spending your time.

Your case will typically have (1) Observations/definitions; (2) Framework; (3) Contentions.

The observations and definitions should be minimalist – ideally no more than 30 seconds. These just are used to set the parameters for the debate.

Meanwhile, the framework can be a bit longer (around 2 minutes, but ideally less) but should not be the main focus. The framework merely frames your offense but is not the primary event.

The balance of your time should be spent on the highest priority item – your contentions. This is your offense for the round.

Outline of Structure:

• Introduction/Definitions/Observations

• Framework

• Contention 1

• Contention 2