What is Policy Debate?

Policy debate is the oldest debate event, debated in both high school and college. It involves two teams (of two people each) who are assigned the Affirmative and Negative sides of a year-long topic. Over the course of the round, both teams will develop arguments on their side of the resolution.

Of all of the debate events, Policy is the fastest-paced (with debaters speaking quickly to make more points) and the most evidence-based. The rounds are quite long (well north of an hour-and-a-half), forcing teams to have ample amounts of research to “spread” through quickly during the debate.

In both high school and college Policy, there is one topic that is assigned for an entire season – this gives teams ample opportunity to do extensive research on core issues ahead of the tournament. Debaters will prepare Plans on the Affirmative (specific ways of advocating the resolution), and, when Negative, they will prepare Counterplans (alternate proposals), Disadvantages (problems with the plan), Kritiks (attacks on the Affirmative’s worldview and thought process), and Case Answers (attacks on the Affirmative position). Debaters will also often make “Theory” arguments about the rules and norms governing the debate.

Preliminary rounds at tournaments have sides randomly assigned, while in elimination rounds debaters will flip for sides. Regardless of side, each team will have 2 constructives, 2 rebuttals, and 2 cross examinations. Sides merely dictate speaking order, as well as the side of the resolution.

Policy judges tend to have extensive experience with the fast-paced and esoteric nature of the activity, which is why most rounds are very fast and research-intensive. However, judges nonetheless have different preferences on various arguments that can be presented, so reading paradigms on Tabroom is important.