Mastering the Constructives

At this point, you should know the basics of what a case is and what a constructive is. This article covers the ways to build a maximally strategic constructive.

For starters, though, we’ll review what a constructive is. In Public Forum, this is the speech where you present your case (the Pro Constructive and Con constructive). This is all that you do. You don’t answer your opponents’ argument. The purpose of the constructive is merely to build up your case and establish the offense that you’ll have for the round.

Mastering the Constructive in Public Forum:

In Public Forum, the constructive (on both sides) is fairly straightforward – your job is to make arguments in favor of your side of the topic. There’s no need to answer your opponent’s arguments.

Here are some tips for an effective constructive in Public Forum –

First, be strategic about the number of contentions you present (and the number of scenarios/subpoints). Many Public Forum debaters proliferate contentions, either as explicit contentions or under the guise of “subpoints” under a contention. While this can be strategic, many debaters go overboard and fail to adequately develop their points.

Second, think about how you can preemptively argue against (or “preempt”) what your opponent will say. While you may not be arguing against them directly, you still should be thoughtful about the common arguments that your opponent could make and what responses you would want to make in rebuttals. Then, you can present evidence in constructives that enable you to make your strongest arguments in rebuttal.

Third, know when to read “stock” versus “squirrelly” contentions. Stock contentions are the more straightforward, intuitive contentions. In contrast, squirrelly contentions are off the beaten path, with the debater going for more confusing and tricky arguments. Stock arguments tend to be truer, backed by a greater quantity (and quality) of literature. This makes them stronger for judges that are not as into gamesmanship or are liable to be confused by esoteric debating, such as lay judges. However, these positions catch nobody by surprise – your opponent will likely have spent extensive time preparing against them. Squirrelly contentions are often quite strategic because they can catch your opponent by surprise. Even if the argument is silly or untrue, your opponent may not be able to point out why it’s a false argument. However, a judge might be confused or an opponent might have come ready to point out the flaws. Stock cases are better to read for more traditional or more lay judges. Squirrelly cases are good to read if you are reading something for the first time in front of a “circuit” or technical-oriented judge. Otherwise, a stock case might be a better bet.