When debating in a formal setting, you need to be careful about everything behind your words, including sources and personal motivations. You also need to watch how you present yourself to make the audiences want to choose you over your opponent.
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How are the schools doing? What laws are being considered? How many people are unemployed?
Questions like these are best answered from the horse’s mouth. These are sources of raw data on your governments.
- FOIA – The official source of information on the US executive branch. You can directly request reports on agencies thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. Note you may not get all of the information you want.
- House Docs – A live source where you can watch bills being considered in the House of Representatives.
- FedStats – A large repository of federal statistics sorted by topic.
- NCES Statistics Tools – Use to generate and analyze raw numbers in American schools on a refined level.
- Data.gov – Another source on executive branch shenanigans.
- USA.gov – The end-all-be-all gateway to all information on the United States government.
Peer-reviewed content written by starving smart people.
- DOAJ – Free research papers on many topics.
- BookSC – 20 million free scientific articles. Example search for “gender aggression”
These resources help you evaluate arguments and the arguments supporting them.
- The Socratic method
- List of Logical Fallacies – A massive list of errors in reasoning.
- List of cognitive biases – This is a reference of passive conditions that cause errors in judgement.
- Evaluating Sources – A short but handy guide to finding good sources of information.
Advice for Debaters
- Remember: You. Are. Fallible.
- Don’t play to win. Don’t try to win debates, just try to educate and be educated, while putting on a show for your audience. People will vote the way they will according to some criteria you cannot control, but how you appeal to their sensibilities can make all the difference.
- Never forget the library. The Internet has made it possible for libraries to fade out in the future, but there is still a mountain of information that has not been digitized and can only be found in books. I didn’t use to believe this, but my history professor yelled at me for like, an hour, when I said that libraries were obsolete.
- Accept facts, but be wary of interpretations of said facts.
- Know the distinction between normative and declarative statements.
- Read this over and over again.
- Offer stipulative definitions for terms when they help clarify your intended meaning. If you don’t, you and your opponent may end up bickering over semantics or talking past each other.