Elements of Debating eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 138 pages of information about Elements of Debating.

All this does not mean that definitions found in dictionaries or other works of reference are never good; it means simply that such definitions should not be taken as final until the question has been carefully reviewed.  Try to think out for yourself the meaning of the question.  Decide what it involves and how it has arisen, or could arise in real life.  Then, when you do outside reading on the subject, keep this same idea in mind.  Keep asking yourself:  “How did this question arise?  Why is it being discussed?” You will be surprised to find that when you are ready to answer that question you will have most of your reading done, for you will have read most of the arguments upon it.  Then you are ready to make it clear to the audience.

When you have thus given a clear and convincing definition of all the terms, it is a good plan to restate the whole question in the light of those definitions.

For instance, notice the question of the “honor system.”  The original question might have been concisely stated:  “All Examinations in the Greenburg High School Should Be Conducted under the Honor System.”

After you have made clear what you mean by the “honor system,” you will be ready to restate the question as follows:  “The question then is this:  No Teacher Shall Be Present during Any Examination in the Greenburg High School, and Every Student Shall Be Required to State on Honor That He Has Neither Given Nor Received Aid in the Examinations.”

Your hearers will now see clearly what you wish them to believe.

Thus far, then, we have seen that to debate well we should have a question which is of interest to ourselves and to the audience.  The first step toward success is to make clear to our hearers the proposition presented for their acceptance.  This may be done: 

1) By stating the idea that we wish them to accept in the form of an assertion, which should be: 

  a) interesting

  b) definite and concise

  c) single in form

  d) fair to both sides

2) By defining the “terms of the question” so that they will be: 

  a) clear

  b) convincing

  c) consistent with the origin and history of the question

3) By restating the whole question in the light of our definitions.


1.  State the three processes of successful debating.

2.  What are the three necessary steps in the first process?

3.  What qualities should a proposition for debate possess?

4.  Give a proposition that you think has these qualities.

5.  Without reference to books, define all the terms of this proposition.  Follow the rules but make the definitions as brief as possible.

6.  Make some propositions in which the following terms shall be used:  (1) “Athletics,” (2) “This City,” (3) “All Studies,” (4) “Manual Training,” (5) “Domestic Science.”

Project Gutenberg
Elements of Debating from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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