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Debating and arguing


Two people debating

A debate is an organised argument. You might think you've never taken part in a debate before but you probably have without realising it! When you discuss topics in class or at home, and put forward different points of view - this is debating. Debating allows you to discuss your ideas and find out what other people think about a particular topic.

If you're asked to take part in an organised debate at school, this is likely to be a more formal discussion and follow a set of rules.

Here are some simple rules for formal debates:

  • First of all, you need two teams: the proposition team and the opposition team.

  • Then you need something to argue about. This is called a motion.

  • The proposition team starts. Their first speaker has to tell everyone what the motion is all about.

  • The opposition team goes next. Then the teams take it in turns until everyone has had their say.

  • The last speaker on each team has to sum up their team's main argument.

Your team will need to do plenty of preparation - writing out the main points of your argument. During the debate, your team is allowed to pass notes to each other so that you can add or change things as you go along. The most convincing team wins the debate. Try to guess in advance what your opposing team might argue to avoid being caught out.


Use these tips to make your arguments as convincing as you can:

  • Use facts - it's hard to argue against a fact so use as much evidence and as many statistics as possible.

  • Use opinion too - debating is all about getting your opinion across and persuading others to agree with you, so use a good balance of fact and opinion.

  • Listen to the other team and comment on what they have said. You then have a chance to convince the audience of the other side of the argument.

  • Structure your argument - as if you were writing an essay, you need a clear introduction, a middle and a conclusion.

  • Arguing isn't about shouting the loudest - present your arguments in a clear controlled voice. Don't lose your temper or get too emotional about the arguments.


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