As discussed last week I came across a style guide for the CUSID (Canada) national championships. Morag Townsend, Jason Rogers and Spencer Keys are co-authors of the guide and have given me permission to reproduce the guide on this site for future reference.
2008 CUSID National Championship Style Guide
This style guide outlines the adjudication criteria for this year’s National Championships. It should serve to highlight the expectations held by the adjudication team of both debaters and judges and aims to reflect current practices in Canadian Parliamentary debate.
This year’s Canadian Nationals will follow standard Canadian Parliamentary style with the following speaking times:
Prime Minister’s Constructive – 6 or 7 minutes* Member Opposite (Leader of the Opposition**) – 7 minutes Minister for the Crown – 7 minutes Leader of the Opposition (Member Opposite/Leader of the Opposition**) – 10 minutes (7 minutes/3 minutes**) Prime Minister’s Rebuttal – 3 or 4 minutes*
*The government team has the option of using PMRE, or Prime Minister’s Rebuttal Enhancement, but must inform the speaker or panel chair before the round begins.
**The opposition team has the option of using Split Opposition, but must inform the speaker or panel chair before the round begins.
Points of Information
Debaters should offer points of information to the opposing teams during the round. Upon standing, debaters are allowed to make a brief interjection such as “Sir/Madam,” “On that point,” or, “Point of Information.” Heckling or speaking before the floor is yielded to them is not allowed. Points of information should be short in duration and should serve to further the debate or attack the speaker’s current line of argumentation.
Speakers are restricted from standing on points of information during the first and last minutes of all constructive speeches, as well as the entireties of all rebuttal speeches. In the case of PMRE, only the first and last 30 seconds of the Prime Minister’s Constructive speech is protected.
Adjudicators are allowed to consider the quantity and quality of points of information while deliberating on the round. It would be reasonable for an adjudicator to expect a speaker to give two points of information and accept two during the round, although this general rule of thumb is subject to change on a case by case basis.
Points of Clarification are allowed at this tournament. These are not meant as attacks on the opposing team, but rather as a means to clarify the details of the round such that the opposing team can debate the case without misunderstanding and generally making the round unbearable for all involved. Debaters who stand on points of clarification are expected to ask clarifying questions and not to use the opportunity to attack the opposing team’s case.
Points of order and points of personal privilege are not allowed.
All motions at this tournament are squirrelable. As such, the government team may run any case they wish, provided it is in line with the following regulations. It should be noted, however, that not following these regulations does not automatically result in a loss, but it does make that possibility much more likely.
Tautologies/Truisms - Cases that are inherently true or are self-proving are not allowed at this tournament.
Tight Cases - Cases that are weighted heavily towards side government, and leave the opposition with no reasonable arguments, are not allowed at this tournament. Should a team run such a case, judges should consider the relative effort made on the part of the opposition to present a case, and judge the round accordingly.
Specific Knowledge - Cases that require in-depth knowledge of a particular field are not allowed at this tournament. A case is fair if the judge could reasonably expect a university-level debater who is exposed to some form of mainstream mass media to be aware of the issue, or if the government team can explain the case well enough during the PMC that an opposition team could come up with a reasonable opposition case.
Opp-Choice - Cases in which the government team asks the opposition to pick the side they wish to defend are not allowed at this tournament.
Time-Place Sets/Historical Cases - Cases where the government sets the debate in a specific time or place, and gives the speaker a role in the debate, are allowed. However, arguments based on the personal motivations of the character assigned to the speaker are frowned upon because they are simply bad arguments. In addition, events occurring subsequent to the time in which the government places the case should not be cited as arguments for or against the motion. Time-place sets should not be confused with historical cases, in which the government argues from the present time about a past event. These cases are also allowed.
Repeated Cases - Cases that have been run in a prior round by the same team at this tournament are unacceptable. Period.
The adjudication team expects that Government teams will run contentious cases, with a burden of proof that is fair to the opposition. Judges are encouraged to look favourably upon teams that run cases with relatively high (but not stupid) burdens of proof, and support these cases with strong argumentation. The adjudication team expects Government teams to bring forth significant constructive matter supporting their case. Typically, this will include 3 to 6 independent points, although judges should be aware that other ways of presenting argumentation exist, and they should therefore place more weight on the quality of argumentation rather than quantity. There is no requirement for constructive matter in the Minister for the Crown’s speech, provided the Government as a whole delivers sufficient constructive argumentation, and that the Minister for the Crown’s speech is still meaningful to the round. Government teams should consider the quality of their cases before running them at the National Championships. Topics chosen should be contentious and timely, and should preferably propose a motion with wide-ranging implications. This does not mean that a case cannot be specific to a certain time, place or population, but it does mean that the implications should also be applicable on a wider scale. Arguments should be distinct from one another, and sufficient explanation should accompany them to make clear how the argument supports the case statement. Government-heavy cases, or cases introducing specific knowledge without an adequate amount of explanation are not encouraged and should be taken into account (along with all other aspects of the debate) when deciding the round.
Opposition teams will be expected to offer independent lines of constructive argumentation, discrete from arguments made in rebuttal of government points. It is not enough to simply oppose the government case. The opposition must argue in favour of something, whether that is the status quo, or an alternative to the government’s plan. The opposition team must be consistent in argumentation and philosophy within each speech and between the two speeches, and should present the case line, as well as enough constructive material early in the round to make the member opposite’s speech meaningful to opposition’s case. Opposition cases in which the bulk of main argumentation is introduced during the leader of the opposition’s speech (LO dumps or knifing) are not encouraged. However, the leader of the opposition may, and is indeed encouraged to, introduce constructive matter in his or her speech; provided it does not change the direction of the opposition case set out in the member opposite’s speech.
There is no specific formula for winning a debate. The adjudication team expects that Judges will take into account the relative burdens of each team and the depth of analysis of arguments on each side, as well as how the structure and style contribute to the effectiveness of argumentation. Depending on the round, the relative importance of each criterion will differ. Judges should decide rounds holistically, based on the context of the particular round. Low point wins are not allowed at this tournament. The adjudication team expects Judges to evaluate the entire debate and not its individual parts, and thus may not separate argumentation from structure or style, as these latter factors contribute to effective presentation of arguments.
Judges on panels will be expected to confer for no longer than fifteen minutes. During this time, judges should clarify anything they may have misunderstood or misheard, and justify their decisions to the rest of the panel. Consideration of material not addressed during the debate is inappropriate and should be quashed by the panel chair immediately. Consensus is not mandatory, nor even necessarily desirable. Conferral regarding speaker scores may also occur, however each judge fills out his or her own ballot to reflect his or her own feelings regarding the round. In the first four rounds, judges will be asked to give open adjudication. This means that the chair (and only the chair) reveals to the debaters the outcome of the round, as well as the reason for decision. Debaters are expected not to question the decision or argue with the judges. They may complain about a decision by filling out a debater feedback form, or by discussing the matter privately with the Chief Adjudicator or one of the Deputy Chief Adjudicators.
The scoring range for this tournament is 34-42, with an average speech of 38. 34s and 42s must be justified to the adjudication team. Half points are allowed.
34 - This is a bad speech. This speech contained no constructive or refutational material whatsoever, had little or no structure, was offensive or incomprehensible and was not of an appropriate length. In order to award a score of 34, an explanation must be given to, and approval received from the Chief Adjudicator.
35 - This is a slightly better speech. This speech contained little or no constructive or refutational material, and was poorly structured. An appropriate length was reached, or at least nearly reached, and the material was inoffensive.
36 - This is a below-average speech. In this case, generally, either the argumentation was reasonable but the mode of delivery (i.e. style or structure) was ineffective in getting those arguments across, or the argumentation was poor, but the speaker delivered it in an engaging manner.
37 - This is a slightly below-average speech. It is similar to a 38 speech, but is lacking in some degree. For example, the argumentation may lack support, or the organization may make the case or argumentation unclear.
38 - This is an average speech, and makes use of solid (but not especially innovative) arguments, is engaging (but not especially moving) and fulfills the duties of his or her role.
39 - This is an above-average speech. In addition to fulfilling the requirements of an average speech, there will be somewhat greater depth of analysis to argumentation and refutation.
40 - This is a very good speech. This speaker excels in the round, is well-organized, and effectively delivers solid and innovative arguments in support of his or her case.
41 - This is an excellent speech. The speaker excels in the round, with seamless organization, as well as innovative and interesting arguments with explanations and examples.
42 - This is an astoundingly good speech. The speech has made the judge think about the world differently after hearing the speech. Arguments are unquestionably persuasive. This speech must be justified to the Chief Adjudicator in order to be awarded.
*A note about scores – An “average” speech does not mean it should be the average for the tournament, it means that it is an average speech in the context of all speeches. As such, judges should not artificially alter their scores such that each round averages 38. In addition, all scores on the above range are possible, and judges are encouraged to use the entirety of the scoring range, should the speeches they see warrant it.