Back

Examples, Linking and Generating Ideas

Session 2 of Debate-Ed focused on the mentors teaching students about rebuttal and counter-arguments. Session 3 develops those skills further and is all about generating ideas and structuring arguments to make them more persuasive by making a point, explaining it, providing evidence and linking it back to the overall motion.

Effective examples

Using a relevant example to support your argument gives it more weight but it needs to be general in nature and not personal to you. It is not really a convincing argument to say ‘I eat unhealthy food and I’m not fat’ in opposition to banning unhealthy food because you may just be lucky!

Lanyon_Bowdler_11.jpg

You also need to make sure you know where you’re getting that example from and whether it is trustworthy and helpful. For instance, our Programme Director Holly once observed a student arguing that children are really important as a great man once said that if you have the youth, you have the future. While this quote did support the speaker’s point, he was inadvertently quoting Hitler which the other students picked up on and used as part of their counter-argument.

It is important to remember that an example is not an argument in itself but must be applied to the argument to explain why your point is important. For example, this week students were asked to consider examples that might be put forward in support of an argument that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent. The students gave the example of America, where in many States the death penalty is still used and there is still a lot of serious crime; therefore, it cannot be effective.

Linking

Once you have made your point, explained it and provided an example in support, you need to link it back to your overall position. This will re-enforce your original point and in turn make it more persuasive. Referring to a quote or statistic will mean nothing if you do not explain how it relates to your overall position.

Generating ideas

It can be difficult to think of arguments to explain and effective examples in support of these on the spot. Therefore, a good approach is to think about what your opponent might say and the drawbacks of their argument. For instance, whilst the Proposition will be looking at what problem needs to be solved by the motion, how the motion will solve the problem and why it is important that it does, the Opposition will be looking at whether there is a problem as is being alleged and if there is, whether the motion actually solves it or whether it will just lead to further problems.

One student in this week’s session took this approach on board effectively in a mini-debate. The motion put forward by the proposition was that unhealthy foods (which were defined as foods high in sugar and fat) should be banned. The proposition had argued that obese people cost the NHS too much money. In Opposition, this student disagreed and pointed to the wider implications such a ban could have by looking at its impact on the overall economy. He pointed out that a large proportion of the taxes generated for the NHS budget come from businesses, including many who sell unhealthy food. He explained that if those businesses are no longer able to sell unhealthy foods, they will not generate profit and therefore pay tax; if taxes are not paid then there will be less money to allocate to the NHS meaning the NHS would still have a budget problem. Therefore, banning unhealthy foods would not solve that specific problem put forward by the proposition and he did not support the motion.

By making his point, explaining it with an example and linking these to the overall debate, this student and by extension the opposition, he was judged to have won this debate.