A few people have asked me how the collaborative research project went. Notes below
Here are a few short notes I wrote to the participants
So the first thing I want you to do is think for a second – assuming
you aren’t straight turning an advantage and using that as your
offense in the debate, how many cards will you realistically read on
it? Lets say you debate an aff that has 2 advantages. In the 1NC you
are going to read all your off case- probably around 5-6 unless you
are a 1 off team. That will probably take you 5+ minutes. So you have
roughly 1 and 1/2 minutes to answer each advantage.
That metric is important- unless you are reading a ton of offense I
don’t think you should ever read more than 90 seconds of arguments on
an advantage. Why?
1. They can just kick it- a good aff team will collapse the debate in
the 2AC/1AR/2AR and when you spend a lot of time on defense as the
negative you give up many of the advantages of being negative- mainly
the time disparity of the block, and the ability to have multiple
coherent neg strategies alive at one time.
2. Repetition- there are basically 2 ways to answer any conceivable
argument. Those 2 ways are “no its not” and “its not a big deal”.
Think about it- at random lets take free trade stops war. You can say
“no it doesn’t” or you can say “well those wars aren’t that bad’.
Now , granted, there is a lot of diversity that you can have within
those 2 broad strokes. But the point is when you are reading defense-
if the case has 6 internal links, you don’t need to win defense on all
of them. Taking out the chain of events at any one point beats the
advantage- so it is much more strategic to focus on a few key points
and win them decisively then just have as many arguments as possible.
3. Offense wins debates- since we have already established you don’t
need defense on every part and you should be reading non repetitive
arguments- how much time do you need? Not very much. Basically the
most devastating negative case attacks proceed in this manner :
1nc- 3 cards and 3 analytics
block- picks the 3 of these arguments the aff was worst on and blows
2NR- picks 1 or maybe 2 of those 3 and hammers them home
Think about it this way, how does the 2AC deal with case defense?
Generally they blip through it and extend some 1AC evidence. Maybe if
it is a really big case argument (like alt cause vs soft power) they
have a 2AC block and so they spend a little bit more time on it. They
are going to spend this same amount of time basically regardless of
what you say in the 1NC so saying more doesn’t alter 2AC time
allocation decisions. So therefore its better to get in and out
quickly and spend your time reading more offense.
When going for a DA and case defense at the end of the round the judge
is gonna ask themselves some questions like
1. What is the risk of the da and risk of the case
2. how do the magnitude of these disparate impacts compare
3. What is the timeframe
Your case defense should help you answer these questions in your
favor. Now most times people just focus on probability- our case
arguments reduce the risk of the advantage. But they can also
obviously implicate the others. What you want to do is have defense
that fx all of them not just probability – that gives you more ways to
Ok so for the first assignment what I want you each to do is cut/find
15 cards. I say cut/find because in some instances the best card on an
issue may have already been found and you don’t need to reinvent the
wheel. Basically for each argument you want to pick 5 arguments, and
find 3 cards that support each argument. Now sometimes a card will
make multiple arguments, for example one card may say hegemony is
unsustainable, and collapse of hegemony won’t result in war. That is
fine- but if you read that card in the 1NC you don’t want to read
another card that also says collapse doesn’t cause war. You may later
read more cards on this issue, but you can save that for later. So 5
arguments, 3 cards each- some overlap is ok.
For each card I want you to write down 4 things
1. A list of all the warrants in the card
2. Find as detailed author qualifications as you can- and write out a
reason to prefer your evidence based on those author qualifications-
so for example if your author is Krugman and you are doing econ
impact defense you could say something like “Prefer our evidence-
Krugman is a recent Nobel prize winner in the field of economics and
he teaches at Princeton- his work is heavily scrutinized by other
experts in the field and therefore has more validity than XYZ”
3. Write a short paragraph about how you see this card being used in
the “endgame” – what i mean is that you should think about
hypothetically how you would use this card in the 2NR to win the
debate. Things to consider would be “how would you explain to the
judge why the argument made in this card is better than the argument
made by the opposing teams evidence’ and “assuming I win some risk of
this argument, and the other side wins some risk of their argument,
how would I persuade the judge that my argument is superior”.
4. Anticipate what you think the other team would say in response-
i.e. if you were on the aff how would you answer this argument- make a
short list of 3-4 analytics they could make in response.
In a few days I will post a short example of walking through this
process , but obviously post any questions you have here so everyone
can see/to avoid repetition.
So I would like to get your wave 1 assignments no later than sunday
morning. That means they need to start getting rapped up in the next 2
days. If you have any questions or are having trouble finding good/
recent evidence please let me know ASAP and I will help out. I haven’t
heard much from you all so I assume things are going well.
For submitting wave 1 email it to me in a word doc. What I am going to
do is go through and use the comments function to point out anything I
see that needs to be worked on/improved. I hope to get everything back
to you all by Sunday night. Then I will have you do revisions and
resubmit on Tuesday.
After that we are going to get into the meaty part- block writing and
The last thing I want to talk about is argument diversity. the more
levels of defense you have the better because most 1AC’s don’t read
great evidence. There are a lot of internal link holes, and if you put
a lot of pressure on the aff in different places they will either have
to dedicate a lot of time in the 2AC reading a ton of defense (by
defense I mean internal link evidence, its not really technically
offense or defense I guess, but I am classifying it as defense because
the aff has to read it to win but if they win it it doesn’t advance a
new argument it only fills in the hole of their original argument. So
lets look at biopower as an example. The aff claim is usually
“biopower causes war/genocide” and then they read a card with that
Foucault quote about modern war/genocide etc.
What are the possible arguments you could make against this?
-alt cause to biopower
-BP is resilient /can’t solve it
-BP low/not a risk
-X other thing causes war not BP
-BP not causally related to war (similar to above)
-various BP good arguments
-external checks prevent bp impacts (like democracy/liberalism)
Now all of these fall into the 2 categories I explained before, but
are pretty different arguments. It’s important to classify things in
broad groups and specific categories. Why?
1. You need to be able to identify what ev the aff reads and how it
responds to what you said. For example, if in response to “bp not a
risk” the aff reads evidence that says we are on the brink or close to
a genocidal state- that argument will feed your ‘aff doesn’t solve’
argument 9/10 times because it will discuss something the aff doesn’t
specifically address. So knowing how to use 2AC evidence against the
aff and for your argument is very useful
2. Writing efficient extensions- if you don’t understand how arguments
relate you could kick an argument (A) and go for another (B) without
knowing that there are interactions between the 2 and therefore drop
an argument that takes out the one you are going for.
This is also why we isolate warrants- to start ingraining in your mind
the process of breaking down an argument into its constituent parts-
then you may realize 2 arguments you thought were irrelevant both have
the same component, so if you defeat that component you defeat both
1. Cut bad evidence- there is a lot of talk in debate about evidence
being “good” or “bad”. I cut a lot of bad cards. A crap load in fact.
The reasons I do this are thrice fold
A. I never know if I will be able to find a better card- lets say I am
doing politics updates and need a card that says Political Capital is
high. I find a card that says that but is not very good. If I chose
not to cut it, there is no guarantee that I will be able to find a
better one later. That means I will have to either re-do the searches
to try and find this crappy card again. Cutting a bad card does not
necessarily mean you will read a bad card in a debate- it just means
you are keeping it as a fallback.
B. Argument innovation- most of the time people come up with new
arguments because they are looking for something specific and they
find something close to what they are looking for but not exactly it.
Then later on they find another close card, and another. Finally they
have many close cards that when combined make their own entirely new
argument. So if a card is bad because it says close to what you want
it to say, it could be the springboard for an entirely new argument.
C. Card cutting is not an exact science- how good you are at it
changes with your mood, how much sleep you have gotten, how focused
you are etc. Countless times I have cut a fantastic card that I go
back and read and I’m like “wtf was I thinking”. Similarly, a lot of
cards I thought weren’t great initially have turned out to be pretty
good when I gave them a second look.
Bear in mind always that you can undo anything- your file doesn’t have
to contain every card you cut or argument you think of. Debate
research is an evolutionary project- things change and improve over
2. Track down footnotes- I’m sure you have heard this before but I
can’t emphasize this enough. Look at the research that has already
been done by specialists in the field- they have to list it all at the
end of their articles. Look for titles that look good. But more
importantly, if you end up cutting a card in an article that makes a
good argument make sure you check any footnotes for that particular
section of the work. Sometimes they will just paraphrase an authors
point and when you go to the original work the argument is much more
flushed out/well explained/has many more warrants and many times the
original author will make lots of additional arguments for that side
of the debate. Then you need to repeat this process- track down the
citations in the new article. If you are doing good research you won’t
have to do a lot of google searches- you will find one or two very
good articles after about 20 minutes of searching and then they will
give you 5-10 new citations to track down and investigate.
3. Avoid research paralysis- this is a term I’ve made up to refer to a
problem that I have all the time. It’s basically this- I do a millions
searches and get way more information than I could ever go through. I
start going through it randomly and then do more searches and repeat
the process. The key to good research is prioritizing- you need to
find a few good articles and read them- just bang them out without
stopping to do more searches. Then think about what kind of arguments
you still need- if there are things you totally have missed finding
cards on do some new searches. But keep prioritizing your results- if
you keep doing more and more searches you will spend a lot of time
searching, a lot of time reading bad articles, and you may miss some
of the best articles that you actually found but now due to finite
time are unable to read through.
4. Look for the right sources- I started doing my updated trade
research yesterday thinking it would be super easy. I did a free trade
good/bad file about 5 years ago for Emory when I was in college and
you had to shut your eyes to avoid finding trade bad cards. So I
started off doing some searches in the last year. Since I knew that 5
years ago one of the major authors of trade bad was named Barbieri I
used her name in all my searches thinking that any scholar who was
writing about why trade was bad would be citing one of the major
authors in the field for sure. Disaster. Not only did I find mainly
articles criticizing her method (which meant that I could not really
include cards from her past writings in a pinch since they were so
easily indictable) but I even found a more recent article from her
reversing some of her critical claims. So I had to start from scratch
I started off using google scholar. I did some searches like “free
trade conflict” or “free trade interdependence war” etc. At this point
I’m not really looking for a specific card I am just looking to find
some recent journal articles that are about the topic. Why am I doing
it this way?
A. to quickly get up to speed with the recent academic activity on the
topic- each scholarly journal article will contain a research summary
section that will discuss important works in the field- the better the
journal the more encompassing this section will be.
B. Even if the results were about how trade was good the authors would
discuss critics of their positions or people who disagree with them so
I can track down new trade bad articles. Reading through abstracts is
a good way to get a feel for if an article is going to be useful for
this. It will often say something like “critics are discussed” which
is a key.
So after about 20 minutes I had found the citations for 4 or 5 journal
articles from 2007 or later that made arguments about trade not
reducing conflict. So the next step is to go read those articles and
then track down footnotes from those articles.
Google scholar is also useful because you can usually avoid having to
search multiple databases- instead of going to proquest and jstor and
muse and doing the same searches I do them once. A lot of the articles
are linked right to google scholar, but if it isn’t then I just need
to check the databases to see which one has the journal in question
that I need.