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Top 10 Debate Research Tips

Prior to research

There are a couple of things you should do before starting your debate research. The single most important principle is to completely understand the topic. Contrary to popular belief one of the best places to start is Wikipedia. They provide a fantastic semi-comprehensive overview of nearly every topic. As you’re browsing through it’s important to remember that because its an open source site you should take everything with a grain of salt. Great place to start, bad place to end.

Another great way to improve your comprehension of the topic is by opening a couple of tabs with different news sites and searching for words surrounding your topic. It’s the news agency’s job to make things simple and easy to understand. Maximize these resources and find out how both political sides feel about the issue. Make sure you understand the actor in the resolution as well. If the actor is the United Nations it might be good to look at how the veto process works, which states fund them the most, what they’ve done in similar situations in the past, etc.

While learning about the topic you’re going to find articles that are useful and ideas that are brilliant. Don’t stop there. Instead of filtering off on a tangent, save these articles in a new tab (middle mouse click or ctrl +left click) and write your ideas down for use at a later time.

The last thing you need to do is brainstorm your own ideas. Its best to keep your opponents on their feet, coming up with new innovative arguments that aren’t in the literature can be very rewarding. If you feel completely comfortable with the topic and have some great ideas its time to get started with the debate research.

Debate Research Tips

  1. Use google hacks
    • If you place quotation marks (“”) around a word or phrase Google will return with pages that match that phrase exactly. Use this to find quotes, specific people associated with the topic, or just extremely relevant results.
    • Placing a minus sign (-) will filter out any articles containing that word. For example if I was looking up how large mars was and it kept bringing up “Mars Bars” I could search, “how large is mars -candy.” This would filter out any sites that have the word “candy” in it giving me much more relevant results.
    • One of my favorite hacks is the “site:” hack. Placing “” or “” after your search phrase will bring up pages that are either from Universities or governmental sites. A great way to filter out bad sources.
    • There are several other google hacks you can find online, but I’ve found these to be the three most commonly used. Fuse them together to get the evidence you need.
  2. Learn the terminology. Anytime you see a word or acronym you don’t recognize open a new tab & google it. If that phrase is apart of the literature it will be coming up in your debates at some point. Better to find out what it means at home than in a round.
  3. Use Google’s advanced search. Under the search bar you will see a tab labelled “advanced search.” After clicking it I recommend changing “anytime” to “in the past year” or “in the past month” if it’s a time sensitive topic.
  4. Only use legitimate sources. The worst thing you can do mid-round is to bring up evidence that’s from the 60’s, skewed, or from Before cutting a card check the date, author, source/organization, and intent of the writer.
  5. Find the methodology or how the study was conducted. How many people were involved, where the study was done geographically, what did they do exactly, and anything else you can find out about it. Ideally you would have the methodology for all your cards, seeing how unrealistic this is however I recommend finding it for all of the major stats your case relies on.
  6. Don’t stop on page 1 of google. That’s where everyone else gets their evidence from. Continuing your searches onto the second or third page can give you rare cards that are still relevant.
  7. Specify your searches. Don’t be afraid to add another word or type out an entire sentence in your search line. If you’re only getting a couple pages of search results that probably means that information is what you’ve searching for.
  8. Use the ctrl + F hotkey (Apple + F for mac users). Say you open up a 50 page pdf on the Iraq war and just want to know how many deaths there were. You don’t have to read the entire paper just to find that one statistic. ctrl + f for words that might be near the stat you’re looking for or that you saw from the site preview in Google.
  9. Don’t research to cut cards, research to understand the topic. Yes your goal is to get evidence, but make sure you’re reading some of the other paragraphs in your articles and storing that information for use in round.
  10. Dig deeper. You want to become an expert in the areas you find most important. If you think the alternative energy topic is going to revolve around solar energy then delve into the subject and find out how it works, the history of it, the common misconceptions, and what advancements have come about in the last week or even day. If you can get the debate to focus around something very specific that you know well you’re going to have a massive advantage.


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