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Old May 23rd, 2015, 06:35 PM   #1
Vlerchan
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Join Date: August 31, 2013
Location: Ireland
Age: 21
Gender: Cisgender Male
Default Tips & Techniques for Debating

Tips & Techniques for Debating

I never engaged in formal debating. What I’m outlining are techniques and courtesies that I have realised through a number of years of online debating. The aim here is educate people about how to debate in a direct and straightforward manner without coming across as rude or oafish.

The previous guide stated that the ultimate point of a debate is to convince your opponent that your point of view is correct. I’m not in full agreement. The point, to me, has always been to facilitate the exchange of (interesting, hopefully) information, and in that process perhaps you’ll be fortunate enough to convince your opponent. Intending, and worse: expecting, to change minds is likely to only lead to frustration, bolding, and locked caps.

1. Research the topic:
It’s impossible - in theory - to debate something you don’t know anything about. It’s important to do your research before entering a debate. So read up, and not just Wikipedia. It’s also of use to have gathered some statistical backing for what you have to to say, though be aware that all statistical analysis have their flaws, and can be questioned. It’s also advisable to have made an effort to research the opposing points. In my opinion, you should know your opponents argument as well, if not better, than your own.

Of course, make an effort to use reliable source, and cite when appropriate.

2. Formulate your argument:
In order to put your research to good use you must be able to coherently present your arguments. In my experience the following have worked well. Be direct, but don’t be short, and never ‘beat around the bush’ besides. You should be aiming to pack as much information into as few words as you can. In a lot of cases your sources can speak for themselves. Opening arguments should make an attempt to anticipate opponents criticisms and refute them.

3. General techniques & courtesies:
  • Don’t be afraid to use lists. Lists are a great way to organise your thoughts.
  • Be confident! If you start coming across as reluctant or unsure, then you’ll never win.
  • Don’t stoop to taking low blows or using fallacious reasoning.
  • Don’t resort to the use of caps, or mass-bolding, to get your point across. It reflects worst on you.
  • If you’re unsure of your presentation, don’t be afraid to restate the main points of your argument.
  • Don’t flip-flop. Stick to your point, or graciously concede.
  • Bookmark folders can be a great means of organising sources for future debates.
To conclude, have fun! Debating is a great way to broaden your horizons, develop critical reasoning skills that will serve you in later life, and even make friends. If it gets to the stage where you are not having fun then you should probably re-evaluate why you are posting. Following the tips above will help in constructing coherent arguments that will earn you praise and respect, and maybe even a few converts.

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The older Tips & Techniques thread can be found here.
I also created a thread for users to submit suggestions called How Debating Works, which can be viewed for more advice.

".... the result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth, and truth be defamed as lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world - and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end - is being destroyed ... [H.A.]"
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