by Jim Hanson and Diana Thomson

You are government and you’ve just been given your topic. Now, it is time to construct your case. Here are ideas for doing this.


Remember, you have 15 minutes to prepare. Use this time valuably. Here is a timeline for what you should do:

1. Choose your case within a few minutes. Do NOT spend more time than this or you will run out of time and have no case ready or a very poorly prepared one.

2. Prepare the outline for your case within ten minutes or less.

3. In the last five minutes: prepare responses to the arguments you expect the opposition to make. As you do this, tweak your case so it avoids and responds to these arguments. If the person who is Prime Minister is able to, he or she should go practice presenting the case while at least some of this response work is occurring (you can talk with each other for a minute or so right before the round starts to do any tweaking of the case if necessary).


1. Think about cases that will support the resolution. Pick a case that you know as much about as possible. This will increase your ability to argue the case effectively.

BIG HINT: Prepare cases and arguments before each tournament so you have a repertoire of arguments to use for your debates.

2. Name each contention/observation in your case with a short title that is easy to flow (take notes of). For example, "Global Destruction" followed by an explanation is more concise and memorable than "If we don’t stop polluting in our neighborhoods and communities we will harm the basis for our environment."

3. Pick a case that fits with the type of resolution you have.

Value and Fact Resolutions - resolutions that evaluate something

Setup your case outline like this:

I. Evaluation Observation

A. Definitions of key terms in the resolution with a statement of what the resolution means using these definitions

B. How you will evaluate the resolution (for example, if the resolution says “x is justified,” explain what would make something justified). This usually involves a value: Something is justified if it upholds national security. National Security is an important value because (give reasons).

NOTE: Make sure you give reasons why your value is good. In fact, it helps to compare it to the values you expect the opposition to present.

C. Burdens: Explain what the government needs to prove to win and what the opposition needs to prove to win.

II. Contentions

For your contentions, make logical arguments showing that the resolution meets/supports your evaluation observations.

For most topics, one contention can suffice. If the topic is “drug testing is unwarranted” your evaluation observation may say that violating privacy would be unwarranted; your contention would then say “drug testing violates privacy.”

For comparative topics, two contentions can suffice. If the topic is “better relations with China are more important than a weapons buildup in Asia,” your value might be preventing war is critical; your contentions would be 1) better relations with China prevents war; 2) a weapons buildup in Asia increases the risk of war.



A. Definitions

1. The law is the affirmative action laws

2. “blind” means to treat everyone equally regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or any other characteristic not relevant to the performance of a job

B. Value: Racial harmony is critical. Racial harmony is needed so that people get along; so that there are not riots; so that people are treated fairly and equally.

C. Burdens: The government must show affirmative action harms racial harmony; The opposition must show affirmative action helps racial harmony.


A. Affirmative action causes conflict

B. White males feel attacked

C. Minorities are stigmatized by affirmative action

D. The law no longer is considered a fair mechanism to resolve disputes because people perceive it to be biased toward one group

E. Affirmative action treats individuals as groups and then pits these groups against each other

F. Affirmative action creates false hopes

G. Affirmative action undermines efforts within minority communities to build up minority businesses and empowerment


1. A broad general topic may be confusing and lead to an example debate (we have three examples versus their two of this situation)

2. Try to be specific -this narrows the ground you have to defend while providing your judge with a concrete event/action/idea to examine.

         Example: This house believes the law should be blind.

         Define law = the right to assisted suicide

                  blind = unable to see, not look at by the Federal Gov't.

         Therefore, this house believes the right to assisted suicide should not be addressed by the Federal Gov't.

Policy - proposing a plan of action

If you have a policy resolution or if you interpret a value/fact resolution as a policy resolution, then you advocate a plan of action to solve a problem. To construct your case for this, you do the following:

For the following discussion, the examples are from the Resolution: The US should revoke the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.

1. Show there are problems in the Status Quo (keep in mind that your proposal must solve any problem you present)
Be sure to show that the problems are widespread/many people confront it and that these problems are harmful (e.g cause deaths, injuries, discrimination, damage the environment, increase poverty, etc.)

Example: Free Trade is killing jobs, lowering wages, increasing poverty and causing abusive working conditions.

2. Show the current policy is not solving
Be sure to attack parts of the current policy that your plan will change.

Example: NAFTA is failing to protect jobs and working conditions.

3. State your specific plan to solve the problem.
Avoid vague statements like "this house would regulate cloning" What does regulate mean? Be specific like, "the US Government will ban cloning."

Example: The United States will negotiate with Canada and Mexico to revoke NAFTA and replace it with one that regulates job transfers, wages, and working conditions.

4. Present Solvency (how you plan will solve) & Advantages (benefits from enacting your policy).
Be sure to explain how you solve each of the problems/harms you cited in the first part of your case.

Example: US shift on NAFTA will gain the support of Canada and Mexico and it will improve employment, wages, and abusive working conditions thus lowering poverty.

3. Time Space - changing the space and time of the round

A Time Space case is one where you ask the judge to go to another time and location and make a decision there. For example, you are Reagan meeting with Gorbachev in 1985 and you have a choice to reduce nuclear weapons dramatically. Your case then argues for a particular decision to be made about reducing nuclear weapons.

We would encourage you to be very wary about running these kinds of cases. They have been used less and less over the years because they tend to create poor rounds and are risky for governments because some judges go out of their way to drop teams who run them and because oppositions tend to get desperately creative in responding to them and leave governments in real trouble as the debate proceeds.


Here is what you will do during the prime minister constructive:

1. Begin with the Introduction – attention getter.

o      Use a joke, statistic, history of situation, a quotation, story or personal story.

o      Avoid starting the speech by reading the resolution without an attention grabber.

1.    Odds are the judge just read the resolution before the PM stood up, therefore it sounds repetitive

2.    Attention getters create an atmosphere of credibility between you and your audience

2. Read the Resolution exactly as it is worded.

3. Define Necessary Terms

o      Define every important word (ASSUME NOTHING).

o      After defining all relevant terms, restate the Resolution replacing your definitions for the terms in the resolution.

         Example: This House would unify Europe

         Unify means to form an alliance

         Europe means the countries in the continent of Europe who wish to create an alliance.

So, this House would form an alliance with European Nations wishing to join.

4. Lay out burdens for the debate

o      You might justify your interpretation of the resolution.

i. Mirrors the Resolution - your definitions are a reasonable interpretation of the resolution.

ii. Real World Issue - this debate reflects important issues in our society.

o      Establish Burdens – tell the judge what the Government and Opposition must prove in order to win the round.

For example: “The Government must prove their plan works and its advantages outweigh any possible costs, while the Opposition can prove the plan will fail or any possible disadvantages outweigh any benefits.”

5. Present Contentions - Build your case

6. Take questions (POIs) at appropriate times

o      Answer up to three questions.

o      Answer questions directly and honestly.

o      Try not to get nervous or defensive; use your answers as an opportunity to explain why your case is so good.

o      If you they begin asking a flurry of questions in the last minute they can, answer only one of them so you can complete your case.

7. Spend the last 30 seconds of your speech summarizing your position and crystallizing the round for your judge.