Definitions of Some Debate Case Terms
CATA 335 - Lee McGaan,   10/7/2005

Description Syllabus Notes Assignments Homework Research

Topical - both the elements of the problem and the benefits of the case must be reasonably directly related to the topic as described in the proposition.  This requirement is sometimes called "propositionality."

Significance - both the problems and the benefits must be substantial or important within the context of the topic.  For instance, although one person's death may be infinitely significant to those immediately affected, that is probably not significant enough to merit changing state or national policies affecting millions of people.

Need  The first "stock issue" offering proof that there are problems in the status quo that need to be solved.

Inherency - The problems cited by the affirmative must be inextricably connected to elements of the status quo.  Problems are NOT inherent if they are temporary or accidental.  We can show that a problem is likely inherent if we can specify features of the status quo that cause the problem or if we can show the problems are relatively enduring or are unique to the status quo or cannot be eliminated without reform to the status quo.

Gap Inherency - something is missing in the status quo that is required to solve the problems cited.  (This meets the tests of inherency for cause and/or reform.)

Barrier inherency - something in the status quo is preventing a solution to the problem cited.  (This meets the tests of inherency for cause and/or reform.)

Attitudinal inherency -  a deeply held, enduring attitude (held by those whose actions lead to the problem or whose actions are necessary to solve the problem) prevents a solution.

Minor repairs - Small adjustments to the status quo, proposed by the negative, that show the problems raised by the affirmative can be solved without adopting the proposition.  These, in effect, show the affirmative's problems are not inherent.

"Status Quo solves" - an argument by the negative showing that processes currently at work in the status quo will likely solve the problem without adoption of the resolution, thus, showing a lack of inherency in the affirmative's claim.

Harms - Bad things that are happening to people, to society, to the economy, the environment  (e.g. pain, suffering, poverty, unemployment, habitat loss, etc.)

S.Q. Goals - explicitly stated objectives that are expected of the status quo (usually requires a source citation).

Plan  A policy case must include a concrete description of actions that will be taken to solve the problems cited in enough detail that the negative can understand and, potentially, criticize it.  Plan is the second "stock issue."  Minimally the plan must include who will act (agent), what the plan is intended to do (mandate) and how the proposed solution will work (function), including how it will be funded if the amount of money involved is significant.

Workability - The requirement that the plan can, in fact, function as intended. Workability of the affirmative plan is assumed, unless the negative presents workability attacks showing reasons why the plan may not function as intended.  Typical workability attacks by the negative include: circumvention, cost (lack of funding to carry out the plan), time (the plan will take too long to execute to be of use), complexity ("Plans this complex don't normally function well").  Logically, if the plan won't work as intended, the proposition should be rejected even if the affirmative wins all other points.

Circumvention - The plan won't work as expected because people or groups involved will "get around" its requirements (e.g. by cheating, by ignoring rules, by ineptitude, by finding loopholes, etc.).

Counterplan  A plan with the same level of detail as mentioned above but presented by the negative.  If the negative presents a counterplan (usually at the beginning of first negative), they typically accept some or all of the problems cited by the affirmative but argue that a non-topical plan (one that would not involve accomplishing the proposition) is better than the affirmative's plan.  The debate then become a contest between two teams both trying to solve the problem but using different means.

Solvency - "Stock issue three" requires that the affirmative present claims and ground to prove the benefits of the plan, that is it solves the problems cited in the problem section of the case.  Elements of the plan must be seen as linked to the problems (PNM - Plan Meet Need) so that each problem affirmative mentions is solved by the plan and elements of the plan must be seen as linked to bringing about each of the solvency claims (PMA - Plan Meet Advantage) made in the affirmative case.

Disadvantages - Claims and grounds presented by the negative which show problems (undesirable things) will occur  if the affirmative plan is adopted.  If the disadvantages seem to outweigh the advantages, even if the affirmative wins all other points, the proposition (logically) should be rejected.

last updated 10/22/2005