How to participate in a debate


People generally quarrel because they cannot argue.
- Gilbert K. Chesterton

A debate is a discussion between two sides with different views. Debates are a means of encouraging critical thinking, personal expression, and tolerance of other’s opinions. The debate is an essential part of democracy. Debates are conducted in Parliament, legislative assemblies, lecture halls, and public places.

Now, read the following arguments put forward by two debaters, one for and the other against the topic. The Nuclear Deal with the USA.

Student A: 

I support the nuclear deal. We should not play dirty politics on such an important deal. Critics of the deal should visit the countryside where power is not often available for days and people live at the mercy of God. Our country is facing a serious energy crisis. I think nuclear energy is the best available choice. Hence we should welcome the deal. Our political leaders play politics from their air-conditioned rooms. They should remember that our nuclear and thermal reactors are on the verge of collapse. 

In my opinion, if the nuclear deal is not operationalized fast, the nation has to pay a heavy price. It is absolutely true that the nuclear deal is not just a deal with the U.S. It has the potential to open more avenues with many other countries. It is a great opportunity for India. I strongly feel that with this deal, India will get access to the most advanced nuclear technology.

Student B: 

I’m afraid I can’t agree with your views. The nuclear deal is against the interest of the nation. It ties India into a strategic relationship with the U.S. I think the UPA government is more committed to the U.S. President than to the people of India. In order to get the deal through before the elections in the U.S., the UPA government is playing an opportunistic political game. The biggest issue is that this deal is subordinate to an American law called the Hyde Act. This act puts conditions on India’s foreign policy. 

The Government says we want the deal because it will bring electricity to our villages. I strongly believe that electricity produced by nuclear reactors will be extremely costly. Our scientists have been developing our own nuclear technology. If the Government is committed to fulfilling our energy needs, why should they delay the Indo-Iranian gas pipeline? A deal made thus cannot be for the country’s good.

Features of debate

1. In a debate we require a proposition / a question/topic, which can be spoken for or against. The topic for a debate evolves from your classroom experience. For example, as your study World War II, you could debate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

2. There will be one or more debaters ‘for’ the proposition and one or more debaters ‘against’ the proposition.

3. There should be a moderator in a debate. The moderator directs the debate. The moderator can be the teacher or a student. He/she formally introduces the debate topic and identifies the students who should speak ‘for’ and who should speak ‘against.’

You may also like: The 10 Mantras for Skillful Public Speaking.{alertInfo}


Do’s of a debate

  • Be polite and courteous
  • Listen attentively
  • Be respectful and supportive of your friends
  • Speak only when asked by the moderator
  • Allow others to express their opinions; do not monopolize the debate
  • Speak clearly, slowly, and loud enough to be heard by the audience
  • Support the argument with examples or facts to earn more credit for the group
  • Maintain the decorum of the debate by using polite words or phrases
  • It is always good to develop a manner style that is natural to oneself using simple vocabulary which is comfortable to both.

In a debate, we often use certain expressions for agreeing and certain other expressions for disagreeing. A few examples are given below:

Stating an opinion: In my opinion . . . , The way I see it . . . , If you want my honest opinion . . . , According to . . ., As far as I’m concerned . . . , If you ask me . . .

Expressing disagreement:  I don’t think so., I’m afraid I have to disagree., I totally disagree., I beg to differ., I’d say the exact opposite., Not necessarily., That’s not always true., That’s not always the case., No, I’m not so sure about that.

Expression for giving reasons and offering explanations:  The reason why. . ., That’s why. . ., For this reason . . ., That’s the reason why . . ., Many people think . . ., Considering . . ., Allowing for the fact that . . ., When you consider that…

The four steps to the debating process

1. Gathering information from books, periodicals, etc.

2. Exploring the two sides of the issue.

3. Forming an initial opinion.

4. Defending your position in the debate.

If you want to participate in a debate, you must prepare for it. One thing you can do is to prepare an outline of the main points in the order in which you wish to present them. In order to prepare an outline you have to study the subject, you have to refer to relevant books and gather necessary information. After the outline is ready, you should prepare yourself for the actual presentation.

Imagine that you are going to debate on the topic: "Does television play a positive role in society?"

Here is a possible outline of the argument being put forward by two debaters one ‘for’ and the other ‘against’ the topic.


Arguments in favor

Arguments Against


Television plays a very important role in our lives

Viewing television is a waste of time


It is a good source of entertainment

Television makes the viewer completely passive


Television keeps you informed about current

Television exerts a negative influence on children


Television serials have done a great job in
popularizing many literary masterpieces

Television takes up too much of our time. We no longer have enough time for hobbies, entertaining activities


Television has been good company to those who do not work, like housewives, lonely old people, etc…

Unfortunately all of our free time is not regulated by television


With television people are still free to enjoy the pleasures of life

People rush home; eat their food quickly, and then start watching television programs


There are a considerable variety of programs
on television. The viewer is always free to choose whatever he wants to see

Television demands absolute silence and attention. We always watch TV


Television provides enormous possibilities for
education, like school programs via closed
circuit television

People have grown addicted to
television, often neglecting the necessary and important things like meals, sleep and even work


Television provides special broadcasts for
different types of people. It also offers specialized subjects like language teaching, sewing, cooking, painting to children

Many parents use television as a toy for their children. They don’t care whether it exposes children to violence


Television does the job of education in the
broadest sense. It provides an outlet for creative talents

Many of the television programs are
bad. They do not maintain high standards


Television brings most distant countries and the strangest customs right into your living rooms

TV completely cuts the viewer off from the real world


Compared with radio, everything on television is more lifelike, vivid, and real

The more the viewer watches television, the lazier they become

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