Debate – Concept, types, objective, structure and characteristics

We explain what a debate is, what types exist, their objectives, structure and other characteristics. In addition, the rules that govern them.

In a debate the word is used to convince the other, instead of violence.

What is a debate?

A debate is an organized contrast of ideas and points of view between two or more people, at the end of which they must reach some kind of agreement or intermediate point, thanks to the organized and peaceful presentation of their arguments. Discussions are generally oral, although they can also take place in writing through appropriate communication platforms, as long as they form a structured conversation.

Throughout human history, debates have been the preferred form of exchange of views in formal settings, academic or political.

In them, people turn to the floor to express their opinions, objections or points of view, in the hope of convincing others, instead of using violence to impose themselves on them. In fact, to ensure that the debate is organized, there is usually a moderator who assigns turns and ensures mutual understanding.

Many thinkers have studied the debate and proposed models of exchange, from the ancient philosophers and political speakers of Greco-Roman antiquity, to modern ones like Karl Popper, or politicians like the Americans Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Thus, for example, within contemporary Legislative Assemblies debate is used to approve or repeal laws and make decisions.

It is also common for discussion to become part of teaching techniques and methods in school and other academic institutions. This is because combines the in-depth study of the subject on which it will be argued, with the skills of public speaking to make your case convincingly.

Characteristics of the debates

The debates are characterized by the following:

  • It consists of a organized and argued exchange of ideas and / or points of view.
  • It can occur between two or more people, orally or sometimes in writing.
  • It has a moderator to distribute the speaking time equitably and assign turns, maintaining order in the debate.
  • The plot confrontation is based on a previously agreed set of rules or rules of debate.
  • There is usually an audience witnessing the debate. Depending on who has been the most eloquent in their arguments, the audience can choose a “winner.”
  • The purpose of the debate is to reach some kind of conclusion from the ideas presented.

Types of debate

education debate
Informal discussions are often not pre-arranged.

There can be many different types and styles of discussion, depending on the set of rules or norms that are agreed in advance. However, depending on whether there is an official set of rules to debate or whether they are set spontaneously and improvised, we can distinguish between formal debates and informal debates, respectively.

  • Formal discussions: they have clear and pre-established rules, and a moderator who ensures compliance with them. In them, the forms must be taken care of and generally the topic to be discussed is very well defined.
  • Informal discussions: characterized by argumentative freedom, they are not usually agreed in advance, nor do they have formally established rules. They also do not usually have a moderator.

Structure of the debate

The structure that governs the debates is normally agreed in advance, and forms part of the norms or rules of debate, known to those who will participate in it. However, broadly speaking, any formal debate consists of four phases:

  • Opening. In charge of the moderator, the opening consists of an introduction to the topic of the debate, emphasizing its validity, importance or topicality, and also the two positions that will face each other in the debate. Then he does the same with those who will debate, explaining his level of expertise in the matter and his professional or academic background.
  • Body of debate. In this section, the leading role corresponds to those who debate, who will generally have two blocks of time of equal length, to first present one point of view, then the other, and finally argue for or against. The interaction between the debaters should be mediated by the moderator when necessary.
  • Questions and answers. After exposing the bulk of the debate, the moderator usually asks some questions of general interest, so that the two debaters can answer them in their own way. Finally, the moderator will be able to open the participation of the public to ask, in turn, the questions that they consider pertinent.
  • conclusion. In this last section, a brief summary of the above will be made, and the winner of the debate, or the conclusion reached as a whole by the debaters, will be announced, if there is one. This is the closing of the debate.

Objectives of a debate

Every debate has the fundamental task of contrast the available points of view on a subject, through two or more speakers, in a serious, argued and frontal way, so that those who attend the debate can receive pertinent information and can make their own opinion.

This means that the purpose of the debate is not really to winIt is not a contest, although each debater will do his best to convince the others of his point of view, as is normal.

Rules of a debate

The rules of a debate can be very diverse, but in general they tend to resemble the following:

  • The moderator has the authority throughout the debate, and you should use it to establish the fairest, most equitable and respectful conditions possible for the deployment of ideas.
  • The debate it must occur in an organized, peaceful and respectful manner, no arguments ad hominem, nor exercises of physical or psychological violence.
  • The debaters should confine themselves to the topic of the debate, and not abandon it in favor of others that are more similar or convenient to them.
  • The interruption of the other should be avoided, although it is possible to have the right to reply and, in certain cases, with the authorization of the moderator to take over.
  • Interventions should be as short and specific as possible, so as not to take up time and prevent the other from expressing himself.