23 December, 2009

Useful Debate Resource

Add this to your bookmarks. It's a site called Project Syndicate which basically publishes Op-Ed's by really brilliant people. Under the Thought Leaders section of the site, you can browse through articles by individual authors. I'd recommend specifically Joseph Stiglitz & Jeffrey Sachs, who are both economists with Columbia University, & Joseph Nye, who's a political scientist with Harvard. They cover a broad range of topics, from climate change to soft power, & I've found them really useful in my research.

22 December, 2009

Impact Card - Energy Prices

High Energy Prices Recession & Food Prices

High energy costs threaten the global economy & drive up food prices

J. Sachs (economics professor, Columbia University), 08 Jeffrey D. Sachs [Professor of Economics & Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals], “Reinventing Energy,” Project Syndicate, 21 April, 2008, (web, project-syndicate.org, 12/21/09)

“Without plentiful and low-cost energy, every aspect of the global economy is threatened. For example, food prices are increasing alongside soaring oil prices, partly because of increased production costs, but also because farmland in the United States and elsewhere is being converted from food production to bio-fuel production.”

15 December, 2009


A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to google wave. I tried it out, thought it was pretty cool, & promptly forgot about it. Tonight, I was re-introduced to the tool. My old partner Will & I decided to use it to collaborate on Peak Oil answers. In just over an hour we cut about 5 pages of cards on peak oil. And I'm not talking about the kind of thing where you copy & paste a single article from Lexis & call it a brief: we had about 4 or 5 different sources & all the articles were '08 or later.

This session brought to light several things I've been missing out on the last few months of research. First, the power of collaboration. It is so much faster to work with someone when you're briefing. For example, imagine you're working with a group of 4. One person could work Google news &/or scholar, one person could work Lexis, another person could work Ebsco, & a fourth person could compile what the others find. As long as you know what you're looking for ahead of time, this really could save a ton of time & promote efficient research. I think this approach would probably work best when you focus on a single argument, like hegemony answers, or warming. The second thing I realized is the power of google wave to help organize collaborative research. Sure, the formatting & such could be better, but I like the fact that it allows multiple people to paste cards in real time & view each others work as it's happening.

With that said, is anyone interested in organizing a wave research session? If so, comment with a way to contact you, whether or not you need a google wave invite, & a topic you'd like to research jointly.

13 December, 2009

Know Your Authors!

So in the last few months I've debated at two practice tournaments. I've picked up several several valuable lessons from my rounds there that I'll be sharing on this blog. The first - and the subject of this post - has to do with the huge importance of knowing your affirmative authors.

Why you need to "know" your authors
If you know me, you know that I'm all about debating the warrants. So as long as the evidence has good warrants, who cares who the author is? As much as I like warrant debate & despise appeals to authority, there are at least 3 times when knowing who your authors are really does make a difference.
(1) In Cross-Ex.
This is HUGE. Cross-ex can do so much to establish or destroy the affirmative ethos. Being able to answer questions about the qualifications of your authors definitely adds to your credibility and thus the credibility of your case in the judges eyes, while inability to answer those questions can immediately cast doubt on the case. That can directly impact your speaks, since there is a category specifically for cross-examination, and of course speaks can sometimes decide the difference in seeding. Further, as much as we like to pretend they don't exist, there are those judges who vote for whoever persuades them, and I've been surprised by the number of times that cross-ex has appeared on the ballot as a deciding factor in rounds with this kind of judge. Even if it's not an issue in the round, judges like this will often vote for whichever team has the experts on their side, and you want to be that team.
(2) In Evidence Comparisons.
I've already been in multiple debates where the round came down to two directly contradicting studies on the same argument. If you know your authors well, you're in the uniquely advantageous position of being able to explain exactly why your study should be preferred.
(3) In Research.
Having a few really good authors for your aff can be an endless mine for research. For example, for my RPS case, I've consistently been using the same five or so authors for the majority of my evidence. A really good author will oftentimes publish multiple articles and/or studies on the same subject, or even write articles responding to authors on the other side of the argument. Those articles are the ones you want, and you'll miss unless you find some core authors for your aff.

How to "know" your authors
What do I mean by "knowing" affirmative authors? It goes beyond just looking up the credentials of your sources, although that's not necessarily a bad place to start.
First, find out exactly what it is that your authors are advocating, and make sure that it lines up with your aff and that you're not taking them out of context. That may also help you find some extra components of enforcement your plan may have been missing: legal scholars & policy analysts will know a lot more about the necessary components of legislation than the average debater. Second, if you end up quoting an author frequently, find out what qualifies that author to make the argument. I don't mean "oh, he has x degree from y university." You need to know what expertise s/he has in the specific policy field of your aff, whether it's work experience, or academic research. A final thing to consider would be finding out the specific methods your authors used to research the subject, such as computer modeling, surveys, empirical studies, or whatever. It's not essential, but can definitely add weight to your arguments.

In the end, it all comes down to establishing your ethos. Do you want the judge to remember you as the kid who cited that didn't know anything about any of his/her evidence, or the kid who had all the answers and cited qualified sources?


In case anyone still checks this blog, I've been taking a two month break from blogging to work on school and actually do debate as opposed to writing about it. However, that was fun and all, but I'm back to blogging again, and I should be putting out a lot more content over the Christmas break.