Winning Affirmative debate rounds is an essential part of your tournament strategy. If you routinely lose an Affirmative round, that’s a big red flag. You should be able to win all your preliminary Affirmative rounds, leaving you with just one Negative round you need to win in order to get to outrounds.
One of the best ways to ensure that you don’t have an off-round when Affirmative is to have pre-prepared responses to every single argument.
After a few rounds, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what people tend to argue against you. Additionally, you will probably have ideas for arguments against your case that may come up in the future.
When you’re pretty comfortable with the line-up of possible Negative arguments, it’s time to make a response sheet.
What’s a response sheet?
It’s simply a few pages where you list out every single possible Negative argument (even the bad ones), and then write your responses.
Here are a few characteristics of a good response sheet:
- It identifies all possible Negative arguments, no exceptions.
- It has 2-5 responses to each argument, depending on the strength of the argument.
- The responses are listed in order of importance. (That way, if you don’t have much time in-round to respond to the argument, you can just choose the top couple of responses).
- The evidence to back up each response is clearly labeled (preferably by number, and your affirmative brief should have numbered evidence).
- It should include some catchphrases and good rhetoric that you can use in response to an argument.
How to make one
The first step is to look through your flowsheets and write down all the arguments that have been run against you. Then write down any additional ones you can think of.
Then, write up as many responses as you can think of against each argument. If you have evidence that fits your response, insert a reference to it as well.
Finally, reorder your responses (and maybe the arguments) in order of importance, and add any catchphrases/rhetoric you want to have handy.
When you debate with a response sheet available, make sure to reference it as you craft your speech. It’s often very easy to forget what some of your strongest evidence/arguments are.
Benefits of a response sheet
Writing a response sheet forces you to think critically about every argument against your case. Sitting down and doing so is important. Too many teams just fly by the seat of their pants every Affirmative round.
Over time, Affirmative teams tend to get sloppy. The way they deliver their arguments get a little bit less effective from round to round. Having a response sheet allows them to remember to use all their responses/evidence and not change their narrative from round to round. It reduces the variability.
Lastly, having a response sheet helps you to feel motivated to look for more evidence and continue to refine your strategy. Every time a new argument comes up, you’ll need to redo your response sheet. This is good for you.
Example of a response sheet
Here’s an example response sheet from my last year of debate. The topic was the US election system.