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Debating is an acquired skill. It is a fine art which combines two roles; the presentation of the debater's
case in a reasonable, attractive and persuasive manner, coupled with the effective response to the
opposition's case and counter arguments. As such, a debate works very much in favour of developing
objective, critical thinking and the structured presentation of ideas. These two qualities summarise the
important characteristics of a dynamic leader who is well equipped to face contemporary and future
The 1st Royal Malaysian Intervarsity Debating Championship is a formal contest of argumentation,
rhetoric and wit. Two teams, the Government and the Opposition, of three debaters each, will debate a
resolution proposed to the House. A different motion will be proposed for each round. The result of the
round will be decided by a panel of adjudicators. No evidence or other outside written material may be
consulted during the round.
This Guide is prepared by the International Islamic University Malaysia Debating Club using a
combination of previous Australasian and World Debating Championships rules and guidelines as a
working source. We have tried to make this guideline as simple and straight forward as possible using
only one motion as an example to cover all probable areas of uncertainty and confusion and making
suggestions thereof on how to effectively deal with those situations. It also highlights some of the
qualities and methods which make an effective debater while providing you with an introduction to the
format of the 1st Royal Malaysian Intervarsity Debating Championship. Unlike the attached rules of
debate, the suggestions outlined serve only as a general guideline.
Two teams, the Government and the Opposition, will debate in each round. Speaking order is as follows :
First Government
First Opposition
Second Government
Second Opposition
Third Government
Third Opposition
Reply Opposition
Reply, Government

- 7 minutes
- 7 minutes
- 7 minutes
- 7 minutes
- 7 minutes
- 7 minutes
- 4 minutes
- 4 minutes

The first six speeches of the round are termed substantive speeches; the last two are considered reply
Government. The role of the Government team shall be to support the motion. This involves defining the
motion, constructing a positive case in favour of the motion, providing substantive material and
arguments in support of their case and responding to any challenges made to that case by the Opposition.
Opposition. The role of the Opposition team is negate the motion. This involves responding to the
Government's definition, constructing a case in opposition to the motion, providing substantive material
and arguments in support of their case and responding to the arguments delivered by the Government.

The Opposition should also provide "value-clash" in the debate. In other words, the argumentation they
forward must constitute a clash or disagreement with the case presented by the Government. From
experience, when the Government presents a case which is not similar to the expectation of the
Opposition, some Opposition teams refuse to respond appropriately by forwarding a case in direct
disagreement. They instead simply deliver prepared speeches based on their speculation of what the
Government's case would have been. This would result in there being two separate "speech
presentations" instead of a debate. Needless to say, any Opposition team that does not provide value-clash
while not explicitly challenging the definition proposed by the Government shall not be marked
favourably (please refer to the rules on Definitions below).
The Prime Minister has the duty to define the motion of the debate. Some motions are coined in such a
way to allow various acceptable definitions. For example, if presented with the motion "This House
believes that fighting fire with fire is justified", the Government team might choose to argue the motion
on its face as a general principle of broad applicability (e.g. the concept of an eye for an eye, and the
principle of desert and justice), or may choose to define it in terms of a specific case, through which the
political, economic and philosophical conflict inherent in the motion is expressed (e.g. the need for
military intervention in Bosnia as opposed to talks and negotiations, or tough and strict enforcement
measures to fight drug trafficking as opposed to its legalisation). The Government's definition of the
motion must follow certain criteria, the violation of which will result in the Government team being
a) The definition must bear a close relation to the motion. The definition must bear a close relation to
the motion; there must be a clear and logical link between the motion and the definition. For example the
Government might argue "fighting fire with fire" to mean the use of force to solve a problem that itself
arose through the use of force. This, they then link to the crime situation of the world where police
officers (who naturally use force in carrying out their duty) are being outgunned in the streets by the
criminals who possess more and better firearms. And finally, they conclude by defining "fighting fire with
fire" to mean "increasing the government's annual budget allocation on firearms for police officers as the
criminals are now outgunning them". The Government would then proceed to argue that the present
government's budget allocation is inadequate. To propose a definition that is only remotely linked to the
motion such as this is called "squirelling". This is strictly prohibited, and such definitions can be
challenged by the Opposition.
b) The definition must not be truistic. A truistic definition is one which cannot be rationally opposed. If
the Government were to define the motion "This House believes that fighting fire with fire is justified" to
mean that there is justification in one's killing of another person in self-defence when the latter is
threatening his/her life, the Opposition may successfully challenge the case as truistic. This is because no
reasonable person can or should be expected to advocate otherwise.
c) The definition must not employ time/place setting. The Government may not choose to set the time
or place of the debate. If the Government defines the motion "This House believes that fighting fire with
fire is justified" as military intervention in Bosnia, it has no right to reject the Opposition's example of the
failure of such an interventionist policy in (say) Somalia. If the Government brushes aside the arguments
and examples given by the Opposition solely on the basis that the debate should be confined to Bosnia
alone, this amounts to place setting. A similar setting on time is also prohibited; e.g. defining intervention
in Bosnia as would have taken place only during the early stages of the conflict and refusing to accept the
Opposition's analysis of the contemporary situation.
d) The definition must not incorporate overly specific knowledge. The Government may not propose a
definition that includes topics which are outside that of the range of a typical well-read university student.

In other words, the definition must be limited to topics which the Opposition can be reasonably expected
to debate and must not depend on a detailed understanding of specific facts which may not be available to
the general public.
If the Government is unsure of the level specificity of the definition they are proposing, they should
provide a summary of the issues involved in the definition to enable the Opposition to fairly argue the
After the Prime Minister has defined the motion (or simply accepted it in its original construction), he/she
will generally present several lines of analysis (usually between two and four), explaining why the
Government's case should be affirmed. For example, the Government might argue that their case should
be affirmed because military intervention in Bosnia is the only feasible solution to the conflict and that
all other measures have failed.
It is also the duty of the Prime Minister to outline his team's case structure by identifying the areas that
the first two speakers will deal with. He or she may for example, say "I, as the first speaker will deal with
the philosophical base of our case while my colleague will examine its practical implications."
He/she then advances arguments in support of the Government's position which is within the set
parameters of what he/she, as the first speaker would deal with; in our example above, the arguments
must therefore be within the philosophical boundaries. Although factual references are generally
necessary and helpful in support of a debater's case, emphasis is more on logical argumentation than mere
reproduction of evidence.
If the definition presented by the Prime Minister violates one of the definitional criteria outlined above, it
must be challenged by the Leader of the Opposition in his or her substantive speech. If the Government's
definition is not challenged in this speech, the Opposition has tacitly accepted the definition for the
remainder of the debate. The other Opposition members therefore do not have the right to challenge the
definition in their speeches.
If the Leader of the Opposition challenges the definition of the Government, the burden lies on him/her to
provide a more reasonable definition of the motion. The Opposition may either return the debate to the
general principles expressed in the original motion or may redefine the motion to make it more
For example, if the Government were to define the motion "This House believes that fighting fire with
fire is justified" to mean the justification in one's killing of another person in self-defence when the latter
is threatening his/her life, the Opposition could redefine the resolution, and force the Government to
uphold instead the motion that "capital punishment for convicted murderers is justified".
Simply proving that the Government's stand is not reasonable will not win the debate. The adjudicators
will penalise them for an unreasonable definition, but it is possible for the Opposition to come up with a
more reasonable definition, force the Government to debate on their grounds and still lose the debate
under their own definition.
Note that the substitute definition suggested by the Opposition in a definitional challenge must itself be
fair and debatable and the Opposition must provide sound reasoning to justify this. If the Government did
in fact provide an unreasonable definition, the debate should then proceed on the grounds which the
Opposition has presented. There are instances, however, when neither team accepts the other team's
definition and the debate revolves around arguments in justification of the two team's conflicting

If the Government defines a motion in a way that does not violate the criteria outlined above, the
Opposition has to debate along the case lines of the Government. Some Opposition teams have the
tendency to provide a definition that they believe is "more reasonable" than the one offered by the
Government even when the Government's definition does not violate any of criteria above. This is
strictly prohibited. The Opposition must first prove that the Government's definition violates one or
more of the above criteria before the facility of providing a substitute definition is available to them.
This is to prevent the debate from turning into a debate of "more reasonable" definitions.
Therefore, definitional differences should be resolved within the first few minutes of the substantive
speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
Once the definitional issue is settled, the first speaker of the Opposition will proceed along the lines
similar to the role of the prime Minister with the added responsibility of responding to the arguments
brought up by the latter. The response to the Government's arguments can come before the Leader of the
Opposition presents his/her own arguments to support the Opposition's case or vice-versa. However, the
delivery of rebuttals first is recommended.
The second speaker from the Government basically has the task of reiterating in general terms his/her first
speaker's case, responding to the arguments forwarded by the first speaker of the Opposition and
presenting a new area of analysis to further argue the case of his/her team.
He/she repeats the stand of the Government, and proceeds to present the case of the Government usually
from a perspective different from the one dealt with by the first speaker. For example, the first speaker
might talk about the philosophical background of the motion, while the second speaker might deal with
the practical aspects.
It is also his duty to counter the arguments delivered by the first speaker of the Opposition.
The second speaker of the Opposition has the duties similar to the one performed by the second speaker
of the Government.
The third speaker of the Government is mainly entrusted with the duty of responding to the arguments of
the Opposition that were not previously dealt with in the first two substantive speeches. He/she may not
introduce any new arguments into his/her speech. New examples however, are welcome. The logic
behind this rule is that if a third speaker is allowed to introduce new material, the Government would be
at a disadvantage as they will not be able to respond to any new arguments presented by the third speaker
of the Opposition, who delivers the last substantive speech. (Please take note that the reply speech is
not recommended to be used for specific rebuttal of individual arguments).
The third speaker also has the duty of reiterating in general terms the stand of his/her team as well as the
arguments forwarded by the first two speakers.
The third speaker of the Opposition has the duties similar to the one performed by the third speaker of the

Either the first or the second speaker of each side may deliver the reply speech. The Opposition delivers
the first reply speech.
The limited length of time for reply speeches allows little else but a summary of arguments. The reply
speech identifies and clarifies the major issues at hand which have already been brought up by both sides
in the substantive speeches.
The introduction of new material is absolutely prohibited and will be penalised. However, this should not
be confused with the legitimate use of new examples and analogies to reiterate a point made previously in
the substantive speeches. This is even encouraged especially if it is effective in clarifying an issue. The
reply speech may also be used to expand a previous area of analysis already introduced in the substantive
Any point brought up by the other side which had not been rebutted earlier in the substantive
speeches may not be rebutted in the reply speeches. Therefore, this means that all substantive
arguments presented in the debate must be dealt with by the opposing team in the substantive speeches.
With reference to our example above on the motion "This House believes that fighting fire with fire is
justified", if none of the three speakers from the Opposition rebuts the philosophical argument of the first
Government speaker in their substantive speeches, the reply speaker of the Opposition may not rebut this
argument in his/her reply speech.
The reply speeches do not have to contain a point-by-point account of the other side's arguments and the
rebuttals presented. Rather, it would be preferable to identify and address major issues brought up by the
other side, and explain how those issues had been dealt with in the substantive speeches. This is also more
effective in light of the limited time frame.
Points of Information are an integral part of the 1st Royal Malaysian Intervarsity Debating Championship
1995 and it is recommended that each debater accepts at least 2 Points during his/her speech. Further,
debaters are encouraged to offer several Points during opponents' speeches, so long as this behaviour does
not become disruptive.
A point of Information is a question or statement directed to the speaker holding the floor by a member of
the opposing team. A point of information is offered by the member standing in his/her place and putting
a hand on his/her head, or otherwise indicating. A debater may also indicate that he/she wishes to offer a
Point by rising and saying "Point of Information" or "Information" or "On that very point".
The debater holding the floor has absolute discretion on whether or not to accept a point of information,
and this should be indicated to the person rising; the debater should not simply ignore the individual who
wishes to offer him/her a Point. If the Point is refused, the individual offering the Point should sit down. If
the Point is accepted, the individual may direct a question or comment to the debater. Points of
Information may not exceed 15 seconds in length, and will count against the time of the debater holding
the floor.
A Point of Order is an objection to a breach of the rules of debate which is raised by a debater while one

of the members of the other team is speaking.

To offer a point of order, a debater should rise and state "Mister/Madam Speaker, I rise on a Point of
Order." The debater holding the floor should cease speaking and remain silent until the Point is stated, and
the Speaker has ruled it well taken or not well taken. If a point is ruled well taken, the time involved in
raising the Point shall be deducted from the time of the debater holding the floor. If the Point is ruled not
well taken, no time will be deducted from the debater.
While a Point of Order is being offered or is under deliberation, the debater holding the floor has no right
to respond. Rulings are final and may not be appealed or contradicted by either team.
As mentioned above,. a Point of Order is raised to point out a breach in the rules of debate. Three
circumstances under which this might occur are common;
The use of foul, offensive or insulting language and gestures. If a debater argues in a manner that is
unreasonably offensive or insulting to the members of the opposing team, and has not been called to order
by the Speaker, the opposing team should rise on a Point of Order.
The introduction of new matter in either the third substantive or the reply speech. If a debater offers
a new point not previously canvassed in the round, in either the third substantive or the reply speech, or
attempts to first respond to a point previously raised by the other team (with the exception of the Prime
Minister responding to an example or rebuttal first introduced by the third speaker of the Opposition), the
opposing team should rise on a Point of Order. If the point is ruled well taken, the new argument put
forward by the debater will be disregarded by the adjudicators, and the debater will not be allowed to
continue discussion of it. If a new argument is made in the third substantive or the reply speech, and there
is no Point of Order made, the adjudicators may consider the argument in making their decision. The
burden lies on the two teams to watch out for new arguments.
A debater exceeding time limits by more than 30 seconds. Each debater will be notified by the time
keeper of the expiration of their time and extended a 30 second "grace period" to conclude their speech
before being called to order. If a member of the opposing team believes that this limit has been exceeded,
but the Speaker has not called the debater holding the floor to order, he/she may rise on a Point of Order.
A panel of adjudicators will be appointed to decide the outcome of the debate. As far as it is possible, at
least one member of the panel will be an experienced adjudicator.
The whole exercise of debating revolves around the persuasiveness of the speakers in convincing the
adjudicators. Adjudicators however shall be guided by several broad guidelines but are not bound by
them. The guidelines are:
Matter. Matter consists of three main elements; arguments, examples and rebuttals. Arguments and
examples will be judged based on their relevance, explanatory and interest value, their development in
advancement of the team's case, and the clash they provide against the case of the opposing team.
Arguments and examples that are developed in a logical analysis are marked favourably than those based
heavily on assertion (i.e. arguments without proper substantiation) or emotion.
Marks will also be awarded for effective rebuttals. Debaters are not, strictly speaking, obliged to make a
detailed refutation of every argument of their opponents. There are however, expected to forward
effective and convincing rebuttals of the main contentions of the other side by confronting those
contentions head-on. Rebuttals should not get bogged down in unnecessary details.
Manner. Manner is the style in which a debater presents arguments. This is just as important to the debate

as the arguments themselves. Manner includes persuasion, the ability to demonstrate a polished and
confident speaking technique and to hold the attention of the audience and adjudicators.
The style employed through the use of emotion, tone, gestures and rhetorical techniques should also be
appropriate to the material presented and assist the argument being made. For example, the use of humour
and wit in terms of appropriate sarcasm and amusing examples or anecdotes is appreciated but will score
few marks if it does not advance the argument. Humour not appreciated in the debate are inappropriate
jokes, personal insults and mere stand-up comedy.
One important thing that debaters should remember is that there is no one best way to debate; there is no
difference between an aggressive and forceful debater and one who is calm and understated if both are
able to demonstrate the ability to persuade and hold the attention of the adjudicators. Notwithstanding
this, there is however a limit to the degree of acceptable "manner" - neither an overly aggressive nor a too
understated debater will score many points.
Method. The structure of individual arguments and a team's case as a whole constitutes method. Clear
distinction between points and the existence of a logical flow between them will be marked favourably.
There should not be any contradiction of analysis within a particular argument. or between arguments
presented by speakers on the same team (The opposing team that points out such contradictions stands to
be marked favourably).
As with written articles or books that begin with a clear introduction, then proceed with a thorough and
systematic analysis of the substance central to the article and end with a concise conclusion, debaters
should also be able to structure their speeches into separate categories with appropriate headings.
Debaters should not lump different arguments together without clear separation and expect the
adjudicators to figure out for themselves when a particular individual arguments ends and the next one
Debaters must give attention to the logical and systematic flow of their elaborations on the arguments.
They should guide the adjudicators through their analysis and make them feel as though they are reading
an authoritative book on the issue presented. Needless to say, a debater who achieves this shall be marked
favourably by the adjudicators.
Debaters should also place emphasis on teamwork. They are expected to perform as a team, reinforcing
each other's arguments and carrying a coherent team philosophy through the round.
Points of Information. Adjudicators will take into account the skill in both, offering and responding, to
the Points of Information in the evaluation of the debaters. Debaters who skillfully utilise Points of
Information will be at an advantage in the round. Both by raising powerful or witty points and by quickly,
confidently and effectively responding to points offered, can demonstrate that they are able to think on
their feet - a quality looked for in a debating round by all adjudicators.
Prepared by