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If you are registered with idebate.org you can suggest your own motions at the top of the motions page, these will be checked and added to the motions list. It would however be best if you read this guide first.
We are very happy to take suggested motions for new debatabase debates. Before you submit your ideas to us, please take some time to read these guidelines on writing balanced, entertaining motions:
A properly worded motion should be one that identifies or at least hints at a problem with the world at present (known as the "status quo") and introduces a clear proposal to solve this problem (known as a "policy"). For a class of motions called "policy" motions, the proposal that solves the problem may be fairly elaborate. For another class of motion, called "analysis" motions, the proposal will usually suggest that a particular belief should be adopted.
The motion "This House would legalise drugs" contains a clearly stated policy - legalising drugs. By implication it also hints that the illegal status of drugs might be a problem for society under the status quo.
A good motion should contain an easily discoverable burden the debaters on the proposing side must meet. A burden is made up of the problem a proposition team have identified, their suggested solution to this problem and the criteria that should be applied to judge that solution a success.
Motions should also enable the opposing team to make a clear defence of the status quo. The motion "This House would end famines" is almost un-opposable, because most opposition teams would feel compelled to defend inadequate responses to food disasters.
A motion should never be dogmatic. A dogmatic motion requires the proposing team to defend their policy against all possible exceptions that the opposition might devise. In other words, a dogmatic motion is one that prevents the proposition from creating flexible policies or from granting concessions to outrageous opposition arguments.
Dogmatic motions often contain the word "never". For example, the motion "This House would never allow the police to intercept private phone calls" would prevent the proposing team from creating a policy that allows the police to eavesdrop on terrorists planning an imminent attacks. Dogmatic or "never" motions allow opposing teams to win simply by thinking up exceptions to the new legal, social or economic rules that comprise the proposition's policy. The debater and writer Neill Harvey-Smith notes that this rule "explains why debate motions often sound very stark and challenging. Proposing teams are expected to support a bold change, whereas opposing teams defend the status quo."
The highly regarded debater and debate judge Sheng Wu Li suggests testing potential motions against the following questions. Each of these questions assesses whether or not the motion can developed into an interesting debate that can be argued from several different perspectives.
1) Would a person new to debating, who reads (but does not necessarily have a perfect memory of) reputable mainstream news sources understand the subject of the motion?
- If yes, the motion may be debatable, and may be suitable for further development.
2) Does the debate contain at least five logically distinct arguments on either side of the motion, which remain persuasive and interesting when read separately from each other?
- If yes, there may be enough information accessible on the motion to make it debatable and interesting to a wide range of people.
3) Are any of the arguments used in the debate so strong and wide ranging that they could be used to respond to any potential rebuttal or argument offered by an opponent?
- If yes, the debate may be logically flawed or unsuitable for the audience it is being presented to.
4) Is it possible for a team proposing the motion to create a dull, confusing, uninformative or offensive debate if they misunderstand the motion?
- If yes, the motion may be phrased in a way that is too technical or complex.
5) Is there a sneaky way to interpret the motion that falls short of cheating (i.e. deliberately redefining otherwise clear words, setting the motion in a different place or at a particular time), that could a team on either side of the debate to gain an unsporting advantage - one that prevents their opponents from introducing new ideas to the debate.
- If yes, the subject of the motion may need to be made more specific.
For the purposes of debatabase we would also add to this
6) Will the motion rapidly become out of date?
- if yes, then the debate should be made more about principles, because debatabase debates will be online for a long time it is best not to have a motion about a specific event. You may want to move towards an analysis debate ‘This House believes’ which is about principles not policy.
Finally to make it easier for people who have english as a second language to understand debates they should be as simple as possible. In particular it is best to avoid making the motion negative.
Thank you very much for any suggestions you make. Unfortunately we can’t guarantee that we will have a debate you suggest written however assuming it conforms with the above guidance your topic suggestion will be added to a motions list we are constructing.
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