Komunikacijske vještine

Theoretical background

Basics of debate

In the broadest sense, debate is defined as a structured discussion including arguments. The structure implies the previous arrangement on the number of speakers participating in debate, the order in which they are going to speak and the time their speeches are going to take. So, unlike discussions that we usually conduct in everyday life, speakers do not interrupt each other in a debate, do not hold long monologues, do not change the topic of discussion etc. Therefore, a debate enables us to discuss certain ideas in an organised and a civilised manner.

Furthermore, debate is a discussion which includes arguments – the views expressed should be explained in a rational manner. While debating, we do not rely on our personal views and beliefs or anecdotal proofs, but rather we have to support our claims with logically sustainable reasons and proved, scientific facts. That enables us to discuss objectively and defend our views in a more qualitative manner.

To conduct a high quality debate, it is necessary to prepare ourselves, to read the relevant materials, to search for needed information, to consult experts in the field addressed in the debate… That is what makes debate a funny and creative way of learning new things.

And finally, there are judges in debate. At the end of each debate, they decide the winner and their decisions are based solely on what was said in the debate and the manner in which it was done. (Croatian Debate Society, 2012).


Unlike the other types of discussions, in a debate we do not necessarily advocate our own view – the side we will represent is decided by flipping a coin several minutes before each debate starts. Therefore, during the preparation both the arguments for and against a certain resolution must be equally well prepared. Thus we reconsider our own views and usually find out that the things are not so black-and-white as they seem to be, namely, that different views can be well argued. (ibid).

Why do we learn to debate?

Discussions in everyday life are naturally always more poorly structured than a debate. Despite that, education in the field of debating brings many positive effects which roughly can be divided into two levels:

  • personal and
  • social level

At a personal level, debating skill is useful because it develops critical thinking, efficient communication, skills for independent research and teamwork. As a result, debate teaches us the skills which are equally needed at school, at work, in political life and when fulfilling the role of a responsible citizen in a democratic society. Students who understand the basic principles of debating are able to critically view the activities of their political representatives and to bring well reasoned decisions about vital issues (International Debate Education Association, 2012). Students who have acquired the skills of successful debating will benefit in both their private and professional life.

Personal skills acquired through debate have also broader effects. Debates can help in healing young democracies from the wounds suffered at the time of dictatorship and ethnic violence. Students being educated in the field of debating obtain precious first-hand knowledge on the ways in which democracy functions. By insisting on respect for diversity, non-violence and appreciation of different views, debate can help in closing the gap between cultural minorities and majorities as well as between other groups which have been in long lasting disagreements. (ibid).

Logic of debate

In the previous practical class we presented Aristotle’s division of persuasion skills through three basic categories – etos, logos i patos. Yet, unlike persuasion in everyday life, debate is based on arguments. To find out about its logic more thoroughly, I recommend course notes Debate Logic written by Tomislav Reškovac, which Croatian Debate Society kindly permitted us to use for the needs of this module. You can find those course notes here.


Croatian Debate Society (2012). What is a debate? Zagreb: Croatian Debate Society. Material available here (in Croatian).

International Debate Education Association. (2012). Why Debate? International Debate Education Association. Source available here.

Reškovac, T. (2012). Debate Logic. Zagreb: Croatian Debate Society. Text available here (in Croatian).