What is LD debate?

What is the structure of an LD round?

How do I write a constructive case?

How do I cross-examine my opponent?

What is "flowing" and how do I do it?

What are the values in the debate and how do I use them?

How do I construct a successful argument?

What is LD debate?

LD is a one-on-one debate that focuses on the morals and ethics of a resolution by evaluating it with moral values and a philosophical approach. LD rounds stress the use of theory and logic.  Debaters are not required to solve real-world problems that may be brought up in the debate.

What is the structure of an LD round?

Time (minutes)






Affirmative Constructive

The AFF reads a pre-written case



Cross Examination

The NEG asks the AFF questions


NC (1NR)

Negative Constructive (and first Rebuttal)

The NEG reads a pre-written case and then addresses the AFF case



Cross Examination

The AFF asks the NEG questions



First Affirmative Rebuttal

The AFF addresses the NEG case and defends own case


NF (2NR)

Negative Rebuttal

The NEG addresses AFF arguments and defends case and gives voting issues



Second Affirmative Rebuttal

AFF covers every argument or only sums of the round to give voting issues

During the round, each debater is entitled to 4 minutes of preparation time.  This should be used to prepare your arguments for the next rebuttal.  When the round is complete, the judge(s) will evaluate the round, fill out the ballot and the result will be disclosed at a later point in the tournament.

How do I write a constructive case? 

The case usually begins with an “attention-getter.”  It could be a quote, anecdote, etc. 

Next, the value premise and value criterion are introduced.  The value is the standard that the debater is trying to achieve.  The debater should persuade the judge that if the resolution is affirmed or negated, the value is achieved.  The criterion is the “weighing mechanism” that allows us to reach the value.  Click HERE for more information on values

Next, the debater defines key words in the resolution to create common ground for debate.  The definitions should be supported by reputable sources and should not unreasonably limit the ground for debate.

Finally, the debater introduces contentions (typically 2 or 3 for AFF and 1 or 2 for NEG).  These are the key arguments for each side and should persuade the judge whether the resolution is true or false.  This is not the only way to write a case, but it is the most orthodox.  Do what is comfortable for you, but not at the expense of effectiveness.  Click HERE for more information on writing contentions.

Click HERE for more information on case writing

How do I cross-examine my opponent? 

Each debater is entitled to a cross examination of the other side.  When asking and answering questions, never look at the opponent.  Face the judge.  Presenting and persuading the judge should be your main concern.  A debater can use the CX time to clarify topics brought up in the constructive, to point out logical flaws and contradictions, to find common ground in the debate, etc.  Try to ask close ended questions and maintain control of your CX, but avoid being rude.  Good manners is very important in a debate.  Click HERE for more information on CX.

What is “flowing” and how do I do it?

Debaters take notes in the round by flowing.  The flow is a play-by-play of every argument in the round.  This is a difficult skill to master, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes very easy. 

Flowing style varies for every debater.  Here is how to flow on two sides of a piece of paper or on two sheets:

Turn your paper vertically and split it into 5 columns: AC, 1NR, 1AR, 2NR and 2AR.  Keep track of every argument that occurs in each of the rounds.  On the other paper, split it into 4 columns: NC, 1AR, 2NR, and 2AR.  Keep track of every argument that occurs in each round here also.  You should write your response right next to the argument that is made. 

Draw long arrows across the page next to arguments that the opponent fails to address.  This is called an extension and is useful for gaining offense in rounds. 

A good trick is to use a different colored pen for each side so it is easy to see the arguments clash.  Also, develop your own abbreviations for common terms.  For example, instead of writing “Value: Justice” you can try “V: J.” 

What are values in the debate and how do I use them?

The value is a universal standard the debater hopes to achieve in the round.  Both debaters try to show how their position on the resolution best upholds their value or both their own value and the opponent’s value. 

Common values in LD:


Societal Welfare


Quality of Life




These values are NOT the only ones you can use.  There are many other values that you can research about.

The value criterion is an action statement to achieve the value.  For example, in order to promote the value of justice, one could support a criterion of “respecting natural rights.”  It is essentially, a “weighing mechanism” that tells us how the value can be achieved.  It is critical to link contentions and arguments back to the criterion so it impacts the resolution. 

How do I construct a successful argument? 

Most contentions in a case begin with a claim.  The claim is the main thesis of the argument.  However, it is merely an assertion if it does not contain a warrant. 

The warrant answers “why?” the claim is true.  Warrants can be backed up using empirical evidence or logical analysis from an expert on the topic.  A strong claim has multiple warrants. 

The debater should always conclude with an impact that shows “why it matters.”  The impact links the claim to the resolution and the criterion and explains the significance of the argument.   

In addition to writing contentions, you should try to use this model of argumentation as much as possible when answering an opponent’s arguments.  If your opponent fails to support a claim, remember to point that out in a rebuttal.