As you already know, your "team" will present a six minute constructive speech during each debate. The purpose of the constructive speech is to make and support your main arguments in favor of the resolution (when you are affirmative) or against the resolution (when you are negative).
Your constructive speech should always accomplish the following:
Beyond those basic guidelines, you have the freedom to
create a case that makes sense to you and that you believe
will persuade the judge. Let's take a closer look at some of
the basic requirements.
Your case should always begin with an introduction. The introduction needs to accomplish two things.
Here's a sample introduction:
"Every year in the United States, our government executes dozens of convicted murderers. Their crimes are so terrible that our legal system assigns death as the ultimate punishment. What is truly tragic and hypocritical is that every so often our legal system gets the wrong person. Instead of punishing someone for taking an innocent life, it is our government itself that is taking an innocent life. Because my partner and I believe that this should never happen again, we stand Resolved: that the death penalty should be abolished in the United States. [If you are negative, you would phrase that last line something like this "... my partner and I negate the resoultion: that the death penalty should be abolished in the United States." This simply reminds the judge of the resolution being debated.] First, we'll prove that the death penalty results in miscarriages of justice " [You're now moving into the "contentions" (or observations). These are simply your main arguments.]
Your two or three main arguments are called contentions. They should be labeled as Contentions and "signposted," or numbered. [Traditionally, Roman numerals are used because this follows the conventional outline format.] Your contentions are statements that must be proven or supported with evidence and analysis.
Here's a sample for how you could structure a contention. [You may chose to further divide your contentions with "subpoints". Subpoints should be labeled with capital letters (following the outline format). Subpoints provide additional organizational structure to help clarify your argument. They are a great place to insert evidence.]
"The most important reason for abolishing the death penalty is that we sometimes end up killing the wrong people. "Contention I. People Are Wrongly Executed" Clearly, the execution of any innocent victim is a tragedy. Unfortunately, there are a number of innocent people on death row. Subpoint A. "Innocents on death row". Across the country, dozens of people have been proven innocent while awaiting their execution. Proof of this is provided by...Stuart Taylor Jr., columnist for The National Journal, Newsweek, June 11, 2001
After you have stated your "Contention", you must provide
reasoning and evidence to support it. That can be easily
done with the subpoints. The length of the "Contention" is
up to you (you only have 6 minutes, so they will be fairly
brief). Also, the number of contentions that you have is up
to you. Usually, a case will have 2 or 3 main contentions.
Remember that I am recommending six pieces of evidence for
After you have made and supported all of your contentions, you should end your case with a brief conclusion. In your conclusion, you should restate your main ideas and end with a persuasive appeal to your audience.
Here's a sample conclusion:
"In today's debate, the affirmative team has proven that the death penalty results in two major harms to society. First, innocent people are sometimes wrongly executed. Second, the death penalty is discriminatory because it is used more frequently against minorities. Finally, we have additionally shown that the death penalty has no major benefit because it does not reduce crime rates. In light of this evidence, the right thing to do is to abolish this unfair and ineffective punishment. Please vote affirmative."
This is all there is to writing a constructive speech.
We'll work on improving and modifying them as we practice.
Remember, you have six minutes to use. We'll try and get the
speech close to that length, since we want to use all the
time we can... [The best way to
figure out how close you are to six minutes is simply to
read it aloud. Read at a modest pace.]
[This information might help in
structuring strong contentions for your constructive