Debate Tips

8 Tips for Writing Killer Debate Impacts!

The most frequent question that I get from students of all skill levels is about how to write really killer impacts.

By now you know that strictly topical interpretations of the resolution live and die by the quality of the impacts that they can bring to the table, but one of the things that you may not know is that even strictly topical impacts open up a huge number of strategic opportunities for you during the debate.

  1. Great impacts are clear
  2. Great impacts are easy to weigh
  3. Great impacts each have a card
  4. Great impacts provide an array of options
  5. Great impacts box your opponent in
  6. Great impacts force your opponent to respond
  7. Great impacts extend into something even better
  8. Great impacts interact with the other layers of the debate

Impacts are also one of the most obvious ways that debate tends to take on its “multi-dimensional chess” elements in that they’re an extremely tempting vehicle to start stacking more as they often open up so many different possibilities that it’s easy to lose sight of your case theory and offensive strategies.

  1. In the year of Pokémon Go, I don’t think I can recommend typing (and not just on a computer) your impacts enough. Like Pokémon, each of your impacts has a type. Unlike Pokemon, those types are usually things like economics, civil rights, or environmental destruction. In order for the judge to be able to even begin to compare impacts, they need to know what impacts that they should compare yours to. Be sure to help yourself out by using language that indicates type in the impact itself.
  2. Making your impacts clear may sound obvious, and in a lot of ways it is, but what I’m getting at is less that basic casing elements like being sure that you have a pretty good idea about its category, likelihood, magnitude, etc., but also that you demonstrate what is at stake in your impact. What I mean by that is that you should have a pretty good idea about what the impact’s strategic value in the debate is, and you should be able to explain it to the judge in a sentence or two.
  3. If you’re getting a lot of complaints about your impacts being blippy or that the judge can’t find them at all, the easiest way to flesh them out is to add a card. It also makes it easier for you to branch different types of impacts off of your core warrant so you’ll generally be able to cover more ground. This ground opens up more options for you. Needless to say, go for the options where you opponent spends the least ink.
  4. Likewise, killer impacts deny choices to your opponents, the most obvious being time. Impacts that your opponent must respond to force your opponent to allocate their limited time budget to address stuff that you may or may not ultimately go for, which prevents them from using their own time to generate solid offense. What I’m not saying is that you should spread your opponent out with blippy arguments, but that you should drive deep on a few specific issues in each contention level argument so that your opponent has to cover diverse ground. This creates a positive feedback loop of sorts because the more diverse your ground is the more likely your opponents will be denied easy weigh outs on uncontested ground.
  5. You may have guessed that I’m really into this idea of typing arguments so that they’re easier to weigh. The corollary to that idea is that each individual contention must branch out into multiple types in the impact. This is particularly effective if your impact types put some distance between your ground and the resolution’s obvious impacts. Remember to sure up your link story with evidence! If you’re just guessing at the link story the judge will get lost.
  6. If you don’t go into the debate with a concrete plan for punishing opponents who drop your arguments, it’s extremely difficult to maintain offensive momentum. Most debaters who see debate as an offense/defense game, and let’s face it that’s most debaters who aren’t consistently breaking on the national circuit, intuitively understand that their impacts are the focal point of their offense, but there seems to be this constant reluctance to spell out for the judge what your opponent’s refusal to interact with the argument means for the debate. This isn’t even merely a framing issue, though it often is, but a strategic choice.
  7. Speaking of momentum, you’re walking into debate rounds with extension cards ready to go, right? Dropped arguments— and even poorly defended arguments— are literally a giant hole in your opponent’s defenses and you need to capitalize on them. That means cards that expand on each individual impacts themes and add new layers to their implications are critical. In addition to adding more potential voting issues, you also show that you own the strategic level of the debate.
  8. Every debate exists in multiple layers—topical, theoretical, and critical—even if it doesn’t do so explicitly. There’s no reason your impacts shouldn’t as well. Why not talk about social good impacts being the key to fairness or education? It’s not just doing some heavy lifting as a preempt, but could very easily turn theory or critique later in the debate.

Interested in learning even more? Have a student who wants to improve themselves? We run summer camps, holiday camps, and classes all year for ages 5 through 14 and grades 2 through 8 to improve these skills and more – and to have fun doing it. You can look at our upcoming class options directly here!


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