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Published by Dillon Johnson

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Published by: Dillon Johnson on Oct 21, 2011
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Debaters use the best evidence they have to support the arguments that

they wish to present. This is understandable, because there is no such

thing as “perfect evidence,” nor is there one sort of evidence that is al-

ways better than others. The criteria one uses to determine the quality

of the evidence changes with each argument and its associated claim.

However, here are some general criteria for evaluating the evidence that

you will use or that the opposing team has presented.

• The evidence should support the claim you are making in the argument.

It should do more than just infer the claim or allude to it: it should

directly support it.

• The evidence should give strong reasons why the claim is true. If a newspa-

per article says that next time the Democrats will win the presidency

without explaining why, it is probably inadequate. A good argument

must give warrants: reasons why the argument should be accepted.

• The evidence should be strongly worded. It should suggest that some-

thing “probably” or “defnitely” will happen—instead of “might” or

“possibly could” happen. The stronger the wording the better.

• The evidence should come from a qualifed source. The reason you use evi-

dence to prove arguments is because you are not a subject-area expert.

Evidence should come from qualifed and respected sources. Evaluate the

author of your evidence for formal training and education, experience


The Code of the Debater

in the feld, affliation with some respected organization, or a good

track record of evaluating and predicting events. Always include qual-

ifcations in your citation.

• The evidence should be appropriately recent. This is particularly impor-

tant when dealing with topics that are changing rapidly. You would

want a piece of evidence claiming that China and the United States

are on the brink of a breakdown in relations because of human rights

criticisms to be very recent. On the other hand, a piece of more philo-

sophical evidence about the dangers of mixing church and state need

not be recent. Always include the complete date on all citations.

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