How to Learn Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Lincoln-Douglas Debate is a one-on-one forensic competition format modeled after historic debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Learn how to participate.

You will need

  • A forensic competition
  • Research
  • An opponent
  • Extensive research
  • 3-by-5 index cards
  • Pens or pencils
  • A legal pad

Step 1 Pick affirmative or Negative side on given issue Choose the affirmative or negative side of a given topic.

Step 2 Research the topic and prep resource citation cards Research your stance. Write notes with source citations on 3-by-5 index cards, to be used as evidence during the debate.

Step 3 Prepare an L-D Debate flow sheet Use a legal pad held horizontally to create a Lincoln-Douglas Debate flow sheet. Divide the page or pages into seven sections, one for each round of the debate.

Step 4 Affirmative states resolution with evidence State your position clearly and support it with three or more facts during the opening round if you’re affirmative.

Step 5 Negative cross-examines opponent Aim your questions at your opponent’s opening statement with a strategy that points out flaws and negative implications of your opponent’s position if you’re negative.

Step 6 Negative participant presents opposing statement Present your opposing statement clearly with supporting facts during the opening round if you’re negative.

Step 7 Affirmative cross-examines opponent Cross-examine the opponent’s negative position if you’re affirmative.

Step 8 Affirmative makes rebuttal speech Make a rebuttal speech if you’re affirmative. This four-minute rebuttal round will serve to rebuild your case.

Step 9 Negative makes rebuttal speech Make your rebuttal speech if you’re negative. The negative rebuttal round has a six- or seven-minute time limit.

Step 10 Affirmative states final case State your final case in a three- or four-minute rebuttal of your opponent’s negative position if you’re affirmative.