Ladies and Gentlemen,
I can't take credit for the following. This is something that Andre came up with a while back to assist with the consistency of judging. And considering the quality of Andre's feedback and debates, he's a damn good pick to emulate in your debates.
After some discussion in the chatbox, it's clear that not everyone knows EXACTLY what the judges are looking for in a debate. So, here's what Andre created that summarizes / encapsulates what we, as judges, are generally looking for. Figured it wouldn't hurt to share this, as it'll only enhance the quality of debates imo.
• (1) What is the question actually asking?
• (2) Are the statistics painting a clear picture?
• (3) Have you taken counter arguments into account?
• (4) Should you vote for the best debate, or the most entertaining debate?
• (5) Do the debaters know why you voted/didn’t vote for them?
The most important quality to look for in any debate is whether the question is being answered correctly. Some questions can be open to interpretation, for example:
‘Who has held the biggest influence over Manchester United football club over the past decade?’
Now notice how there weren’t any potential candidates included, meaning that theoretically ANYONE could be argued for in this case, whether that be a manager, the players, the clubs’ board or even the media. The question doesn’t specify whether the influence is negative or positive either.
Now let’s look at a different version of the same question:
“Which Manchester United player has had the biggest positive influence on Manchester United over the past decade?”
Now if you read both questions they can seem the same at face value, but they’re actually completely different. This question specifies that it has to be a player with a positive influence, yet it doesn’t state that it has to be a current/former player either, so theoretically the answer could be Bobby Charlton.
Now here’s a stricter version of that same question:
“Who has had the biggest positive influence on Manchester United over the past decade, Ryan Giggs or Wayne Rooney?”
Now that is very specific, there are only two possible answers to the debate while the topic question has asked for a particular quality that is defined by an adjective. However, influence doesn’t necessarily just mean performances on the pitch either. It could be argued that both players have brought shame to the club via their indiscretions.
The final and fourth version:
“Who has been the better on pitch performer for Manchester United over the past decade, Ryan Giggs or Wayne Rooney?”
This is completely specific, entailing positive playing performance qualities from two players from one club over a set period of time. There is no room for interpretation with this question.
The key is to analyse what the question is actually asking, breaking down the separate areas including adjectives, quantifiers and options, while taking all of that into account and applying that to your judging. Did the debater answer the actual question? Did the debater contradict his own stance by misinterpreting the question?
Here are two short examples in answer to the second version of the Manchester United question; “Which Manchester United player has had the biggest positive influence on Manchester United over the past decade?”
Debate A: Wayne Rooney. He has consistently scored the goals to keep United in the hunt for the premier league title. No other player has been such a big performer for them over the past decade. Despite visiting granny brothels and putting the club to shame via various other outlets he has been the best performer on the pitch, which is all that matters when the dust is settled and the smoke is clear.
Debate B: The question doesn’t ask for a current player, so I’ll pick Bobby Charlton. He has been a top draw ambassador for the club and been one of the few people who have consistently ensured that United uphold most of their traditions. He is a far more positive influence on United than mercenary style players such as Wayne Rooney who are more interested in earning wage raises at the clubs expense, even when they don’t warrant it due to poor form and behaviour, which is a negative influence on his team mates and his club in general.
Now, at face value answer B would seem like a bizarre answer, but it’s actually the best answer and perfectly fits in with what the question asks. A doesn’t take into account that the question doesn’t ask for a current player, while the answer is completely focused on the positives from on-pitch activities, wrongly assuming that nothing else matters while dismissing the notion that Rooney’s off pitch activities don’t come into account.
Now apply that same answer B to the final version of this question and it’s a good answer that fits in with what the question is asking. It’s also possibly a winning answer to the third version because we all know that Giggs is a bit of a wrong’un off the pitch and probably worse than Rooney! However, the admittance of Rooney being a bad sort also weakens the debater’s stance within the context of this version of the question, so that should also be taken into account.
It’s the subtle additions to the question titles that can make a huge difference to what the topic actually concerns, as shown with the previous examples. So always make an effort to understand what the question is ACTUALLY asking.
When a debater uses statistics it’s incredibly important to make sure that the stats are correct, although more often than not a reference will be included. If not then it’s best to check if the information is correct. Another issue with statistics in debates is that a debater can potentially use positive stats to paint a picture that isn’t true. Here are some examples:
Wagg sold 15,000 ice creams to children from his ice cream truck in 2013, as opposed to 10,000 ice creams in 2008. Wagg is clearly doing better business in 2013.
Made up FACTS for the purpose of an example
Wagg sold 20,000 chocolate bars from his van in 2008, 10,000 in 2013. 30,000 lollipops in 2008, 18,000 in 2013. Wagg’s business was actually stronger in 2008
Davey Striker is the best performing striker in ‘Bullshit made up club FC’s’ history, having scored more goals than any other player, 132 in total.
Made up FACTS for the purpose of an example
While Davey Striker might have scored the most goals in ‘bullshit made up club’s’ history, he is not their best performing striker due to a 1 to 7 chance conversion rate and a 1 to 4 goal per game ratio over 522 games in the second division.
Jim McCloggins is actually their best performing striker, with a 1 in 5 conversion rate and a 1 to 4 goals to games ratio with 101 goals over 404 games, with 50 of those goals occurring in 250 first division games and 51 occurring in 154 second division games. Jim was objectively a better performing striker than Davey
Do you now see how stats can easily be skewed to fit an agenda? It’s that type of stats usage that should be looked out for. Always try and look at the bigger picture and if that’s not being offered by the debater then research it yourself.
Counter arguments are a huge part of any debate and must be taken into account. If some individual debates are judged on their own merits then often they can seem fantastic, but when compared to a competing debate they can falter. As a judge it’s only fair to take into account the counter arguments that affect opposition debates, especially when two debates are of a very similar standard.
Here is an example of a poor judge presiding over two debates of a similar standard in terms of writing and arguments, yet debater A has the edge in these categories while debater B has lots of strong counters:
“Should John Cena be pushed aside as WWE’s top star for another full time proven draw?”
It is quite clear that WWE needs to revitalise their flagging product that is being hampered by the ham fisted “performances” from the ever bumbling Captain cringe worthy whose name is one John Cena. Buy rates and television ratings have dropped with Mr. “You can’t see me” who is starting to live up to that reputation with WWE universe members having consistently and rapidly turned away from the product during Cena’s decade of doom and gloom. WWE should push CM Punk to regain their currently apathetic adult audience who revitalised the U.S wrasslin’ industry with their fervent chanting and huge viewing figures. STOP PANDERING TO CHILDREN, BRING BACK THE ATTITUDE!
John Cena IS the only proven full time draw that WWE has. Guys like CM Punk have been given opportunities but the interest wasn’t there. Numbers might have declined under Cena but he has been a steady face of the company who does well when it comes to selling mechandise. Cena should stay as the top guy.
Stats proving debater B to be correct
Poor Judge: I liked both debates, but I thought that debate A was better.
Now, while A might have been a better read, making some decent arguments and looking strong as a standalone debate, it was completely obliterated when compared with debate B and all of its counter arguments. At face value when judged separately one debate might seem better than the other, but when compared side by side debate debate B destroys debate A due to counter arguments.
This leads me onto the style of writing and entertainment. While I’m sure we would all hope for every debate to be a wonderfully epic storytelling classic with world class humour, we mustn’t get away from what this is all about. This is the debate league, not the creative writing league. Answering the question correctly, forming strong arguments, providing correct information and building successful counter attacks should be the key priorities for any debater and should be the qualities that judges look for first and foremost. Great creative writing and humour come last to all of that. Sure, the debaters at least need to communicate their points to a certain level where the debate is easy to read and understand, but a great piece of creative writing with crap content should never beat a rigid piece of writing that has brilliant content in terms of arguments. The ONLY time that great creative writing and humour SHOULD separate two debates is when all of the debates in question are of an incredibly similar standard outside of those qualities. That is the correct time to take this into account, when everything else has been weighed up CORRECTLY and there’s absolutely no possible way to choose a winner otherwise.
Giving good feedback is just as important as any other judging aspect. When giving your feedback fully explain your decisions, tell the debaters the reasons that you thought they deserved to win and the reasons why they deserved to win. Explain how counter arguments from their debate or another debate affected them in a positive or negative way. Describe the nuances that separate really close matches. There is nothing more frustrating for a debater than to submit a brilliant effort, only to lose and be told by the judges that they “did nothing wrong, but another debate was better” without any explanation. It’s less of a smack in the face to tear apart a bad debate than it is to give zero feedback to a decent debate, regardless of whether it wins or not.