A Quantitative Comparison of the Evaluative Criteria Employed By Participants and Critic-Judges in Intercollegiate Debate

Date of Graduation

Summer 1972


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Holt Spicer


At the conclusion of a debate tournament debaters and coaches inevitably ponder over the collection of ballots from the weekend's activity, and it is not at all unusual for many debaters to be perplexed by one or more of the decisions rendered by their critic-judges. A number of coaches account for this discrepancy of opinion by reasoning that debaters are unable to isolate themselves from ego involvement in debate rounds, but the possibility remains that debaters and critic-judges evaluate debates by differing criteria. Althought studies have not been conducted to test the hypothesis that debaters and critics use independent means of evaluation, previous studies indicate that the results of evaluative efforts do differ significantly. Such data suggest that studies testing the comparative means of debate evaluation are justified. The validity of techniques of evaluation should be of major concern to the discipline of argumentation and debate. The frequent disagreement between participants and critics indicates that comparative methods of evaluation warrant research to determine their validity. Prerequisite to such research is determination of the source of this disagreement. It is felt that one of two conclusions may result from this determination. Hypothesis number one is that accepted methods of argumentation instruction have not fostered participant ability to evaluate rounds of debate objectively. Hypothesis number two is that both participant and critic evaluations are objective but that there is no common agreement on how criteria of evaluation should be utilized. It is the specific purpose of this study to test the latter hypothesis by comparing the use of criteria of evaluation by participants and critics. It is hoped that statistical analysis will better illuminate the needs of this discipline. Mechanics employed in the design of this study were directed toward the goal of eliminating possible variables which could bias and thereby invalidate statistical results. Three controls were utilized: (1) Efforts were taken to satisfy the two critical assumptions of the study. (2) A dependable method of measurement was sought. (3) A representative method of sampling was developed. Considerable evidence was discovered to support the hypothesis that evaluative criteria are objectively used by critics and participants, but that the field has failed to supply any universally accepted procedure for utilizing these criteria.

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© Terrence C Winebrenner