Standards For Judging Refutation in Intercollegiate Debate

Date of Graduation

Summer 1972


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Holt Spicer


The purpose of a debate tournament is to determine by the process of elimination the best debate team. The function of the critic is filled by a judge who determines which of the two teams did the better job within a given round. The importance of a critic judge in a particular round is, therefore, crucial. Before any judge can offer valuable criticism to the debaters, he must first determine what standards he shall follow in his decision-making process. Unfortunately, among judges there seems to be no universally accepted standards for evaluating strategies and refutation. The lack of commonly accepted standards for evaluating refutation, and the constant emergence of new methods of advocacy have resulted in confusion and frustration for the debater and his coach. The purpose of this study is to determine the current views of critic judges on standards for judging refutation. These attitudes were measured for the purpose of determining, (1) possible shifts in opinion on refutation from 1960 to 1972; and (2) possible differences in opinion between coaches according to geographical location. The procedure used in this study can be summarized as follows: l. A sample of 850 critic judges were asked to fill out a questionnaire developed by James in 1960. The questionnaire consisted of 29 questions dealing with strategies in debate refutation. Three hundred and fifty-five returned the questionnaire for evaluation. 2. The data collected were subjected to statistical analysis using X² test for independence for variation in opinion between 1960 and 1972, and variation on the basis of geographical location. 3. The results of the statistical calculations were reported. Self-evaluation and criticism are essential for the participants in intercollegiate debate. The behavior of the critic judges is, therefore, important. To determine what criteria are used by the critic judge serves the important function of determining the normative values of the forensic community. Only by constantly re-examining these values can one determine if the methods and techniques in argumentation are being accepted in the forensics community.

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© Charles Stuart Wasser