Defining terms in debates is an important part of the process that can be tricky at times. In this post, we will look at three criteria to consider when dealing with terms in debates. Below are the three criteria
- When to define
- What to define
- How to define
When to Define
Definitions are almost always giving at the beginning of the debate. This is cause it helps to set up limits about what is discussed. It also makes it clear what the issue and potential propositions are.
Some debates focus exclusively on just defining terms. For example, highly controversial ideas such as abortion, non-traditional marriage, etc. Often the focus is just on such definitions as when does life beginning, or what is marriage? Defining terms helps to remove the fuzziness of the controversy and to focus on the exchange of ideas.
What to Define
It is not always clear what needs to be defined when staring a debate. Consider the following proposition of value
Resolved: That playing videos games is detrimental to the development of children
Here are just a few things that may need to be defined.
- Video games: Does this refer to online, mobile, or console games? What about violent vs non-violent? Do educational games also fall into this category as well?
- Development: What kind of development? Is this referring to emotional, physical, social or some other form of development
- Children: Is this referring only to small children (0-6), young children (7-12) or teenagers?
These are just some of the questions to consider when trying to determine what to define. Again this is important because the affirmative may be arguing that videos are bad for small children but not for teenagers while the negative may be preparing a debate for the opposite.
How to Define
There are several ways to define a term below are just a few examples of how to do this.
Common usage is the everyday meaning of the term. For example,
We define children as individuals who are under the age of 18
This is clear and simple
Example definitions give an example of the term to illustrate it as shown below.
An example of a video game would be PlayerUnknwon’s Battleground
This provides a context of the type of video games the debate may focus one
An operational definition is a working definition limited to the specific context. For example,
Video games for us is any game that is played on an electronic device
Fex define video games like this but this is an example.
Authority is a term that is defined by an expert.
According to technopedia, a video game is…..
Authority uses their experiences and knowledge to set what a term means and this can be used by debaters.
Negation is defining a word by what it is not. For example,
When we speak of video games we are not talking about educational games such as Oregon Trail. Rather, we are speaking of violent games such as Grand Theft Auto
The contrast between the types of games here is what the debater is using to define their term.
Defining terms is part of debating. Debaters need to be trained to understand the importance of this so that they can enhance their communication and persuasion.