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English I-II: Debate and Argumentation [9th/10th]

General information for English I and II classes (including Honors), as well as specific research pages for projects or topics

REMINDER:  Passwords for Databases are on your Utility Period page on CANVAS

GALE Databases for Debate

Opposing Viewpoints and Global Issues 

Key Features:

  • Collections of Materials Grouped by Issue. Each "Issue" has a very good "Background" article for information about that issue (see "Tips for Researching for Debate, #1).
  • "Viewpoint Essays" are examples of specific positions on different controversial topics . They come from published "Opposing Viewpoint" books, and often contain material reprinted from other articles. They are excellent places to get ideas for your arguments.  
  • Gale Databases also have content from a variety of other sources like Magazines, Newspapers, Journals, etc.  The information is credible, but you still need to check for bias, and understand the source of the information.

EBSCO Databases for Debate

EBSCO Points of View Reference

Search for a Topic using the Search Box, or Click Here to Browse for an Issue.

The "Hulu" to Opposing Viewpoints' "Netflix",  EBSCO Points of View Reference Center also provides Overviews and Point/Counterpoint essays  (from the Points of View series) in addition to curated articles from magazines, newspapers, journals, and more.

  • Overview articles are great for background and definitions (see Tips for Better Debate Research #1 and #2 on this page)
  • On a topic page, the menu on the right side offers "Point & Counterpoint" articles, as well as a very helpful general guide to critical analysis of sources and advice on how to form a debate.

SIRS Databases for debate

SIRS Issues Researcher Logo

Another option you should be familiar with from your 9th-grade Service paper.  SIRS operates similarly to Opposing Viewpoints and Points of View Reference Center.

  • On a SIRS has  "Leading Issues" pages that contain articles on the topic, as well as sub-topics for that issue. For example the "Leading Issue" of Gun Control has sub-topics including "Second Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms" and "Concealed Weapons"
  • Each sub-topic page has an "Essential Question"  (i.e. a Debate Topic) with three "Pro" articles and "Con" articles, in addition to the standard articles from magazines, journals, newspapers, and other sources.

A Note on Biased Sources

A Note or Two on "Bias" 

It's okay to use a "Biased" source (i.e. a source that has an opinion / position / side on your topic) as long as you are aware that the source is biased , recognize how that bias will affect the quality of the information presented, and are prepared to defend it.  However, "biased" sources can be easier for your opponents to attack, though just being "biased" doesn't automatically make something wrong.

This is the short version. For more detail see the Debate Tips Page.

Web Resources

A Note on ""

Don't Use It: it's not a good site for research.  This is a classic case of "Just because the website's name sounds like it's exactly what you want, it doesn't mean it is."  You might, potentially, get ideas for arguments on it, but since it's a site where anyone can post, credentials/authority are difficult to identify, and it's about controversial topics (and it's on the Internet), you are not likely to get much value from it, and you are likely to wind up with uninformed opinions as you are proper arguments.

A Note on Web Research, In General...

Researching Controversial Issues Online can be Very Risky.   The more controversial an issue is, the the greater the range of opinions (and quality of argument) will be about that issue.  While biased positions aren't bad in a debate (see note on Bias), unsupported, inaccurate, or incorrectly supported arguments are not okay in a debate.  Credibility and Authority of sources is very important to a debate, and determining credibility and authority of free web sources is difficult (and our own cognitive biases make us think we're better at doing it than we actually are).  This is not to say you should not use the web for research, but it is to say that it requires a lot more work (possibly more than you will, or are willing to, do) to determine source quality.

Remember: sources on the web are more likely to be weak sources, and "My Opponents' Sources are Weak, Here's Why..." is a perfectly legitimate debate refutation strategy.

Still Want to Use Web Sites?...

Here are a few good ones for debate. They aren't topic-specific, but many have general tips and common topics.

MLA: A Tale of Two Citations

One bonus of Library databases is that they offer preformatted citations in MLA 8th edition format (and other formats).

These Pre-formatted citations are meant to be used as a guide, as they are rarely perfect, and are not meant to replace the need to understand how to read and create citations.  

Here is an example of a preformatted "MLA 8th Edition"  citation for an article from SIRS Issues Researcher:

Sergeant, Harriet. "Does Aid Help? Or does it Harm?" The Spectator (London), 17 Feb 2018. sirsissuesresearcher,


Here's a Citation for the same article from GALE Opposing Viewpoints:

Sergeant, Harriet. "Does aid help? The evidence suggests it may do more harm than good." Spectator, vol. 336, no. 9886, 17 Feb. 2018, p. 12+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Accessed 6 Mar. 2020.


Both citations are "Pretty Good" citations, but neither one is totally correct

 Let's take a look.  RED will mean things that are wrong, YELLOW will be things that we may consider changing, and GREEN are things that one database's citation has that the other one is missing.

The SIRS citation:

Sergeant, Harriet. "Does Aid Help? Or does it Harm?" The Spectator (London), 17 Feb 2018. sirsissuesresearcher,

Note that this resource on SIRS changes the title of the Article, because the database is treating it as a reprint.

The GALE citation:

Sergeant, Harriet. "Does aid help? The evidence suggests it may do more harm than good." Spectator, vol. 336, no. 9886, 17 Feb. 2018, p. 12+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Accessed 6 Mar. 2020.

  • The First Letters  of almost all words in titles are capitalized (with the exception of articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions and "to" with infinitives).
    • NOTE: many pre-formatted citations don't automatically get the correct capitalization of titles. It's will be your job to check.
  • The abbreviations  of months like "Feb" should have a period.
  • The "https://" in a URL (web address) is no longer included.
  • The source title for a Newspaper only needs to include the name of the city if it is relevant.
  • The name of the SIRS database  (the second "container") would be better if written out as SIRS Issues Researcher.
  • the URL is generally not supposed to be an active hyperlink, not supposed to be blue, and not supposed to be underlined.
    •  Also, the URL  is generally supposed to be a more direct URL to the article, not just the site. 
  • The GALE citation has more information that make the Citation more useful
    • it has the Volume and Number information for the original newspaper issue, as well as the Page Number of the original Article.
    • it has a Date of Access that tells your reader/teacher when you looked a digital source. This is only required for digital sources.

Here's  Improved Versions of the Citation.

Sergeant, Harriet. "Does Aid Help? Or Does It Harm?" The Spectator (London), 17 Feb. 2018. SIRS Issues Researcher, Accessed 6 Mar. 2020.

Sergeant, Harriet. "Does Aid help? The Evidence Suggests It May Do More Harm than Good." Spectator, vol. 336, no. 9886, 17 Feb. 2018, p. 12+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Accessed 6 Mar. 2020.

Debate: A Metaphor

Debate as Medieval-ish Siege Warfare.


Step 1: Build a Castle that you will defend

(Establish your position on the topic and arguments (towers) that support it with evidence). 

Your opponents do the same.

Step 2:  Attack the Opponent's Castle 

(Make Refutation arguments against their position / argument)

.... Oh No! Your Castle's Towers have been Attacked, too!...

Step 3: Rebuild your Towers & Castle

(Make Rebuttal arguments to the Refutations made against your Arguments)


Step 4: Whichever Castle is standing the Strongest Wins!

It's not enough for your opponent's castle to be the most-on-fire, if yours is still burning too.


Debate Research Strategies

5 Tips for Better Debate Research:

This is the short version. For more detail see the Debate Tips Page.

  1. Start by researching about the Topic (not the position).
  2. Define the Key Terms.
  3. Source Credibility and Authority matters in a debate -- research about your sources. 
  4. Use the WHOLE Article.
  5. Research BOTH Positions (not just your own):  
    1. Anticipate what you will  need to refute (argue against / try to disprove), and how you will need to rebut (make counter arguments to rebuild your position).
    2. Combats Confirmation Bias (i.e. only looking for information that confirms your side, and putting more trust in things that agree with you).
  6. (The wider your research, the more likely you are to find topics and arguments your opponents have not)

Debate Preparation Strategies

5 Tips on Preparing for the Debate

Once you have done some research (though RE-Search is an ongoing process), it's time to start preparing for the debate. This is the short version. For more detail see the Debate Tips Page.

  1. Go Deep, not Wide
  2. Be Clear
  3. Be Accurate
  4. Look for the Flaws in your Own Argument
  5. Prepare More than You Plan to Use

Debate Competition Strategies

5 Tips to Help in the Actual Debate

This is the short version. For more detail see the Debate Tips Page.

  1. Be Clear About What You Say (Signposts)  :  when...
    1. Introducing Topic
    2. Presenting Arguments
    3. Introducing Evidence
    4. Concluding with why you have won.
  2. Take Notes
  3. Argue Against What Your Opponents Actually Say
  4. Facts over Feelings
  5. If You Don't Cite It, It Doesn't Count:

(6.  Debate is not the only way to discuss a controversial/mullti-sided issue)