By Beth Skinner and Chris Baron
What parts of the evidence do debaters need to read out loud in a debate? Do debaters need to read everything?” -Iris Lepley, coach at Northern High School
That’s a very good question. Evidence is important for proving your points in a debate. When you use evidence in a debate, there are three parts that you have to read: the tag, the citation, and the quote. The tag is the claim that you are trying to prove (“school uniforms increase academic achievement”). Usually, the tag is only one sentence so you should read the whole thing. It is important to read the tag so that the judge and your partner and opponents can tell what your argument is. The citation tells the source of the quotation. There are five parts of a full citation: author’s name, author’s qualifications, source (title of book, magazine, etc.), date, and page number. In a debate, you can read only the name, qualifications, and date as long as you have the other information available.
When it comes to the quotation, it’s a little more complicated. You can either read the whole quote or you can read parts of it. When reading part of the quote, it is you need to indicate which parts you read (most people do this by underlining the words and sentences they read.) It is okay to underline parts of sentences or whole sentences so long as you obey the following rules: if you choose to read only part of the quote, you need to read enough of it so that it 1) makes sense, 2) is in context (still says basically the same thing as the original), and 3) offers good support for your point. If your tag is, “Single sex schools reduce sexual harassment” and the only part of the quote that you read says, “single sex schools have reduced harassment,” then that doesn’t really provide very full support for your point. It is reasonable that the judge would ask questions about this evidence like, “where have SSS reduced harassment, how much has harassment been reduced, is the evidence talking about one school or many schools, is the harassment that was reduced sexual harassment or some other kind?” It is not okay to paraphrase quotes (to say, “I have a piece of evidence that says the federal government is implementing new education policies” without reading the quote itself). That would be just like a prosecutor in a trial saying, “we have a video tape of the defendant robbing the store,” but never producing the tape. The statement itself is not evidence.