How to Judge Lincoln Douglas Debate

How to Judge Lincoln Douglas Debate: A Comprehensive Guide


The Lincoln Douglas debate is a form of competitive debate that focuses on philosophical and moral issues. Unlike other forms of debate, such as policy or parliamentary debate, Lincoln Douglas debate emphasizes the depth of analysis rather than the sheer quantity of arguments presented. As a judge, it is essential to understand the intricacies of this unique format to fairly evaluate the debaters’ performances. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to judge a Lincoln Douglas debate, covering key aspects to consider and offering answers to frequently asked questions.

Understanding the Format:

1. Resolution Analysis:
The first step in judging a Lincoln Douglas debate is to carefully analyze the resolution. The resolution typically presents a moral or philosophical dilemma that debaters will argue for or against. It is crucial to understand the nuanced implications of the resolution and how both sides can interpret it.

2. Constructive Speeches:
In the constructive speeches, debaters present their case, supporting it with evidence, logic, and philosophical analysis. As a judge, pay attention to the clarity of their arguments, the strength of their evidence, and the coherence of their reasoning.

3. Rebuttals and Cross-Examinations:
Following the constructive speeches, debaters engage in rebuttals and cross-examinations. During rebuttals, debaters attempt to refute their opponent’s arguments, while cross-examinations allow for direct questioning of the opponent’s case. Evaluate the effectiveness of each debater’s rebuttals and their ability to exploit weaknesses in their opponent’s arguments.

4. Final Focus and Summary:
The final focus speeches are crucial in the Lincoln Douglas debate format. This is where debaters summarize their key arguments and explain why they should win the debate. Pay close attention to the debaters’ ability to prioritize their arguments and provide a clear, concise, and compelling summary of their case.

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Evaluating Arguments:

When judging Lincoln Douglas debates, it is essential to evaluate the quality of arguments presented by each debater. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Clarity and Logic:
Debaters should present their arguments in a clear and logical manner. Assess the coherence of their reasoning and their ability to establish causal relationships between their claims and evidence.

2. Evidence and Support:
Evaluate the quality and relevance of evidence presented by debaters. Look for well-sourced evidence that supports their claims. Determine if the evidence is sufficient to substantiate their arguments.

3. Weighing Arguments:
Debaters should explain why their arguments are more important than their opponents’ arguments. Consider the impact of each argument on the resolution and how it aligns with the broader philosophical or moral implications.

4. Clash and Rebuttal:
Assess the debaters’ ability to engage with their opponent’s arguments. Look for instances where debaters successfully undermine their opponent’s claims or refute their evidence. Evaluate the depth of analysis in their rebuttals.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q1. How should I evaluate the delivery style of the debaters?
A1. While delivery style is important, it should not be the primary factor in judging a Lincoln Douglas debate. Focus on the content and quality of arguments rather than the delivery style. However, assess the speakers’ clarity, confidence, and ability to engage the audience.

Q2. Should I consider the debaters’ personal beliefs or opinions when judging?
A2. No, personal beliefs should not influence your judgment. Instead, focus on the strength of their arguments, evidence, and reasoning. The Lincoln Douglas debate aims to assess the debaters’ ability to construct and defend a logical case, regardless of their personal opinions.

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Q3. What should I do if both debaters present equally strong arguments?
A3. If both debaters present equally strong arguments, consider their ability to clash with each other’s arguments effectively. Look for points of differentiation, such as the uniqueness of arguments, the depth of analysis, or the broader moral implications. Ultimately, make a judgment based on the debater who presents the most compelling case.


Judging a Lincoln Douglas debate requires a thorough understanding of the format and the ability to evaluate arguments critically. By following the guidelines provided in this article, you will be equipped to assess the debaters’ performances objectively. Remember to focus on the clarity, logic, and quality of arguments, and set personal biases aside. By doing so, you will contribute to the development of debaters’ skills and promote fair competition within the Lincoln Douglas debate community.