1. Predictable limits

This standard argues that predictable limitations set on affirmative teams provide for a deeper, more intellectual debate round because negative teams are able to predict what they are up against beforehand and research the topic thoroughly. This allows both teams to come prepared, which in turn allows the judge to make a more informed decision.

2. Ground

This standard argues that an interpretation of the resolution must provide sufficient ground to both sides. This is preferable because it allows for a debate round to have clash; if an interpretation takes away all ground from one side, then there’s no way for them to argue or to present any form of clash.

3. Bright line

This standard draws a clear, un-blurred distinction between what is and what isn’t topical. It argues that visibly distinguishing topical cases from non-topical cases provides for a better debate round because it eliminates all confusion and guess work. At the end of the round the judge doesn’t have to flip a coin to decide the answer to a grey interpretation. In a nutshell, a bright-line creates clarity, clarity creates clash, and clash creates a better debate round.

4. Grammar

This standard is rather straightforward. It argues that correct grammatical structure determines the validity of an interpretation. If one interpretation is more grammatically correct then it should be favored over the interpretation that fails to do so. Some also argue that grammatical correctness is key to predictable limits.

5. Contextual Meaning

This standard is exactly what it sounds like; it argues that a topical case must fit the context of the resolution. When defining a word that is used in a sentence, one can’t just use the first definition that comes to mind. For example, here are three entirely different definitions of the word “India”:

  • India: India is a multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament and a population of approximately 1.1 billion. – U.S Department of State, March 11, 2008
  • India: India “Willie” Bush has been a beloved member of the Bush family for more than 10 years. – White House Pets Copyrighted 2002-2008 by the Presidential Pet Museum
  • India: A peninsula and subcontinent of southern Asia south of the Himalaya Mountains, occupied by India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. – The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright 2000

Anyone of these definitions could alter the interpretation of a resolution, thus the context in which the worlds are presented become crucial in understanding what the resolution. In a nutshell, worlds have meaning and teams should not construe their meaning.

6. Field Contextual

This standard argues that the interpretation or definition supported by an expert in the field in question should be favored; that a dictionary is not a preferable to defining a word as an individual who has study the topic extensively and have presented their thoughts on a word relating to their expertise.

7. Common Man

This standard almost argues the reverse of “field contextual.” It argues that you should use the interpretation that anyone and everybody can understand; that an interpretation should not be so abstract and scientific that it becomes incomprehensive to the “common man.” In a nutshell, debate’s purpose is to communicate with normal human beings, and if a team can’t even use a word that is common to all men in a manner that is understood by all men, then they don’t understand the function of a debate round.

8. Education

This standard argues that an interpretation/definition is favorable because it focuses on the areas most educational to all the parties involved. This requires demonstrating that the counter interpretations and case are somehow less educational.

9. Extra Topicality

This falls under a standard because it argues that affirmative teams cannot have non-topical mandates in addition to their topical mandates; that a negative team should not be required to have to debate any and every mandate imaginable in addition to the mandates that are permissible under the resolution. For example, a case could present a topical mandate and then tack-on a mandate that saves African babies or illegalizes abortion. Those may be great things, but they can be found nowhere in the resolution. So the question is: does the entire plan become illegitimate? In theory, no it doesn’t. At that point a team should use the Vacuum Test. The Vacuum Test removes the non-topical mandates from the plan text, as well as, all advantage derived from those mandates. If the plan still functions without those mandates and still has viable advantages then you continue to debate the legitimate mandates; if the plan cannot function without those mandates, then a team can impact Extra Topicality with solvency.

10. Effects Topicality

Many times this standard gets confused with Extra Topicality; however it is distinctly different. While Extra Topicality is arguing that an affirmative team has both topical and un-topical mandates, Effects Topicality argues that the case is relying on non-topical mandates to prove their topicality. For example, if the resolution was to change U.S policy with India, and then a team presented a harm in India’s economy, changed a policy with China, which, in turn, solve that problem in India’s economy, then they would be Effect Topical. They are not changing the policy with India; they are simply affecting India. Once again, any and every mandate would become topical, as long as it somehow related back to the resolution’s topic.


1. Competing Interpretations

Competing Interpretations simply argues that a team has the burden to uphold the best interpretation in the round. It’s kind of a response to the “reasonability” argument, which argues that as long as the affirmative team’s interpretation makes some sense then it should be accepted, even if it isn’t as good as the negative team’s interpretation. Competing Interpretations rejects “reasonability” and argues that the best interpretation should be accepted.

2. Fairness

This voter claims that it is unfair for a team to debate a non-topical cases and that the judge should vote against affirmative in order to provide competitive equity.

3. Education

Some teams argue that it damages their education to have to debate a non-topical case and that the judge should vote against them as a punitive. The argument can be spun a number of ways, but one way is to argue that because teams are running non-topical cases, the research burden of the negative team is increasing as the year progresses, which prevents them from receiving an in-depth understanding of the actual resolution.

4. Jurisdiction

In a way, arguing Jurisdiction is like arguing solvency under topicality. Some teams argue that the judge only has jurisdiction over the policies that affirm the resolution. There are all sorts of analogies that have been created to illustrate this idea i.e. a judge voting for a peach pie in an apple pie contest or a basketball player shooting a hoop while out of bounds.

5. Ground Lost

This voter argues that judge should vote against the cases because it could have potentially been the position of the negative team i.e. through a counter-plan. Thus, if the judge likes the idea of the plan, then he/she should still vote negative, because affirmative has attempted to claim negative ground.

6. Potential abuse

This voter claims that the judge should deter teams from running non-topical plans, by voting against them. This deterrent prevents them and other teams from running non-topical cases in the future.

Affirmative Responses:

1. We Meet

This responds to the violation of the standard. It is the most direct refutation of a topicality press because it is a simple, “no we don’t violate your standard and here’s why.”

2. Counter-interpretation

With this responds you are refuting the interpretation and standards. This responds, requires you to present your counter-interpretation, provide your own reasons to prefer (standards), and refutation against the opposing teams standards. All three steps are crucial to an effective refutation.

3. Non-voter  

This response is rather straightforward and responds to the voters/impacts of topicality; the response is, “who cares.” Typically, you use this response when the opposing team has failed to provided quality or any voters/impacts.

4. Kritik

Affirmative teams also have the option to Kritik negative teams for even running Topicality. The argument goes that negative is preventing clash with technicalities and that topicality is an unnecessary and oppressive burned placed on affirmative teams. (I don’t really suggest this argument, but if you choose to run it, then it’s your funeral.)

5. Reverse Voting Issue

This argument claims that the topicality argument was abusive and that the negative team should be punished for running it. This argument hardly ever works and is not very persuasive.

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