Our elite Mastership Sourcebooks for NCFCA and Stoa will release soon! Check them out here!

It is that time of year again. We are headed into regionals and teams are gearing up with new cases, new negatives, and new evidence. It is also the time of year when people start sending me their cases and evidence to critique as well as negative briefs to critique. This is a joy. I truly love looking at cases and critiquing them (and yes, if you have sent me yours in the last week, I’m getting to it). So, why this post? I basically wanted to go over some common issues I find in both affirmative cases and the evidence to back them up or negate them.


I am seeing a lot of citations that are inaccurate or incomplete. For good practice, a citation should contain:

1. The author of the article. Include his name and any credentials.
2. The title of the article. Make sure you are cutting and pasting the title of the article you are actually quoting. It seems to be a very common mistake to cut and paste the wrong article title.
3. The title of the publication. Another common mistake seems to be citing EBSCO or some other database as the publisher or even the title of the publication. A database is not the publisher nor is it the name of the publication. Make sure you get the name of the actual publication correct.
4. The date of the article. This is the date that the article was published. Accessed on dates are great, but those should not be read in a round. The date you need is the actual publication date.
5. The URL of the article. Another common error is cutting and pasting the incorrect URL. If you have lots of windows open with lots of articles, make sure you are cutting and pasting the correct one. If your quotation is not available on the internet, make sure your citation gives a method to find the article at the library. Usually, this will include the volume number of the article.


1. Context – Please make sure you are taking the author in context. I know many debaters like to look at the aff articles, find where the author gives an “opposing view” and then use that as part of their negative brief. This is taking an author out of context. Another example is taking a partial paragraph and only reading that so it sounds like the author is advocating something that the author isn’t advocating. Don’t let the will to win overcome the integrity of the piece. Don’t quote an author as believing something he doesn’t believe.
2. Place – I am seeing a lot of teams quoting laws and articles from other countries and not linking it back to how it applies to this country. The EPA in Ireland is not the same as the EPA in the United States. Please be careful to make sure that if you quote something from another country, you show how it is applicable here. Check URL’s as this is often a great way to find if you are looking at a US source or a foreign source. This should be part of your evidence check when you are looking through a 1AC and a question you ask in CX. Did any of your evidence come from foreign sources? How did you link it to the United States?
3. Accuracy – This one is easy. No ellipses unless they are original and you state it. Brackets add nothing new to the information, just clarify who someone is or a noun/pronoun antecedent or an acronym. You make it clear when you are transitioning to your interpretation of the evidence. You don’t change words or leave them out. You don’t combine multiple paragraphs into one statement without including all of the sentences/words in between.

I find these types of errors in about 20% of the briefs and cases I get to review. Many of these errors are accidental in nature, a word mistyped or misread, the wrong thing cut/pasted, or a lack of thought/ignorance. Some people are receptive to correcting these errors. Some people are not. Do people win tournaments with these errors? Oh yes, they certainly do and quite regularly. Don’t let the will to win overcome your academic integrity.

Action Plan

1. Go through your evidence with a fine tooth comb. Make sure your citations are correct. Make sure your quotations are accurate and in context.
2. Have a friend, a clubmate, a coach, or a parent review your evidence. Tell them that you are asking them to check for accuracy in citation and context. If they question anything in your brief, either fix the issue or consider dropping the card.

%d bloggers like this: