A user emailed me today mentioning being denied snacks at club for briefs that do not meet the length requirement, but being frustrated with not knowing what to do to extend past 1 or 2 pages of evidence. Here is my response. Please also leave some comments…What are some more tips for those who struggle with coming up with enough content for their briefs?
But for now:
1st — Read up on the topic. Read at least 10 good articles on the subject so you are familiar with what it encompasses and what both sides say. Probably read some wikipedia and its links, read some news, and read a couple journal articles (i.e. at ssrn.com). This should take approx. 30 minutes. Keep track of some of the arguments authors are making.
2nd — Think creatively. A brief isn’t just “on a topic.” So if your brief is against the toxic golf balls case, you aren’t just briefing “golf balls aren’t that toxic.” You want to approach the brief from MANY possible angles. Now that you have general knowledge, make some outlines of possible arguments. These, in my opinion, are the most rich areas to extend briefs pages and pages:
– Alternate Cause arguments. Find and detail other contributors to the problem identified. This will double best as a solvency argument or a link to a disadvantage, but is a great place to start.
– Solvency arguments (what other laws could keep the plan from working? What industry standards are violated by the plan? What already-made business deals and contracts with the government will be annulled by the case? What attitudinal, existential, and structural barriers will prevent the plan from achieving its full potential?)
– Disadvantages (the plan is cause A. If I compound cause A into effects X, Y, and Z, are any of them bad?)
– Things that must be part of the solution. Most authors will not agree on EXACTLY the same solution to a problem. But they’ll say something has to be part of the solution. Compiling a bunch of these is a great way to create plan attacks. i.e. cards that say “environmental policies must have independent review boards,” or “any solution to nuclear waste must include international treaty offers to Canada,” etc etc. These you mostly find by a lot of reading, but some searches help: [“golf ball waste solutions must”] (change synonyms for solution and change around quotation mark placement to refine).
3rd — IF the case is really really good [almost never], start thinking like this:
– Topicality arguments. Not USFG, not Enviro Pol, not significant reform, effects topicality (main four arguments this year). Topicality arguments should have evidence. For example, if you have X policy that you are saying isn’t really environmental policy, find evidence using X as another type of policy. Good search string here: “X is” (“lake dredging is” policy). Then you will get search results that DON’T favor you to start out with — look at what they’re saying it is (b/c your searches should finish that sentence). If the first results say “lake dredging is a costly operation” and “lake dredging is common for searching for missing persons” then you start eliminating words and refining your search until you find something helpful. In this case, my next search reads (“lake dredging is” policy -costly -“missing persons”).
– Counterplans. If the harms are so good, then there’s probably a better way to solve them. Look for ways authors say to solve the issue and compare that to the affirmative approach.
– Theory arguments. Affirmative shouldn’t have the ability to FIAT so much, prima facie would require x,y,z, these other statistical elements are core to meeting the burden of proof on this topic (again, your general research comes in handy here).
Like I said, if you want to send in the brief topic we’ll be happy to help walk through how to build the brief.
Look at Isaiah with his neat, organized form of brainstorming. This doesn’t work for me, mostly because I can’t think with big words.
I’ve produced some really amazing 1.5 page briefs. These have been on really specific, pretty narrow issues. My Fanny/Freddie brief was 1.5 pages long. But it only helped people confront a case that never existed (outside of my own mind). In order for it to be helpful in more rounds, it ended up being 20+ pages long.
I took the brief from 1 to 20 pages by broadening my perspective. I mentally zoomed out to the level of ‘how could this topic ever be used in any round?’ I then began collecting awesome cards under general information, generic affirmative backups (this type of policy is used in this area), and negative arguments (this type of policy fails in this area). The brief ended up educating everyone who read it on Fannie/Freddy, enabling them to bring up cool, fact-based arguments in a variety of rounds.
And I actually learned something from the whole exercise. Now when people talk about government backed enterprises or the mortgage market, I have something intelligent to say.