Affirmatives, you need to wake up. How did you divide your research time during the last few seasons? If you’re like most people, you wrote the 1AC early, gradually built your Aff Backup throughout the entire year, but dedicated every other waking moment to expanding your Neg brief library.
For reasons that I will never be able to understand, debaters seem to forget that they are Affirmative 50% of the time. Despite this, most will choose to spend at least 80% of their time working on Neg briefs. Neg research will only get you so far. No matter how much research you do, you’ll never be able to prepare for every variation of every case. At some point, you will have to go Neg without a brief.
On the other hand, debaters with a well-researched Aff case won’t be caught off guard. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you won’t be surprised by a single Negative argument. Developing an excellent understanding of your case and employing powerful themes will allow you to breeze through your Aff rounds.
Many debaters write the Aff case and then never think about it again. “Why would I work on Aff? I did that at the beginning of the season, and besides, I still need to research [someone else’s case].” This thinking is rife with lost opportunity. No matter how amazing your case is, it can always be improved.
You need to walk into every Affirmative round feeling at least 90% sure that your case will hold up. If you do this, you’ve secured 50% of your rounds! All it takes is one Neg win, and you’re in outrounds. But if you had chosen to spend that same amount of time on Neg research, I can guarantee that you wouldn’t have been so successful. One off-the-wall squirrel case and your chances of breaking will hit the floor–unless your Aff can pull you through.
I understand that it’s not very helpful to say “spend more time working on Aff” without showing you how to work on Aff. For that reason, I’m going to present several questions you’ll need to ask yourself before every tournament. Ignoring considerations like these is what prevent “good” cases from becoming “great” cases.
–Does the judge understand? If your case is too confusing for a judge to follow, or if there are intricacies and complexities that hinder comprehension, then you’ve got a problem. Make sure everyone can understand. Read your case to your parents, your grandparents, your little brother, random people at Chick-Fil-A, and ask them to explain it back to you. If there are areas that are difficult to understand, give them a little more thought.
–Is your harm actually significant? If the problem you are addressing is not that big of a deal, it won’t stop you from winning some rounds. However, it will stop you from winning all of your rounds. Drastic, heart wrenching issues are far more persuasive than “oh dear, we’ll lose some money.”
–Is your solvency rock-solid? I cannot begin to stress how important this is. Solvency is every Neg teams’ favorite stock issue, and you need to guarantee that there’s no way for them to win it. Advocacy is incredibly helpful when it comes to winning solvency, so do your research to find credible experts who corroborate your stance. Ensure that you have either evidence or perfect logic to back up any and all solvency claims.
-Is your funding debatable? If there is any opening for an attack on your funding, I would encourage you to reconsider its source. I strongly prefer to run cases with no funding, since Negative funding arguments are often powerful. Try to make sure that they can’t run those arguments, and if they can, heavily prep responses. If your case doesn’t require funding, verify that it actually doesn’t require funding.
–Is your plan 100% topical? Just like funding, there should be absolutely no way for the Negative to win on T. Make certain that your definitions are perfect and can’t be challenged. Approach your case like the Negative would. “Is this case topical? Is there any way it wouldn’t be? Is it extra-topical?”
–Do you have excellent responses to every disadvantage? If your case is as good as it should be, there should be very few DAs that can be run against it. But make sure you can easily wipe these up, even with limited time. Just because the 2AC could easily handle responding to DAs doesn’t mean the 1AR will be able to.
Post-tournament, look back over your ballots. Did you win all of your Aff rounds? If not, why? If the issues with your case aren’t fixable, it may be wise to dump your case and find a new one. If they are fixable, establish that you know exactly how to respond should they come up again. Don’t ever lose the same way twice.
This is by no means a comprehensive and foolproof method to guarantee that you never lose with your case, but putting in the time to build and meticulously comb through your Affirmative case is of the utmost importance. Early in the season this isn’t as huge of an issue, but make sure you are constantly doing maintenance and equally dividing your research. A powerful case gives you confidence and a clear path to elimination rounds.