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Freshman year, going into my second round of the first tournament, I was terrified. I knew my opponent was planning to run a Resolutional Critique. I, however, did not know what a Resolutional Critique was. The phrasing of many LD resolutions and structure of LD debate often leaves the door wide open for many different styles of neg cases. It’s helpful to familiarize ourselves with these different styles so we can be prepared for when we run into them on aff and figure out which one is best for you on neg. Here I’m going to go over the 3 main stances the negative can take followed by the three main structures a negative can use. First let’s discuss the different stances:

  1. Standard Negative

In a standard negative case, if the resolution says one thing, you argue for the opposite. If the resolution says “A should be valued over B” you respond with “B should be valued over A”. If the resolution says “A is ethical” you respond with “A is unethical”. This is by far the most common stance for a negative to take, and for good reason. It’s the easiest to run, least confusing for the judges, and, for many resolutions, the strongest argument. This is the stance I would recommend for the vast majority of debaters. The only significant drawbacks of this structure are it’s the most common and so most affs are prepared to respond to it, and in certain situations, a poorly thought-out or poorly-worded resolution can lend itself to one of the other structures.

  1. Balanced Negative

Balanced Negatives are typically only applicable to resolutions that have the structure “A should be valued over B,” and they respond with the claim “A and B should be valued equally.” This is generally the second-most common stance for a negative to take in NCFCA and STOA, and it has its fair share of both pros and cons. For the pros, while explaining the concept of a balanced neg and the burden you’re accepting to your judge can be a bit more confusing than a standard neg, it’s generally simple and not a place where judges are likely to get hung up. Additionally, since most resolutions are weighing similarly valuable concepts, arguing that they are equal often seems rather intuitive and easy for your judge to accept. The main flaw of this case is exactly equal is such a narrow claim that it is almost always false. While two things may be almost equally valuable, perfect equality could be argued to be logically impossible.

  1. Resolutional Kritik (or ResK)

This is by far the least common in NCFCA and STOA, and the only time I have faced one was the example I gave in the opener. A ResK is essentially the argument that it is at some level impossible or immoral to affirm the resolution, and so you must negate it. For example, a ResK could argue that the two sides of the resolution are so strongly connected that it is logically impossible to value one over the other. It could also argue that the resolution is so poorly worded that we can’t properly debate it. In general, I wouldn’t recommend running a ResK in NCFCA or STOA since the judges generally don’t understand them and are less likely to vote for them. However I would recommend looking into them more closely if you join a more progressive league.

Now let’s look at some different case structures:

  1. Fully Written Neg Case

This is the standard that most debate clubs teach novices. You have all your arguments written out word for word and then you tack refutation on to the end. This one probably takes the least skill to do well since there is very little thinking on the fly and you don’t have to worry about wording while you’re delivering your case, and I would recommend it for most novices. That being said, it’s often not the most effective since most prewritten neg cases don’t apply perfectly to every aff case, so once you have some experience I would recommend moving beyond this case structure.

  1. Flex Neg

A flex neg is the next step up from a fully written neg case. This is generally where you have a neg case that you’ve written, but you have different arguments, evidence, reasons to prefer, or wording that you can swap in or out depending on the aff you are going up against. This is often a good structure to use for many experienced debaters since it allows you to still have a similar structure from round to round (meaning you aren’t having to make up an entirely new case on the fly) while allowing for more flexibility in your responses.

  1. Direct Refutation

Direct refutation is a step up from a flex neg. A debater that does direct refutation will come to the round with briefs full of definitions, arguments, evidence, and ideas but nothing that quite resembles a neg case. They create their case on the fly in the debate round much the same way most debaters create their rebuttals so that they can tailor their case perfectly to the aff. This is definitely the hardest kind of neg to run, but it can be very effective if used well, so if you are a strong debater and there is a wide variety of cases in a given year, it may be worth a try.

Those are the most common kinds of cases you can run on neg. There’s no one correct style or structure to use, but they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s worth looking into them to figure out which works best for you at your skill level given the current resolution.

D. J. an economics major at North Carolina State University. Her debate philosophy is that debate should be fun for everyone, so keep it ethical so your opponent can enjoy the round, keep it entertaining so the judge enjoys it, and keep it lively and humorous so you can enjoy the round too. To learn more about D. J. you can read her bio here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/djmendenhall/ or book coaching with her here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/xl-3/

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