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Our hero breathes heavily, fending off blow after blow with what remains of his strength. He digs deep within himself for one last swing and lands a solid hit to his opponent’s jaw. His opponent staggers as our hero lands a second hit, and a third. His opponent falls to the floor, defeated.
Such is the narrative arc of a fictional fight. Real fights are much less poetic, however. Verbal jousts like debates even less so. When faced with the juxtaposition between a real well-dressed individual giving an argumentative case for their side of a given topic and a writer telling the story of a battered fighter seeking a championship title, the two couldn’t seem further apart. One deals with facts, the other with fiction. This is obvious to us, surely. Yet I would posit that this is not true. Creative writing and case writing have much in common. Arguments have stories within them, with beginnings, arcs, and hard-hitting conclusions.
Every debate case should have a clear running thesis. Furthermore, every debate case does have a running thesis, whether or not the author intentionally created one. Theses pervade our every action as humans, so their presence in debate cases should come as no surprise to us. The thesis’s natural omnipresence is not enough for an effective argument, however. For a debater to maximize their argumentative effectiveness, they must create and deploy an intentional and clear running thesis. A thesis, though it may sound abstract, is simply a declaration of purpose and direction. Without a thesis, a judge can be left confused as to the thrust of one’s arguments. Additionally, theses help prepare voting issues in later speeches, setting up a one-two logical punch for one’s case. This is why determining and declaring a thesis is key to having a well-constructed case and a coherent debate round.
Much like this article’s boxing champion must land a starting blow in order to gain momentum, so must you gain momentum against your opponent with a thesis. Look at how your case’s arguments link together and construct a story from them. How does A lead to B? And then to C? Once you’ve found the story, describe it in a sentence. That is your thesis.
Implementation is key, as well. A thesis statement that is lengthy, wordy, or dispassionate, will fail to be persuasive. Shorten verbiage. Simplify wording. Make the sentence short, loaded, and punchy. Remember that this is not an essay where we’re trying to reach a word count. Instead, we are trying to convey information in an emotionally-connected, concise, persuasive, and coherent manner. Consider this when constructing it, and the thesis will become a powerful tool in your debater’s arsenal.
Though present in every case, the thesis is often underutilized in debate rounds. Becoming one of the debaters who uses storytelling and theses to their advantage can help you take another step closer to becoming the best debater you can be.
Nathanael is a senior honors student at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, studying for a bachelor’s degree in history. Nathanael believes that debate is first and foremost about cultivating strengths to export out of debate. Nathanael argues one should win such that even their opponent is happy for them.