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When I first started debating, I was told to define the terms of the resolution, and that was it. I didn’t really know why exactly I had to define the term, which terms I was supposed to define, or how to do it right. But my next year was filled with definitional debates and quickly my definition brief became one of my most important briefs and my resolution analysis became the most well thought out and solid parts of my case. So what is the purpose of resolution analysis and how do you make good resolution analysis?

First the purpose of resolutional analysis is twofold: making sure the judge understands the resolution, and establishing the burden of proof for the round. Oftentimes when we walk into a round we as debaters can forget that we have done hours upon hours of research on the resolution that the judge hasn’t, so we need to catch the judge up to speed. But this means that speeding through a highly technical definition and then never mentioning it again, probably isn’t too helpful. In fact, for a judge with very little knowledge of the resolution, a debater’s explanation of the resolution in plain English is often more helpful than a highly reputable definition from oxford.

The second reason is to establish the burden of proof for the round. While the burden of proof for any given LD round is to prove the resolution, LD resolutions have a tendency to be incredibly vague and hard to know when you’ve proved them. How much risk do we have to take in order to value the proactionary principle over the precautionary principle? And how much advancement do we have to make to value scientific advancement over restraint? This is where resolutional analysis comes in to reinterpret the resolution in a way that is more concrete. For example, maybe the proactionary principle is valued over the precautionary principle if the government allows untested products to be bought and sold, which is a much clearer burden. You can use definitions to support your interpretation, but you can also use logic or evidence (such as a quote from an expert on the term describing it) to support it.

So a good resolutional analysis is easily understandable and gives a concrete burden of proof. The last feature of a good resolutional analysis is, it is defendable. While using your own words to explain the definition to the judge can be really helpful it doesn’t carry the same authority as the Oxford dictionary. This is why you always want a definition (ideally 2-3), strong logic, or evidence to support your interpretation of the resolution. One more thing I’ll tack on the features of a good resolutional analysis is that it is fair and accurate. Not only does this allow for a more fair, accurate debate, but it also reduces the chance of having a definitional debate.

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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