How do you view debate? Which type of argument(s) do you prioritize? Have you lost a round on what you thought was an insignificant argument?

If there was consensus over debaters’ most strongly disliked reason for decision, it would be the round lost on an argument, observation, or side remark thought irrelevant to everyone except the judge. How can we reasonably reduce the likelihood of this dreaded reason for decision? Read on!

I have come to view debate theory as consisting of three layers, I call tiers. The three tiers are framework, weighing mechanism, and support. Each of these levels in debate has a different angle, significance, and importance in any given debate round. Additionally, the tiers are in order of importance. 

In this blog post, I hope to help you view the framework, weighing mechanism, and support uniquely, collectively, and independently within a round. As a result, your ability to prioritize, organize, and structure arguments will improve.

The Big Picture

Imagine the resolution is a giant scale that has three hanging baskets on each side (See diagram).

Tiers of Concern Visual by Zachary Kos

The goal of each side is to win by having the most weight on your side. Every argument targets one of these three tiers and can add, remove, or steal weight from other arguments in a round.

The Three Tiers

1. Framework: What are the burdens in the round? This is determined by interpretation, definitions, and resolutional analyses (RA)’s.

2. Weighing Mechanism: How do we know when a burden is fulfilled? This is often dictated by a value or value plus supporting criterion.

3. Support: Why is the burden fulfilled? This includes evidence, support, logic, reasoning, applications etc.

If you are able to win on the framework, then you should win the round. This is often the RFD in Parli rounds.


During the debate, keeping each tier in order of importance helps organize your thoughts on the round and what to address first. 

Targeting the highest tier of concern helps win. Listed are the three possible levels of concern that can occur each round.

If you can win on framework and show either your opponent has 

  1. incorrectly established the burdens of the round, or 
  2. is not debating anything relevant to their burden (basically topicality), 

then you should win the round as long as you have at least one argument on the weighing mechanism and support part of the scale. Picture yourself using a pair of scissors to cut off your opponent’s baskets from the top, resulting in all three falling off the scale.

If you and your opponent agree on framework and you win the value debate, then you should win the round. Your reasoning should sound as follows: “In the end, my value is the highest, therefore, only arguments impacting the value are significant in the round.” Picture yourself cutting your opponent off above the weighing mechanism resulting in all weighing mechanisms and support impacts failing to impact the scale.

If you agree on both value and weighing mechanism, the debate becomes a fight to have the most weight on the support level of the scale. Oftentimes, a round focused on support will cause debaters to become critics of applications, thus, losing the bigger picture for the round. It is perfectly acceptable to have a debate on the support level, but it must be very clear that the framework and value were agreed to before addressing contentions, sub-points, and applications. Picture yourself cutting off your opponent above support resulting in their applications becoming insignificant in the round.


By understanding how the three tiers of debate influence a round, you can narrow down your arguments to what matters most, thus, increasing your chances of winning.

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