Line-by-Line Analysis

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As a policy critic, one of the things I always tell both debate teams before rounds is that I want to hear good clash and line-by-line analysis. Sadly, a lot of teams fail to meet my expectations. Why? They’ve never been exposed to what it looks like.

What exactly does the concept of the line-by-line refer to? I’ll refer to Abby Schirmer, a former debater at Michigan State University, for a brief explanation: “Line by line is a style of debate where the debater speaking directly answers each and every one of his or her opponents’ answers one right after another in the order that they were given. The debater goes “line by line” ensuring that they answer each of the arguments.

This style of debate is used to increase organization and to ensure that arguments are not dropped by either team.” The line-by-line is the most efficient, concise, and organized method of conveying arguments. The ability to effectively engage the flow in this manner is what delineates the mediocre debaters from the great debaters. It’s a simple concept in theory, but it’s even easier to explain with a live example of a line-by-line debate.

Please watch the following video: The above is a deleted scene from the documentary, “Debate Team.” Specifically, it is the final round of the USC college tournament from a couple years back, with Cal Berkeley affirming and Harvard negating. The video overlays Michael Klinger’s 2NR with the 2AR given by Gaurav Reddy. As a result, you can get a much better sense of how the line-by-line interactions are occurring. This is an extremely fast debate. The makers of the video have captioned the speeches so that you can follow along.

It is also a highly technical debate that discusses the philosophical aspects of the resolution. Don't worry about understanding the content of the speeches - that’s not the point. (You don’t need to know what, say, ontology or “zero point of the holocaust” mean).

Instead, pay special attention to the virtual flow, denoted by the red and blue text. Note how they extend evidence and answer almost every argument in extremely methodical fashion. Examine the way through which they reference each others’ arguments.

After you’ve watched the clip a couple of times, try to keep it in mind when you give your own speeches. Use the line-by-line to your advantage. It’ll keep your organized and efficient, no matter who the judge in the back of the room is, and that will ultimately translate to victories.

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