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English III Policy Debate: A Guide: Topic Development

A research and debating guide for Mr. White's Junior English class

Topic Development Objective

In order to begin our classroom debate, we will brainstorm several possible topics through research and discussion. Afterwards, we will vote on our top 3 choices and create a resolution.


Step 1: Brainstorm

Locate as many topics as possible that could be discussed through a debate setting. Use the questions and resources below to guide your searching.


When determining if the topic can be used in a debate, use these guiding questions:

  • Does the topic clearly have two sides? Do both sides have valid arguments?
  • When doing preliminary research - is there reliable information or expert evidence to support argument for either side?
  • Does the topic affect or influence more than one aspect of culture or society? (i.e.: economic, social...etc)
  • Is the topic interesting or eye-opening?
  • Are you interjecting your own bias? Understand that in debate you may argue for either pro (affirmative) or con (negative) - therefore although your personal opinion is values, it is not relevant within the structure of a formal debate.

Helpful Websites

Stuck for a topic? Don’t know where to start?

Google Trend: Provides popular topic and searching within Google. Refresh for updates.

New York Times: Room for Debate: Using NYT articles, shows arguments for current events

Past Policy Debate Topics: A list of past national policy debate topics - these are very broad

VICE Topics and Episodes: Great doc series focusing on national and global issues Top 100 Debates: Debate forum - list of popular topics by students.

Narrowing down a Topic

Step 2: Narrow our Topics and Writing Resolutions

In order to ensure that the debate is focused and fair - a resolution is necessary. A resolution is the basis for the debate - what the affirmative sets out to do, and what the negative is trying to prove wrong. Debaters build their cases and arguments around these resolutions - therefore the wording in the resolution is VERY specific and VERY important. Based on our top topic picks - write resolutions that would focus our debates


Topic Topic: Violence in Video Games
Sample Resolution The United States federal government should substantially increase its regulations for the production, purchase, and sales of violent video games

Affirmative Arguments

Supports the resolution

  • Supports increasing regulations for buying games (ex. ID requirements, higher punishment to vendors for the sale to minors).

  • Focus on video game creators - supports regulating what is included in video games (restrictions,  gov’t approval, etc)

Negative Arguments

Supports keeping things "as they are"

  • Believes increasing regulations is a bad idea (ex. First amendment violation, “status quo” works - crime has decreased, economic repercussions on industry)

  • Focus on parental responsibility (parents have the right to monitor their child - not government)