CNDF Basics 3 - A Guide to Your Constructive Speech - How To Write Arguments
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
By Eli Lu
First off, what is a constructive speech? A constructive speech is the first speech of either side in a debate, where teams build (construct) their opening arguments. Typically, constructive speeches consist of two thorough contentions, but not always.
How do you write a constructive speech? The structure of your constructive speech should include an introduction, and then your arguments. Unlike in competitive speech, conclusions are optional and commonly improvised if time allows, but typically left out.
Writing an Introduction
A good introduction is one that clearly establishes the topic at hand and your stance. There are three things you’re going to want to cover in this introduction.
1. Hook. Anecdotes, rhetorical questions, interesting facts or statistics, whatever you choose to use: this is the attention-grabbing device at the beginning of your speech. Your hook can be anything you want it to be, but should be centered around an explanation of why the topic or your side is important and allude to your arguments. Here’s an example of one of my own hooks:
Motion: THW (This house would) accept evidence gained through hindsight for trials about the use of excessive force by the police Side: Gov (Gov is short for side Government, also called the affirmative team or side propositions. These all reference the team supporting the motion. Side opp, the negation, or side opposition references the team debating against the motion.)
“It is the current legal system’s approach to punishing police brutality that is responsible for many unnecessary deaths at the hands of racial discrimination. It is also this very same system that glorifies police and makes them incapable of making mistakes. We oppose this system and support this motion.”
I prefer to keep my hooks fairly short and direct because I know I’ll need to take a long time to analyze thoroughly later on in my speech. Here’s an example of one of my older, more interesting intros:
Motion: THW allow recall elections
“Imagine putting your faith in a campaigning politician that has promised you freedom, political transparency, and honesty and voting for them in hopes of a better society for your friends and family. However, the second this politician receives the position they ran for; They completely disown any and all well-meaning intentions they claimed to have during their campaign. Now, you are helplessly living under their governance as they slowly bend law after law as you watch, unable to do anything to try and reverse the grave mistake you and many others have unintentionally caused. When this happens; Is society still truly a democracy? When you are forced to watch and stand idly by as this horrible scene unravels before you; Is this still more a democracy than a dictatorship? For all these reasons and many others; We as side Gov will stand strongly for this motion.”
2. Model and Framing Though they are short, the model and framing of the debate is going to be one of the most important things you present. We’re going to cover this in depth in our sixth article, but in short: The model is a clarification of the terms of the motion and it’s presented by the government team. The opposition team can then choose to agree or disagree and present a new model. The model’s purpose is essentially to make sure everyone is debating the same topic. You don’t want to have a round where you’re arguing for drones and your opponents against, only to realize you were talking about drones for photography while they were talking about drone strike drones.
Signposting is when you tell your audience what you’re going to say
before you say it
while you say it
and after you say it.
So during your introduction, you’re going to give a quick overview of your arguments, something along the lines of “my two contentions are privacy and further scientific advancements.” Then, when you move onto each contention, you’ll let the audience know what you’re going to be talking about now. Something along the lines of “our first contention is privacy” or “moving onto our second contention on further scientific advancements.” You don’t have to also sign post after your contentions, but this is what a debate conclusion would look like if you do choose to present one. For example, if I see I have time, I would improvise something along the lines of:
“Now what have I brought for you today? I’ve told you about how this motion helps increase privacy and how that’s important because ________, and I’ve also told you about how this motion creates more scientific advancements and how that’s important because ________. For all these reasons, we’re proud to propose.”
Writing an Argument
There are three key elements to an argument, and missing any of them gives your opponents a wide window to take down your case.
Your premise has two parts. Truth and relevancy.
This is information that is going to support your claim. This can be either a principle if you’re using a principled (dealing with rights/more theoretical issues) argument or a problem if you’re using a pragmatic (dealing with material/more realistic issues) argument.
If you’re using a principle, all you have to do is introduce and explain the right or value you’re going to be arguing for in your argument. This applies to both the Gov and Opp team.
If you’re using a problem, this will differ a bit depending on what side you’re on. The motion always seeks to change something in the status quo (the current world and situation), so on Gov, you would be presenting a problem occurring in the status quo. On the other hand, on Opp, you would need to present and prove a problem occurring in the world Gov is supporting: One where the motion has already been implemented.
After you present the truth, you’re going to have to prove that it relates to the debate and the motion at hand. For principles, you have to explain how the motion either violates or supports the principle.
For problems, you have to explain either how the motion solves the problem (a Gov argument), makes the problem worse (an Opp argument), or creates this new problem (an Opp argument.)
2. Mechanism (Also called your link)
Your mechanism is where you prove you create the change you’re trying to make or that you solve the problem you’ve introduced in your premise. This will vary depending on what your argument is, some arguments only need a sentence mechanism, some need a whole chain of them to end up where the speaker wants. However you choose to approach your mechanism; you need to have one. You can’t simply prove that there’s something bad with the other side: You have to prove that you’re better.
This is where you prove the change you’re trying to make or the problem you’re trying to solve is important.
In a normal conversation, you can let the person you’re talking to draw their own conclusions. You can feel free to say “and that’ll decrease pollution!” and trust that your friend is going to know why that’s a good thing. But in debate, that’s not the case.
You’re going to have to really go into depth as to what exactly your argument does. What does it change? Who does it affect? To what degree does that happen?
A good rule of thumb is to treat the audience like aliens. If you tell them climate change is stopped by your team, they’re not going to know why that’s important. However, if you explain to them how climate change leads to more natural disasters, which tend to end up in many injuries and deaths; the aliens will probably understand why your side is important.
Another good method for figuring out how to flesh out your impacts, and one that I personally find most helpful, is to continuously ask yourself: “Okay, but why is that important?” and “How?”
“Our team stops climate change and global warming.” “Okay, but why is that important?”
“Because climate change hurts lots of people.” “How?” “It raises global temperature, which increases the possibility of droughts and worsens the intensity of storms, which also increases wind speeds, which leads to more and worse natural disasters.” “Okay, but why is that important?” “Because natural disasters lead to people losing their homes, and that means they are more likely to go into poverty from losing all their money from losing their property and even from medical bills from getting hurt.”
Of course, an actual argument would need more detail and fleshed out, but as an example, here’s the notes I wrote that I improvised off of for an impromptu round:
Motion: THW Ban the Sale of Military Weapons Between Countries
Potential for Human Rights Violation and War Crimes
The sale of military weapons between countries in the status quo facilitates the violation of international law.
This is because
1. On the seller side, many countries have prioritized economic benefits over threats to international human rights, and rarely implement means to completely prevent their buyers from using weapons for war crimes and harm to citizens and
2. Even if these countries did care: There is too little surveillance capabilities to track whether or not weapons are used in prohibited ways.
Here, for the premise, I clearly establish a problem that is occurring in the status quo, and explain how it is caused: Connecting it to the motion and setting myself up to explain how this motion solves the problem (my mechanism)
Mech: Many countries don’t have the resources sufficient to create weapons → must trade → more complicated and hard process → significantly less easy to acquire these weapons
I like using arrows and simplifying what I mean into a few lines, even if I’m going to be explaining more thoroughly in my speech. This way, both my partner and I can clearly see which parts of my speech are keeping our case together, and what we need to defend the most.
Protects more lives by preventing many war crimes, tortures, and deaths by taking away this option for access to weapons in the first place.
Remember, you can’t just state that your impacts are “protecting more lives.” You’re going to have to explain just exactly how you’re doing it: Don’t rely on the judge to connect the dots for you, and especially don’t let your opponents connect the dots for you.
For any questions, send us a DM @equalproposition on Instagram or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Briana Lu is a co-founder of Equal Proposition.