18 November, 2007

Extensions, assertions and analysis

Extensions, Assertions and Analysis


The job of the second half of the table, as a whole, is to be better than what has gone before without contradicting what has gone before (unless the other side said it!). Think of it like a coalition government; both parties in government support a certain proposition, but for very different reasons.

An extension speech has to contain significant new material. This can be an entirely new angle (for example, discussing economics if only politics and morality has already come up) or much deeper analysis of something which has only been covered very superficially previously.

The question a judge will ask themselves when looking at an extension speech is “Did this person add value to the debate?”

It is quite usual to worry what you are going to say and be worried that all the points will have been taken by the top half. Don’t let this panic you into taking the first new point that comes into your head in order to provide new material. Sit back and look at the debate and see what areas haven’t been properly covered and then decide what your speech will be. Two ways of looking for new material are:

Look at the different areas which are normally covered in a debate (politics, economics, society, legal, moral, religious, environment…) and see if you can find something from that.

Look at the stakeholders in a debate. A stakeholder is anyone at all who is affected by the policy. For example, in THW support the two state solution the stakeholders include the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Arab Israeli women, Arab Israeli men, Israeli Jews, Muslims in general, other minorities in the area (gays, religious minorities etc)… and so on.

Assertion and Analysis

An assertion is a statement made which is not backed up. For example, “You can’t ban trade unions because it infringes on unionists’ human rights”.

Every time a statement is made in a debate, it should be backed up with analysis.

Assertion is bad.

So what is analysis? Every time you make a statement you need to ask afterwards “How?”, “Why?” and “So What?”. You then need to answer it.

To continue the example above.

“You can’t ban trade unions because it infringes on unionists’ human rights”.


“Because people have the right to free association”

[So What?]

“Because human rights are important”


“Because we say that human rights are rights common to all humanity”

[So What?]

“Because when we deny a person a right, we deny part of their humanity and this is a dangerous road to go down.”



The aim is that by the end of this series of questioning, you end up with a statement which cannot seriously be disputed (“Murder is a bad thing”).

So to analyse something, keep asking questions, keep saying ‘because, because, because’.

Another model is REAL and Now-Action-Then.

Reason: Banning trade unions is bad because it may lead to a lower standard of health and safety

Example: For example, London tube drivers striking because the ‘dead man’s handle’ didn’t work

Analysis: Now, people are allowed to strike so they can bring health and safety issues to attention when other methods have failed. If we take this Action, tube drivers will not be able to bring this to the public’s attentions so Then the world will be a more dangerous place.

Link: Make sure all the points above are linked. Causal links (or their lack of existence) make or break an argument.

In Summary

  • If you are extension, don’t just grab the first point to come into your head. Think about areas missed or only superficially covered and look at them
  • Stakeholder analysis is a useful way of finding relevant arguments
  • An area commonly missed is the link between actions and their results – the Causal Link
  • Ask yourself “Why?”, “How?” and “So What?” and then answer ‘because, because, because’ until you end up with a statement which it’s virtually impossible to disprove
  • Use REAL and Now-Action-Then


Jak said...

Copy and Paste!
Great session on Monday night this was Liz so thanks again behalf of myself and Lancaster Debating.

Being a mathematician, this whole 'How?/Why?/So What?' feels somewhat algorithmic to me and I feel as if I can now use these three operations as I were using plus, subtract, multiply and divide.

Stepping further into geek territory I've been trying to develop 'inverse analysis' where I start off with something relatively irrefutable such as 'we need air to breathe' and working backwards to find points to support mechanisms such as 'we should only sell and use wood from sustainable forests in the UK' for a simple example.

I've tried and failed many times to bring pseudo mathematics into places where it isn't wanted. I hope this time around that I will not be foiled by reality and common sense. Wish me luck.

Liz Ford said...

Well, I'm not a mathematician but can see where you're going. I always thought they were a bit like the logic gates I remember when we were taught (v. briefly) about electronics at school.

Concerning taking the idea and working backwards. I think it is an interesting exercise for real life and good practice in applying w/h/sw, my one concern is that debating is very concerned with real and hardcore examples and that this type of analysis may make a person lose sight of this. I think it is useful when you have got stuck along the train of HWSW though and may 'unblock' the next step of the path.

For me, the most useful exercise is still 'REAL' as it forces the introduction of a real-life, relevant example into the mix.

Finally, it was a pleasure to teach you all. I do hope that it will be useful and I look forward to seeing you all soon.


Jak said...

Believe me when I say that it was very helpful indeed. That coalition government analogy really galvanises the process of teaching extension speeches to inexperienced speakers.

See you at Manchester but unfortunately probably won't be around for Lancaster's PAC next year. Hope that all goes smoothly anyway.