Caleb S.
Caleb S.

Learn All About Different Types of Debate - Complete Guide

13 min read

Published on: Feb 25, 2022

Last updated on: Jan 31, 2024

types of debate

Are you struggling with presenting your arguments effectively in debates? Do you feel lost when it comes to choosing the right type of debate style?

Don't worry. We understand that debating can be challenging. 

That's why we have created a simple and easy-to-understand guide on different types of debate styles. Our simple guide covers different types of debates, from formal to informal. 

By reading our guide, you'll be equipped with the tools you need to become a more confident debater. You’ll learn how to present your arguments and choose the right style for you.

So, read on and start honing your skills today!

On This Page

Understanding the Basics of Debate

A debate can be simply defined as a curricular sport where you can only win if you have the required intellectual skills. To write and win a debate, some of the skills and helping elements you must have:

  • Full understanding of the topic
  • Good debate topics

We get to see many school debate competitions being held at schools and colleges. The purpose behind such competition is to build the student’s confidence level.

They can also help them overcome stage fear and let them speak their heart out. Not just at schools, but national debate competitions are also frequently seen.

Expert Tip

Getting started on debate writing? Check out this thorough guide on how to write a debate!

You can, later on, narrow down one specific topic out of that set of topics. Apart from that, the debate you write must be able to answer the following questions:  

  1. What is the purpose of the debate? 
  2. Who is the target audience of the debate?  
  3. Where did the plot of the discussion take place? 
  4. When did the incident discussion take place? 
  5. Why did the incident happen, and what is the reason behind your debating about it? 
  6. How did the incident you are debating about happen? 

For a good debater, it is important to maintain an interesting and compelling tone throughout the debate. Since the purpose of a debate is to persuade the audience, this is why it is out of the question for a debater to sound boring. 

Keep in mind that there are different kinds of debates; each type follows a different and specific pattern.

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Types of Debate

There are many types of debate writing, and each has a different purpose of writing. 

Let’s dive into the details of some of the most common types:

Moderated Debates   

Before getting into the details of the moderated debates, you need to know who is the moderator. 

A debate moderator is a person who has to play a very neutral role in the debate. The moderator needs to hold participants to time limits and ensure that they do not deviate from the main topic or question being discussed. 

In moderated debates, the debater is supposed to negotiate the ground rules with the other debaters. 

Presidential debates fall into this category that is usually hosted by huge TV networks or educational institutes. 

While delivering this type of debate, each participant makes an opening statement in a specified time span. A moderator then asks a question of one of the debaters; again, they must give the answer at a specific time. This answer or response is also called a “rebuttal." 

Here is a general format for giving a moderated debate:

SegmentTime Limit
Opening Statements5 minutes
Moderator Question Round10 minutes
Debater Response2 minutes
Moderator Follow-up Round5 minutes
Debater Response2 minutes
Closing Statements3 minutes

Town Hall Debates      

Town Hall Debates are popular among politicians who are campaigning for high office or city council seats. 

Moderators walk around with microphones and allow the audience to ask questions. The debaters are given a time limit to answer. This type of debate is unpredictable and can be intense for both the debater and the host.

Here’s a format for a town hall debate outlining how much time can be allotted to each segment of the debate.

Moderator's welcome2 minutes
Opening statements3 minutes
Audience questions60 minutes
Follow-up questions15 minutes
Closing statements2 minutes
Moderator's closing1 minute

The Lincoln-Douglas Format    

The Lincoln-Douglas format is an open style of debate that's often used in high school and college. It's named after the famous series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. 

The participants in this format agree on time limits and topics beforehand. It's a structured pattern that allows people to bring in their rebuttals and perspectives openly.

The debate lasts around 40-45 minutes. 

The speaker makes the case, and then there's cross-examination. After that, there's a short rebuttal session, and the debate ends with a final rebuttal. 

It's a great format to develop argumentative skills and engage in open discussion. 

SegmentTime Limit
Affirmative Case6-7 min
Cross-Examination3 min
Negative Case7-8 min
Cross-Examination3 min
First Affirmative Rebuttal4 min
First Negative Rebuttal6 min
Second Affirmative Rebuttal3 min
Second Negative Rebuttal7 min

Congressional Debate   

Congressional Debate is an individual debate done in a large group setting, which depicts the legislative process of democracy, specifically, the United States Congress. 

This debate format lets students set an agenda, discuss pros and cons, and vote on debated points.

It is a helpful debate style for students to get familiar with ongoing social and political issues.

However, it is essential to note that there are strict procedures that need to be followed to determine who speaks next in this type of debate.

Introduction of Legislation2 minutes
Affirmative Constructive Speech3 minutes
Negative Cross-Examination2 minutes
Negative Constructive Speech3 minutes
Affirmative Cross-Examination2 minutes
Affirmative Rebuttal Speech1 minute
Negative Rebuttal Speech1 minute
Voting Session2-3 minutes
Closing Comments1 minute

Policy Debate

Policy debate is a team debate format. Debaters address a given topic and propose solutions or argue against them.

They aim to convince judges of the merits of their arguments. The debate includes constructive cases, cross-examinations, and refutation sessions.

Through policy debate, students develop various skills. These include research, policy analysis, case building, refutation, questioning, organizing data, and effective communication strategies.

The debate typically lasts for an hour. During this time, the affirmative and negative teams alternate presenting their constructive speech and conducting cross-examination.

A significant portion of the debate is dedicated to the active session of rebuttal.

Here is a table outlining the format for a policy debate:

SegmentTime Allotted
Affirmative Constructive8 minutes
Cross-examination of the Affirmative3 minutes
Negative Constructive8 minutes
Cross-examination of the Negative3 minutes
Second Affirmative Constructive8 minutes
Cross-examination of the Second Affirmative3 minutes
Second Negative Constructive8 minutes
Cross-examination of the Second Negative3 minutes
First Negative Rebuttal5 minutes
First Affirmative Rebuttal5 minutes
Second Negative Rebuttal5 minutes
Second Affirmative Rebuttal5 minutes

Public Forum Debate    

A public forum debate is an audience-friendly type of debate. It is also done in the form of teams on any controversial or hot topic that is usually extracted from the newspaper headlines. In order to decide which team speaks first is decided by coin tossing. 

This type of debate tests the argumentative skills of the debater with the help of cross-examination and refutation. So, it is also referred to as a rebuttal speech. 

It is one of the speeches that take the minimum time. It hardly takes 30-35 minutes, and both teams are allowed to speak equally. 

Coin Toss1 minute
First Speaker4 minutes
Crossfire (between 1st & 2nd speakers)3 minutes
Second Speaker4 minutes
Crossfire (between 2nd & 1st speakers)3 minutes
Rebuttal (1st speaker)2 minutes
Rebuttal (2nd speaker)2 minutes
Grand Crossfire (optional)3 minutes
Final Focus (1st speaker)2 minutes
Final Focus (2nd speaker)2 minute

Cross-Examination Debate   

Cross-examination debate is a format that involves two teams, each consisting of two participants. The debate consists of a cross-examination period between speeches, during which opponents can ask questions to clarify points. 

Teams must use strong evidence and facts to effectively answer questions. This format provides an opportunity for communication with the opposing team. 

The debate typically lasts for 60-70 minutes.

Team Policy Debate

In a team policy debate, there are two teams, and each has two debaters. 

The primary goal is to present evidence quickly and coherently in order to convince everyone of your point. This typically happens in middle school or high school as well.

Spontaneous Argumentation       

Spontaneous argumentation involves two speakers who tend to argue on one particular topic. 

Debaters must have strong argumentative skills and preparation to prove their points.

Students at colleges and universities come across this type of debate very frequently. This is because it helps decrease stage anxiety and build confidence. 

The spontaneous argumentation debate requires less than 20 minutes to complete. 

Parliamentary Debate      

Parliamentary debates are very much like spontaneous debates. The major difference between parliamentary and spontaneous is that this type of debate does not need a very detailed research session. The execution or resolution of this debate is decided hardly 10 minutes before the debate round officially starts. 

This format of the debate is usually delivered in parliaments and assemblies, particularly in the British parliament. This debate also takes place between two teams. It also involves constructive speeches and rebuttal speeches.

Here are some examples of different types of debates:

Expert Tip

Looking for more examples to get a better idea? Check out these debate examples and learn how you can write a striking one!

Types of Debate Argument

To make a successful argument in a debate, it is essential to understand the different types of debate arguments. 

So, let's dive in and explore the various types of debate propositions!

Policy Argument

In this type of argument, the debaters work in teams to address a given topic and propose solutions or argue against them. 

Policy debate can help individuals develop various skills, such as research methodologies. It can also improve their ability to analyze policies, build cases, refute arguments, and ask effective questions.

Moreover, policy debate can help individuals become better at organizing data and using effective communication strategies.

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Value Argument

Another type of debate argument is the value argument. This type of argument focuses on the values and beliefs of individuals and society. 

Debaters must explain and justify their values, beliefs, and judgments through logical reasoning and evidence.

Fact Argument

The third type of debate argument is the fact argument. 

This type of argument focuses on factual evidence and is used to prove or disprove a particular fact. Debaters must use credible sources and provide strong evidence to support their claims.

Persuasive Argument

Lastly, the persuasive argument is a type of debate argument used to persuade the audience to adopt a particular point of view. 

Persuasive arguments use emotional appeals, storytelling, and rhetorical devices to convince the audience to agree with their position.

In conclusion, understanding the various types of debate arguments is essential to communicate and persuade others in a debate effectively. Our AI essay writer can help you build persuasive arguments that strengthen your viewpoints!

If you are running out of time and need help regarding debate writing, let our custom essay writing service help you. Our expert writers will write an out-class and compelling debate for you in literally no time. 

We will do our best to provide you with a high-quality debate. Place your order now and leave all your worries to us!

Caleb S.


Caleb S. (Literature, Marketing)

Caleb S. has extensive experience in writing and holds a Masters from Oxford University. He takes great satisfaction in helping students exceed their academic goals. Caleb always puts the needs of his clients first and is dedicated to providing quality service.

Caleb S. has extensive experience in writing and holds a Masters from Oxford University. He takes great satisfaction in helping students exceed their academic goals. Caleb always puts the needs of his clients first and is dedicated to providing quality service.

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