Definitions and Debating

MOTION: THW would not go on holidays in developing countries.

I - How to define the terms of the motion and establish your case

  • Your definition should be reasonable and clear to the average person in the street – the terms should be understood in a way they’re commonly understood by the layman.
  • Make sure that your definition gives enough room for both sides of the debate. Is should be fair! It’s not acceptable to interpret terms in a rather unorthodox way, using far-fetched examples to make it more convenient for your side (squirreling).
  • A definition can only work if it establishes yardsticks to measure the outcome of your decisions. Here, the yardstick could be a significant change in everyone’s living conditions (proven by sufficient evidence).
  • Figure out which elements need to be defined. In this case, it’s “go on holidays” and “developing countries”. There’s no need to define “countries”; firstly, is contained in “developing countries”, and secondly, the term is neither ambiguous nor vague.
  • Figure out what “This House” is about to do. Do they “Believe That” (THBT) doing something is true, right or appropriate? Or “Would” they take action (THW)? Is the debate about facts, values, or policies?
  • Find legal or lexical definitions that already exist. In our case, there is no fixed definition for developing countries. You may refer to the Human Development Index (HDI) or simply describe the characteristic features. You may contextualize a definition by adding information that is not strictly necessary, just to put the terms in a wider framework. It’s also possible to give examples.
  • It’s important to avoid truisms – sentences that are obviously true and don’t allow for debate.
  • It’s not advisable to narrow downthe definition so that it fits your line of arguments. For example, there is no good reason to restrict the term “going on a holiday” to package tours.
  • On the other hand, a definition that is too broad is not acceptable. Talking of “southern countries” is just inappropriate as “countries with many problems”.
  • Definitions should not include any items that will not fit into the categories defined. Here, for instance, you should not include Chile, Saudi Arabia or Japan.
  • Avoid complex language and obscurity. A definition should be as simple as possible.
  • It’s not very sensible to define terms by other terms which you will have to define again – your definition will become circular: “A developing country is a country which is still developing”.
  • If a motion is expressed in absolute terms (“never”, “always”, “all”), you shouldn’t take it literally – it’s enough to define the motion as “in most significant cases”.
  • It’s also critical to use negative definitions. By excluding one item, others will still fall into the same category. If you say “going on holidays means that you’re not there for business” is not complete. You might be visiting with family, be a missionary or do a practical internship.

II – Making definitions more accurate

  • Who are the groups of people involved and their clash of rights? Here, we’re talking about tourists from developed countries has effect on the locals (but also on themselves).
  • What exactly should be done? In our case, what does “going on holidays” mean? What does “not going” mean?
  • When is this motion taking place? When will the measures taken come into effect?
  • Where does this motion take place? What are the characteristics of these places?
  • How will the policy work and be enforced? What will be the consequences if this decision is implemented?

III – Dealing with definitions

  • You can accept the definition. Although this may lead to a different debate than OPP has expected, it is usually the best option. However, you may have to need to reconstruct your case in order to follow PROP’s definition.
  • You can supplement or expand the definition if PROP has left something out. If a term has not been defined, OPP might define it and use it prove PROP wrong.
  • You can alter or challenge the definition, explain why you don’t accept it, set up your own definition and stick to it. This can lead to a definition debate which should be avoided. In this case, PROP must defend their interpretation of the motion while OPP has the burden of proof (they need to make clear why the definitions aren’t reasonable).
  • You can reject the definition, come up with a more reasonable definition and still refer to PROP’s definition: Their definition is incorrect, but even if it was correct, they’re wrong!

IV – Phrases you might use

  • By saying “ …” we mean …
  • When we say “…” we’re talking about …
  • Let’s get terms straight first: a “…” is …
  • The term “…” refers to ....
  • The term “…” has come to be used to refer to ....
  • The term “…” is generally understood to mean ....
  • The term “…” has been applied to situations where students ....
  • The term “…” encompasses A), B), and C).
  • “…” can be defined as....
  • The broad use of the term “…” is sometimes equated with ....
  • In the literature, the term “…” tends to be used to refer to ....
  • “…” can be defined as .... It encompasses ....
  • The term “…” is a relatively new name for a Y, commonly referred to....
  • … can be loosely described as a ….
  • In the field of language teaching, various definitions of “…” are found.
  • … is a commonly used notion in language learning and yet it is a concept difficult to define precisely.
  • A generally accepted definition of … is lacking.
  • All of this might be subsumed under the term “…”: a) ....
  • The term “…” embodies a multitude of concepts which ...
  • Although differences of opinion still exist, there appears to be some agreement that the term “…” refers to ....
  • Unfortunately, “…” remains a poorly defined term.