It has come up in a number of threads that people felt they were debating and others felt they were not providing proper arguements to support their position. I looked up 'how to debate well' and found this. It is an interesting and informative read for anyone who likes to debate.
HOW TO DEBATE LIKE A PRO
Debating is not just knowing the issues. Debating is not just arguing. It is an exchange of ideas in which both sides try to make the case for their position. It is knowing how the frame the issues in a palatable framework that matches your audience.
Both the ability to debate well, and knowledge of the points of argument are essential to your ability to convey our issues to your audience. The eight-second sound bite has replaced true debate in this country and created the illusion that important issues are one-dimensional.
To debate well, you must select relevant arguments from irrelevant content and rhetorical presentation. You must, most importantly, relate specific facts and data that directly combat point-by-point the cheap labor lobby propaganda. Remember that debates are not a zero sum game - there is no winner or loser. A constructive debate generates critical thought in the audience. A constructive debate does not merely offer an analysis of problems but offers real solutions and alternatives.
It is our duty, as citizens, to increase the awareness of the importance of rational debating. Constructive debating is an art.
Goal - The first rule is to remember that your goal is to persuade the audience, not to persuade your opponent. Do not become frustrated when your opponent is not convinced or does not respect your argument. No matter what your opponent says or does during the debate, it is your composure, confidence, open-mindedness, and points of debate that will convince the audience. If you become frustrated, the audience will view you as the losing side.
Clarity - Avoid using words that can be interpreted differently by different readers or that have different connotations to different users. A connotation is a feeling or definition that is attached to a word, yet not included in its dictionary definition. Often a word may have a positive connotation with one audience and a very negative connotation with another. Try to use words that are neutral to generic audiences, or tailor your words to your specific audience.Qu
Quoting - Quoting an authority is not evidence. Quoting a majority opinion is not evidence. Any argument based on opinion - expert, authority, or majority - is not objective evidence. Authorities, experts, and majorities can be wrong and frequently have been.
Emotionalism - Personal attacks on your opponent are an admission of intellectual bankruptcy. Keep attention centered on the specific point of debate - after all, the goal of the debate is to persuade the audience about your point, not about the opponent. Even if the audience dislikes your opponent because of your attack, it makes the opponent's argument no less credible in their eyes.
Causality - Avoid confusing correlations with causality. Just because two events or items are related does not mean that one causes the other. For example, people who drive Mercedes generally have higher incomes, but that does not mean that people's incomes would rise if we gave them Mercedes.
Innuendo - Do not make allusions to circumstance, popular belief, accusations, or other statements. Politicians and political pundits are excellent examples - they often make innuendos when they cannot prove a direct statement. Do not fall prey to this debate mistake. When you are called on an innuendo, your debate will ultimately fall through.
Sources - Quote your sources of information as often as possible. Be sure that your sources are credible and unbiased. Often international publications give a different perspective than local news. Your opponent's publications are often the source of the best ammunition. Your opponent might put out a publication stating, "There are 14 million American jobs offshored because of America's failing education system." And you can use that publication to state, "According to our opposition's publication, at least 14 million jobs have already been offshored." (This is only an example, do not use this number!)
Understanding - Understand each of your opponent's arguments. The best way to practice debating is to ask a friend who is also passionate about the issue to debate with you while you take up your opponent's position. If you can successfully debate the position of your opponent, then you can successfully debate your own position.
Respect - Always respect your opponent in a debate. If your opponent does not deserve respect, it will become obvious to the audience. But if you, the speaker, disrespects your opponent, then it will be you who loses the respect of the audience, even if it is your opponent who deserved the disrespect.
Experience - Always relate relevant personal experience. An antedote or personal story always strikes a chord with the audience because they want to hear concrete, first-hand examples.
Open Mindedness - Always keep your mind open to learning from your opponent, no matter how wrong he is on the issues. There will always be a debate where your opponent hits you with new information or a new argument that you have not heard before. Keep your mind open to this new information. You will come across as more credible if the audience perceives you as having an open mind.
Stereotyping - Do not stereotype your opponent or his followers. Even if the stereotype usually holds true, there is always an exception that your opponent can trot out to damage your credibility.
Cliches - Do not use cliques in a debate. Cliques may be widely known, but they are not proven, and there are always exceptions to a clique. There are also cliques that are the opposite of other cliques.
Slippery Slope - Do not make statements that one thing is wrong because it could lead toward something else that is wrong. This is the old, "give them an inch and they will take a mile" rule. In law, limits are clear. If we set an absolute limit on H-1Bs, then the cheap labor lobby cannot bring in more unless they change the limit.
Correlation - Be careful when drawing conclusions. For example, I have heard people say, "A significant percentage of people in our prisons are illegal aliens, therefore, most illegal aliens must be criminals." Of course criminals always want to flee when being pursued, so criminals will also migrate here. But that does not mean that most illegal aliens are criminals. We know that the majority of illegal aliens are simply coming to the USA to work, primarily out of desperation.
Jargon - Use words that your audience would commonly use. Using big words or jargon will not make you seem like an expert. For example, why use the word 'utilize' when you could utilize 'use'?
Euphemism - Do not try to make words sound softer or more politically correct. Use the proper term. An example of this is "ethnic cleansing" replacing the word "genocide". Or "undocumented worker" replacing the legal term "illegal alien". Remember, your goal is to appeal to the audience, and middle America respects a straight-forward approach.
Raising the Bar - If your opponent proves one point, give him that point. Do not insist that he then prove another point in order for that point to be valid. Just move on to the next point gracefully.
Common Sense - Unfortunately there is simply not a common sense answer for most of the issues that we debate. There are many issues where even our allies disagree. Each side believes their answer is common sense. Clearly some of these people are wrong. If the answer were obvious, then there would be no need for debate because your audience would already be convinced - and never forget that your goal is to persuade the audience, not to persuade your opponent.
Absurdism - When you show that one of your opponent's points leads to an absurd conclusion, it does not generally destroy his entire argument. Usually you only succeed in showing that that point does not apply in all cases.