Debating ideas

The Five-minute Debate Planner (Mk II)


Issue and justification

Definitions and justifications

Case line

Material (arguments)

Rebuttal arguments


Anticipated opposition arguments:


The "Five-minute Debate Planner" appears above it is not unique. Use this sheet on some practice topics, and changed the plan to suit yourself.

Use your version of the planning sheet

The terms used in the sheet:

The topic is obvious. Just write it down as it is stated, and note what side you are on by writing "Aff" or "Neg" at the end of the line.

The issue is what the topic is really about. This question is very important if the topic is about a metaphor, like "People who live in glass houses should not throw stones". In this example, the issue is not about throwing real stones, or living in a glass house. You must always take time out to identify the issue.

In the same section, write down your justification for interpreting the issue this way. This shows briefly why you have chosen what you have chosen as the issue.

Next, you come to your definitions. Mostly, these will come from your interpretation of the issue, and must refer to the issue. Sometimes, the definitions will come from what the "person in the street" would believe, or from the context of the topic. (If the topic is "That we should kill all the lawyers", this does not necessarily mean standing all the solicitors against a wall and shooting them, even if this strikes you as a tempting proposition. It helps to know that this was meant literally when Shakespeare wrote the lines for "Dick the Butcher".) Note down the context, if you know it.

Next comes your case line. You need a quick statement of how the debate will go from your side.

Then comes a brief points-form listing of your material, the arguments that your team will put forward.

As a separate section, note down rebuttal arguments. These are things that you need to remember and plan for, but which you plan to bring out in rebutting the other side's arguments.

Next comes your allocation for the first two speakers. This divides up the caseline into a neat and logical division that gives each speaker a reasonable amount of material to work with.

Finally, note down what you expect the other side to argue. Watch out: there may be more than one way of arguing either side of a case!!

Sample topics

These topics are roughly graded in terms of difficulty. In training, you will sometimes be required to take on a task which is easier or harder than your ability and age. Note that even the hardest topic can be debated at a simple level, and a very simple topic can be debated brilliantly!


That homework should be banned.

That school uniforms are good for us.

That television is too violent.

That television does more harm than good.

That terrorism can be justified.

That the earth can look after itself.

That the IOC made the wrong decision for Sydney.

That a woman's place is in the home.

That Australia is a nation of bigots.

That the car is a luxury we can do without.

That all our woes have come from science.

That people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.



That the Olympics are a five-ring circus.

That spectator sports are a waste of time.

That organised team sport is legalised violence.

That we are Uncle Sam's nephews and nieces.

That the law is an ass.

That education is the key to success.

That education starts after school.

That there is strength in diversity.

That peace depends on fear.

That we should try, try, try again.

That we should be vegetarians.

That we should put the environment first.

That green is a nice colour to be.

That good news is not news.

That pets are a pest.

That the comics are the best part of the newspaper.

That the only good part of the radio is the "off" switch.

That beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

That it is better to plant a cabbage than a rose.

That it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

That the punishment should fit the criminal.

That we should burn our bridges.

That he who hesitates is lost.

That we should look before we leap.

That we should keep off the grass.

That the party is over for Australia.

That today, Humpty Dumpty would jump.

That we have never had it so good.

That computer games do more harm than good.

That we are slaves to conformity.

That commercials are the best part of TV.

That the media promote a selfish society.

That cigarette advertising should be banned.

That the car must go.

That democracy is overrated.

That we are a nation of imitators.



That Olympic gold is brass.

That modern sport is a pharmaceutical venture.

That sport would be better without sponsors.

That professionalism has destroyed sport.

That the best sports are non-competitive.

That Uncle Sam is not a member of the family.

That we would eat the chips and not the fries.

That it is better to be feared than to be loved.

That there is too much government regulation.

That Australians have tinned minds.

That a little learning is a dangerous thing.

That Australia's minds should be closed for repair.

That honesty is better than sympathy.

That the law is the embodiment of everything that is excellent.

That we should judge the judges.

That first we should kill all the lawyers. (training topic only)

That lawyers only serve themselves.

That our education should not be interrupted by our schooling.

That one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

That air quality is more important than equality.

That we need more Jacks of All Trades.

That we place too much faith in the medical profession.

That we cannot trust the scientists.

That the worst drugs are already legal.

That radio is smothering rock and roll.

That small is beautiful.

That print is a dying medium.

That it is not easy being green.

That we should wear furs.

That we should not test drugs on animals.

That we should eat kangaroos.

That trade unions are losing their power.

That trade unions misuse their power.

That now is the best chance for peace.

That there is no such thing as a just war.

That youth is wasted on the young.

That Schwarzenegger is more relevant than Shakespeare.

That it doesn't matter how well it works, so long as it looks good.

That overpopulation is the problem.

That the world will end with a whimper, not a bang.

That New Zealand should become the seventh state.

That nobody ever lost votes by underestimating the intelligence of the voters.

That a death in Patagonia counts less than a death in Parramatta.

That a street is better than a meadow.

That cricket is to sport what a Rolls-Royce is to motor cars.

That the United Nations is a spent force.

That democracy is out of its depth.

That we would give democracy a chance.

That nuclear weapons kept the peace through the Cold War.

That we should seize the day.

That we should not rock the boat.

That computers will never live up to their promise.

That the Information Superhighway is the way to go.

That technology is not worth the cost.

That nuclear power will be our saviour.

That energy-saving is a waste of money.

That we cannot trust the military.

That genetic engineering is the hope of the future.

That capital punishment has no place in a civilised society.

That now is the best chance for peace.

That tomorrow is a better day.

That quality has been lost.

That foreign aid is a luxury.



That the medium is more important than the message.

That that government is best which governs least.

That we lack real leadership.

That trade rights should not be linked to human rights.

That the coyote should be allowed to catch the road runner.

That men in red sports cars are a race apart.

That there will always be a Bosnia.

That trade unions have served their purpose.

That the rich are very different from ourselves.

That now is the age of reconciliation.

That where there's a will, there's a way.

That there is more poetry in motion than in Milton.

That the only good poet is a dead poet.

That a poet is worth a thousand scientists.

That the North should pay to protect the world's environment.

That we would rage against the dying of the light.

That we are a musical nation.

That we would put cheese in the mouse holes.

That we have a duty to be provocative.

That we should swim against the current.

That progress is hindered by tradition.

That democracy in South Africa is a myth.

That a united Europe is a myth.

That the United Nations serves good dinners but little else.

That Ned Ludd was right, after all.

That politicians do not pay their way.

That politics is the last refuge of scoundrels.

That the big bust is coming.

That the developing countries are not.

That our generation has no future.

That a dole cheque is better than a lousy job.

That rights are more important than responsibilities.

That we should deport the "Australians against Further Immigration".


Light topics

That it should be legalised.

That the best place for Vegemite is in a Pavlova.

That the fish are eating the sharks.

That it is tough at the top.

That there is no way of escape.

That we should lead our regiments from behind.

That it is better to bend than risk breaking.

That opportunity is our best ally.

That the wolves are at the door.

That the writing is on the wall.

That it is a long worm that has no turning.

©The author of this work is Peter Macinnis --, who asserts his compilation copyright to the product as it is packaged here, recognising that many of the ideas are common. Any non-profit educational or home use is completely acceptable without let or hindrance. Copies of this whole file or site may be made and stored or printed for personal or educational use. Share it in the spirit in which it is shared. If you are posting this material on the web, a courteous acknowledgement is expected, if pointing to this page won't work.

Created August 14, 2001, still being curated and cleaned-up in 2014, this represents almost 60 years of experience as a debater, an adjudicator and a coach.

email400 (18K)