Best Practices: Resolutional Analysis

resolutional analysis

– Explaining the resolution in a meaningful and comparative way


         Resolutional Analysis is catch-all category of framework. In reality, you’re doing resolutional analysis in every type of framework. This category, however, is more general than the specific methods of Weighing Mechanisms and Theoretical Observations. Many resolutions contain “measuring words” that let the debaters and judge know what is to be compared (Kline, 20). Cost/benefit phrases are the most common measuring words. More often than not, however, there are no measuring words and even if there are, they are phrased in an incomprehensible way. That’s where resolution analysis comes in. Good resolutional analysis will:

– Define and explain the key terms of resolution

– Support the definition with evidence and/or analysis

– Apply the definition/analysis in a meaningful way (meaning set out a wording that favors your side of the debate without being abusive to the other side, shape the way the judge views the debate)

– Define unfamiliar terms to clarify the debate, often “terms of art” or terms specific to a field of study and not used in everyday conversation. A great example is “failed nation” which is not only vague and unknown to most judges, but is not the technically correct term in academics, which is “failed state”. The 2012 Nationals topic also provides a great example, “the doctrine of self defense”. While your judge may have an idea of what self defense is, the “doctrine” most likely departs from the judge’s understanding. Defining this doctrine would clarify arguments as well as establish a common understanding of the resolution.

– Preclude abusive definitions your opponent may provide that would eliminate arguments you want to make in the round.

– Define measuring words that do not explicitly outline a weighing mechanism or structure of comparison, these words include: undermines, compromises, improves, benefits, should, threat, best interest, justified, significant, appropriate

Examples of Resolutional Analysis as Framework

November 2012 – Resolved – Current U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East undermines our national security.

Key word: Undermines

Analysis: The Affirmative team would like to define “undermines” in an absolute sense so that if Aff proves any type of harm to the criminal justice system, they win. Conversely, the Neg wants to make sure Aff doesn’t get away with this unfair definition and define undermines as on balance doing more harm than good, providing Neg a fair ground in the debate. Aff’s interpretation would be abusive because the Aff would only have to prove one harm and Neg would have to negate every harm presented as a neutral or positive impact.

Another route would be for the Neg to argue that if the judge believes there is either a neutral or positive effect on the system, Neg should win. Aff can claim this is unfair, but I think the best route would be to advocate it should either be decided as positive or negative or the debate is worthless – nothing in debate will ever add up to a perfect zero. This analysis is increasing popular in resolutions where one side can claim the “neutral” ground.

Honestly, most teams don’t apply this thinking to the rest of the debate, so it is worthless for the team that made the observation. One the other hand, the opposing side will claim it is “unfair” without giving the judge an explanation of why that would be a bad way to see the debate.

Ground: The scope of arguments that a side is able to make. Grounds are not always equally set up in resolutions, but each side should have enough ground to win or persuasively argue for their side.


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