Q&A: How do I avoid bad Cross-examination experiences?

Q: How do I avoid bad Cross-examination experiences?


While coaching and teaching debate, I’ve found that it is often hard for debaters to describe what a “good” CX looks like. It is much easier to describe a “bad” CX.  I think it’s useful to think about what should not happen in CX. It provides a useful constraint. If you identify what you should not do and make goals for what you want to do, it is likely you will create a better CX. Take time with your partner or PF squad and brainstorm bad experiences you’ve had in CX, whether it was something you did or that your opponents did. Using this list you can think about what to do to prevent or to handle these situations. I discuss some common bad CX experiences in Beyond Resolved. Bad CX experiences generally fall into the following five categories: let the judge decide, bad questions, answering, presentation, and time management. Sometimes the same experience can be placed in more than one category. I know there are more bad experiences out there, but I believe you’ll be able to find applicable advice in one of these five categories. In today’s post I’ll go through some cases where you “let the judge decide.” For more analysis and a look at the other types of “bad” CX experiences, take a look at Beyond Resolved.


This category is for experiences that ultimately are in the hands of the judge. Here, only the judge can determine how the problem affects the round. In these situations, there is little you can control. You have to trust that the judge will see the same mistake that you see. This means avoid pointing out that your opponent made a mistake verbally. Trust that the judge saw the mistake too, or reference it in your next speech.

  • You asked for evidence and your opponent does not give it to you.

If you asked for evidence and your opponent has no evidence to provide, move on. The judge will realize this is a fault or flaw in your opponents’ case. If you ask for evidence and your opponent says they will provide it and don’t ask for it at the end of the CX. If they do not give it to you then, wait until after their next speech to remind the judge they have not given you the evidence. Your opponent could theoretically discuss it in the next speech, so pay attention. If they are evading giving it to you, this will be apparent to the judge. Remember that you still need to make the argument as to why the missing evidence is important the next time your discuss the argument.

  • You asked for evidence and your opponent refuses to give it to you.

A flat out refusal looks evasive and shady. Trust that the judge realizes this and if needed, refer to how you gave your opponent the opportunity to provide the evidence in a later speech. Remind the judge that they didn’t provide the evidence and re-explain why this is important evidence.

  • Your opponent gives you false evidence.

You must explain to the judge how it is false. The judge cannot see the evidence like you can. You must be able to show how it is falsified by either providing counter evidence or by providing a copy of the source that you have that shows editing. Explain the falsification to the judge in a speech, In CX your opponent will fight it accusation. Even if your opponents misuse evidence, do not make this evidence the singular issue in the round. If there has been a rules violation, meaning your opponents have falsified or edited evidence unethically, this demands immediate attention. Follow national and league rules regarding this ethics violation and immediately bring it to the judge’s attention.

  • Your opponent gives you a stack of papers when you ask for evidence.

Politely ask them to tell you where the evidence is. If they tell you to find it, trust that the judge knows this is unprofessional. If you’re opponents aren’t helpful, look for the evidence but don’t waste too much time.

  • Your opponents start yelling.

Let them yell. Keep your voice calm and at the normal volume – this will make them appear all the more outlandish and probably frustrate them too. Trust that no judge likes a yelling match.

  • Your opponents argue with each other.

Let them. This only harms their presentation and argumentation.

  • All out drama ensues.

Whatever your opponents do, you should always remain calm, cool, collected, and do your best effort do have a good CX. You can’t control them and if they start being dramatic should provide contrast to your presentation. In this scenario your opponent make your team look more polished. Let them!


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