Best Practices: Impact Analysis

The April 2014 Public Forum topic is

Resolved: Prioritizing economic development over environmental protection is in the best interest of the people of India.

Environment vs. Economy debates come down to Framework and Impact Calculus. I devote almost 30 pages of Beyond Resolved to these debate tools, but here is a taste of my chapter on impact calculus.

To look at crafting a framework for the April 2014 Public Forum topic, refer back to weighing mechanisms which I discussed in January of this year.

An impact is the effect, result, consequence, influence, significance, weight, repercussion, or outcome of an action. The impact of how much your food costs will affect if you can buy a movie ticket later, the impact of a college’s courses may mean you cannot study aeronautical engineering, even if you will get to live in a big city. Impact Calculus does not say that your opponents’ argument is wrong.

Impact Calculus compares the impacts presented by competing arguments given both arguments are true. 

Structurally, you will first explain the difference between the impacts, and then explain the significance of that difference to the round. In other words, discuss “what” is the comparative issue and “why” this comparative difference matters. IC uses the general structure of “more _____ than” or “less _____ than” to compare impacts. The type of comparison you are making will determine the _ adjective. There are three main types of comparisons you will make in IC.


 1. PROBABILITY: the likelihood of certain impacts coming about in the worst or best form.

Wording: “more/less likely than”, “more/less probable than”, “A is guaranteed while B is only likely/may occur”

Note: Probability is essential to analyzing any impact. In fact, impacts are usually assumed probable rather than attacked for being improbable. You should always address probability in IC.

2. TIMEFRAME:  When an impact will occur; how long it takes an impact to occur or begin/end

Wording: “will happen faster/sooner”, “short term effect versus long term effect”, “comes first”

Note: One impact comes before another and therefore outweighs the secondary impact due to it occurring first. You can also question the urgency of the resolution’s action if the desired impact will not occur soon or requires many other events to take place before it will occur.

3. MAGNITUDE:  the scope or size of an impact

Wording: “bigger/smaller than”, “broader/narrower than”, “more important/significant than”

Note: Magnitude is the easiest comparison to articulate because you can usually quantify the impact. Remember that magnitude can be qualitative too. Just because you can’t assign a number to your impact does not mean it does not have a big effect. Judges most easily understand magnitude. Given this, if you don’t think magnitude is important, you want to explicitly say, “ignore magnitude” and explain why timeframe or probability is more important.


None of these comparative types are independent. All three interact within each impact. A good rule is to combine two comparisons together in your IC. To compare all three you is often too complicated and will hinder your word economy. Be strategic about which two best fit the impacts you want to compare. When working on your case, it is a good idea to sketch out the Probability, Timeframe, and Magnitude of the impacts you will be arguing. With these prepared, it will be easier to do IC in round; you will only have to analyze your opponent’s arguments. This will also make strategizing about which comparisons to make simpler when you know the strong points of your own impacts.

An example from this topic would be India cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact: Reducing climate change effects

Probability: Guaranteed

Magnitude: most likely small with India acting alone

Timeframe: unknown, but climate change is an issue that must be solve now


As you construct your impacts and attack your opponents’ impacts, make sure you analysis the different components to create your strongest argument.




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