Q: Would you recommend purchasing briefs in addition to independent research, or should I just focus on independent research?
A: One thing I think briefs are invaluable for is argument coverage. Because brief writers have thoroughly brainstormed and researched the topic, they are likely to cover the span of argument that exist (whether they are winning or not). Briefs then can help you double check your argument and block coverage. Especially with Nationals, I think its worth a small investment to buy a least one good brief to supplement your independent research. However, I think independent research is crucial because it forces you to understand the topic at a deeper level – briefs allow you to process pre-processed information. Doing your own research will force you to find the gaps in your knowledge and also lead you down more inventive and perhaps novel paths because you don’t have a preset idea of what the arguments are.
Q: What is the typical judging pool like?
A: I think over time the pool has gotten more experienced. More ex-PF debaters are coming back as judges, more coaches are familiar with the event, and so there is going to be a segment of the judging pool that is very debate-experienced. However, PF remains a lay friendly event so you will still have your parent judges and community members coming in to judge.
Q: Any special advice for prepping for nationals?
Do what you do best. Whatever you have been doing well all year that qualified you, keep doing it! One thing that may get forgotten in the rush to Nationals is practice rounds. This may be harder to arrange because your teammates are done for the year, you may be the only team at your school preparing the topic – but if you can get some of your peers (or maybe even a team from another school in your area) to do practice rounds, this is invaluable. You do not want your first debate on the topic to be Round 1 at Nats. Get some practice rounds under your belt – even if you just do a maverick round partner vs partner!