Debate Guide: McCroskey’s Guide To Opposition Approaches

Posted on April 1, 2009


While doing some research for a speech communication study, I came across this article which I downright believe is a valuable guide to competitive and non-competitive debaters alike. Even though it was written back in 1964, the information and approaches are suprisingly very applicable today. Written by Dr. James C. McCroskey, this article first appeared as a newsletter of the Pennsylvania High School Speech League.

Ever since coming across the article, I have been using the approaches in many of my debates as well as a material for my debate trainings.


Although the affirmative has received most of the attention from writers in recent journals, it is the opinion of this writer that students supporting the negative and their coaches face the more difficult problem as to what should be done in competitive debate. The purpose is to present an analysis of negative argument in an attempt to make this problem more easily surmountable.

Since the first step in developing a negative attack is adapting to the affirmative, it is important to understand the crucial points of the affirmative position. These are generally accepted to be:

1. Is there a problem in existence which is serious enough to require action to alleviate it?

2. Is this problem or the cause of this problem an inherent part of the status quo?

3. Would the action suggested by the resolution as interpreted by the affirmative eliminate the problem?

4. It is reasonable to assume that the resolution as interpreted by the affirmative could be implemented if it is found to be desirable?

5. Would the affirmative proposal be free from serious detrimental side effects if it were into effect?

6. Is the resolution as interpreted by the affirmative the best way to eliminate the problem?

To the above questions the affirmative is expected by most adjudicators and audiences to answer, “Yes!” Some adjudicators do not agree that the affirmative must uphold all of these points. The problems for the negative which arise because of this discrepancy will be considered later.

Since the affirmative is expected to affirm each of the above questions, it is assumed by some that the negative is expected to oppose each one. This is definitely not the case. The negative must choose at least one crucial point at which to say “no” to the affirmative position, but to contest each point in educational debate would be undesirable in terms of the time available.

Let us now examine each of the crucial points of the affirmative position and consider what opportunity each presents to the negative.

Download the entire article here > McCroskey’s Opposition Approaches