Debate/Motions and resolutions

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A motion, also known as a proposition or resolution in other formats, is a statement that usually sets the topic for the given debate. Usually, this is an unambiguously worded statement that is general in terminology in order to be understood by not only the debaters themselves but also by the general audience.

In any debate, the motion is always supported by the government and opposed by the opposition, regardless of how the motion is worded.

Types of motions[edit]

Parliamentary debate[edit]

There are three types of motions in any parliamentary debate, depending on how specific or broadly defined it is. These are known as open, semi-closed and closed motions, of whom regardless of the type of motion, the terms are always defined by the Prime Minister.

An open motion is a motion or resolution that is broad and can be defined quite liberally. For example, a motion like This house would pay can be defined on a wide range of topics, from African countries paying their debts to lender countries to paying one's personal debt to a friend to the German government paying compensation for atrocities committed during the Nazi regime. However, given that open motions are so ambiguously worded that they tend to lead to much confusion among teams and debaters, as well as the propensity for abuse (such as defining the motion based on personal experience), they are rarely given in tournaments today.

A semi-closed motion, like an open motion, is also broad in scope. However, the context for which the motion is set is more limited than in an open motion. Such a motion could be worded as This house would pay compensation to victims of abuse. In such a motion, the terms compensation and victims of abuse would still have to be defined, while clearly stating that the motion calls for the compensation of abuse victims.

Lastly, a closed motion, unlike the previous two types of motions, is a motion that is usually specific in scope while still leaving room for interpretation. For example, This house would make Germany compensate victims of Nazi atrocities is a closed motion. In this case, the motion is specifically defined as forcing Germany to compensate victims of Nazi atrocities, although the term Nazi atrocities is still left to interpretation.

Within those types of motions include policy and value-judgment motions, which respectively are about policies and values. In some cases, these types of motions overlap each other, forming motions that have semblances of both the policy and value-judgment types. An example of this is This house believes that the government should fund exclusively homosexual schools. In the motion, while it is worded to that of a value-judgment motion, it also calls for a proposal.

Policy debate[edit]

In policy debate, a proposition is usually related to that of a closed motion in parliamentary debate. However, policy debate resolutions are worded as Resolved: followed by the subject of the debate. An example would be Resolved: That the United States federal government should establish a foreign policy substantially increasing its support of United Nations peacekeeping operations, which was used in the 2004-2005 National Speech and Debate Tournament of the National Forensics League. This naming format is also shared with the Oregon-Oxford, Lincoln-Douglas and classical debate formats.

There are generally three types of propositions, namely propositions of fact, of value and of policy.

A proposition of fact is an objective statement containing a fact. It is the most specific and least controversial (although not completely free of controversy) of the three types of propositions as their verifiability can be objectively affirmed by using other facts or statistics. An example of this would be Resolved: That freedom of speech is an inviolable right. Usually, only a few issues are involved in a proposition of fact, which are the following:

  1. What occurred
  2. What information is required to verify such
  3. What information is available

A proposition of value expresses judgment about the qualities of the person, place or object being pointed to in the proposition. This would consider current opinions and attitudes of people based on the issue, which are neither true nor false, while still being backed by facts, which are either true or false. However, debates based on propositions of value can be challenging as there are no set values being defended or detracted in the debate, as well as because personal values always conflict with each other. An example of this type of proposition would be Resolved: That restraint is better than brute force.

Lastly, a proposition of policy expresses a course of action that should be considered for adoption. There are three general categories of propositions of policy:

  1. Formulation of new policies to guide decisions not covered by existing policies
  2. Recommendation for the amendment of existing policies that are no longer satisfactory to the given context
  3. Repeal or abolition of existing policies

In the course of the debate, each team would present their arguments for or against the proposition, of which is usually judged based on the merits of the case. An example of such a proposition would be Resolved: That the United States pull out of Iraq by 2008.


Definitional challenges Technicalities
Motions and resolutions
Points of Information