Guide to Good Adjudication

Things to do before any rounds have begun:

  • Read the rulebook. It is essential that you know the rules before you judge the tournament.
  • Ask questions if you have any. That’s what the Chief Adjudicators and the Organizers are there for.

Things to do before the debate begins:

  • If you had a question and didn’t ask it earlier, ask now. It could be about anything.
  • If you didn’t understand the motion (not much chance of that), then clarify with the CA’s. It’s better you understand outside, than misunderstand inside.
  • Dump your biases outside – positive and negative. If you are uncomfortable with adjudicating a particular match because of some personal reasons, then notify the CA’s. Also if you have been picked to adjudicate a match where your institution is competing or an institution you were affiliated to is competing, do let the CA’s know. It’s not only about being fair, but also seeming to be fair.

Things to do when the debate is going on:

  • Listen to everything that is said. Little things said in a speech can change the course of the debate. If you didn’t listen, then your decision may be wrong.
  • Take notes. Everyone has their style of taking notes so do whatever you do – different pens, highlighters, lots of papers etc. As long as you have what was said, it’s all good.
  • Don’t prejudge. Wait for the last word. Then deliberate and decide.
  • Score speakers after the debate is done. This helps because you have to mark all speakers relatively on his/her merits and the impact of his/her speech.
  • Don’t show how you feel. As an adjudicator your reactions should be kept to the minimum. This however, does not preclude you from appreciating a good point.
  • Remember the Affirmative’s/Government’s/Proposition’s case statement and burden of proof and the Negative’s/Opposition’s point of clashes. The former is the adjudicating framework that the Affirmative/Government/Proposition want you to use, and the later are the reasons why the Negative/Opposition doesn’t want you to use that framework. This is what the debate is about.
  • Beware of floating models – elaborating on the model is fine, adding to it or altering it is just wrong.
  • Watch out for new matter in reply speeches and the speech of the third Negative/Opposition speaker.
  • If there is a factual clash, use the test of reasonable man. If it’s common knowledge then take it. If it’s not, then disregard the fact and the argument that is based on the fact. Your knowledge of nuclear physics and criminal law is irrelevant.
  • If there is a definition challenge (hopefully there wouldn’t be) then be doubly careful. If in doubt about the rules, contact the CA’s. Though the latter wouldn’t happen, if you’d already read the rules earlier.

Things to do after the debate is over:

  • Read your notes and go over the case statement, burden of proof and points of clash. This will help you understand the debate in it’s entirety (this is why you took notes).
  • Keep track of changes in burden of proof and team lines. Subtle changes can alter the focus of the debate (your notes will help you keep track of this).
  • There are generally a couple of key questions in a debate. The side that answers the questions better wins the debate. You need to prioritize as to which question is more important and vital to the debate.
  • Do not pretend to know what the speaker said. Most likely, you do not know. See what was said and base your decision on that. Not on what you thought the speaker may have meant.
  • Do not get influenced by the other adjudicators in the room. You may be the lone dissent who becomes the single panel chair in the next round, because both teams appreciated you adjudication and grasp of the debate. Unless and until absolutely necessary do not confer as to what was said with the other adjudicators.
  • Take your time, but don’t sleep on it. It’s a tough job deciding who won and who lost; so don’t let anyone rush you. But organizers have to get the next round going, so don’t waster time either.
  • Don’t hold someone’s accent, slur, ability to speak, looks etc., for or against them. Your job in the room is to weight the arguments and decide on that.

Things to do while giving feedback:

  • Let the speakers know the two or three major reasons for your decisions.
  • Explain each of these reasons.
  • Use what the speakers said to substantiate your reasons (notes help).
  • If there is time then give individual feedback.
  • Let the teams ask you questions.
  • Maintain your cool. It’s just not a good sight if adjudicators shout at teams and teams walk out of the debate.
  • A decision once given, cannot be changed. So be careful. However, don’t doubt yourself after you have decided. The loosing team will feel disgruntled. It’s only natural. Just listen to them, and if needed explain to them again your reasons for not giving them the round.
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