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Author Topic: Topic Committee Deadlines & Controversy Paper Requirements  (Read 3523 times)
Ryan Galloway
Full Member
Posts: 121

« on: March 29, 2015, 08:39:32 PM »

Greetings for the topic committee,

I am writing to let people know about the deadlines for the upcoming controversy papers.  As you may be aware, due to topic rotation, the committee will only be accepting papers for international topics this year.  The following are the deadlines for when the papers are due and when the ballot is due.  I also have included information from Dr. Gordon Stables on the controversy paper writing process and attached a document from Dr. Kevin Kuswa on elements the committee will look at to evaluate the controversy papers.  Please let me know if you have any questions about this process.

Dr. Ryan Galloway

Chair, Topic Committee


Mon, April 27th: Controversy Papers Due

Committee Votes Yes/No to Generate the Slate by Friday, May 1st
Ballot in play from Sat May 2nd to Saturday, May 16th
Wording Papers Due: Wednesday, June 3rd.
Meeting starts in Dallas, Fri-Sun June 12-14, 2015

Topic Release Date:  Friday, July 17th

Suggested Guidelines for Controversial Area Papers
By Gordon Stables
(Originally released June 2006, Modified March 2010, April 2012)

Introduction to Topic Paper Writing

Writing a topic paper can appear daunting, but is manageable if
approached in several steps. The first part of the process takes place
when someone decides that there is an issue that might make a valuable
intercollegiate debate topic. The topic selection committee
commissions a number of areas each year that might be valuable
options, but these are designed to only ensure that some options
exist. Each topic selection is improved by the addition of areas
identified by the community.

In the last few years the writing process has been divided into two
distinct papers: a controversy paper at the conclusion of the
competition season and wording papers written after the first
community ballot.  This process has helped lower the entry barrier for
community development of papers and has reduced the burden on any
single author. At the same time, the topic selection committee has
also worked to produce wording options consistent with the topic area
selected by community vote.

As much as these trends have improved the topic writing process, we
are occasionally left with the problem of an area paper that is very
conceptually broad, perhaps too broad to produce a range of
expectations surrounding the upcoming topic. This may, in part, be due
to the very nature of writing an ‘area’ paper. The general procedure
has encouraged writing on a subject, such as a nation (like China) or
a branch of government (the Supreme Court). In the interests of
helping develop a process that is both accessible and predictable,
beginning with the 2007-2008 process the chair of the topic selection
committee would like to ask that the concept of ‘area’ papers be
slightly adjusted toward individual controversies or controversial

Each year the specific dates are adjusted to reflect the end of the
competition season and the dates of the summer topic meetings.

Why select controversies?

There is a tremendous amount of information discussion about the
‘best’ topics. It may be impossible to develop a consensus on such
criteria, but it is not uncommon for some of the discussion about
better topics to describe their coherence and the presence of a rich
body of literature. It may be understood that some of the ‘better’
topics possess a vibrant dispute among interested parties. These
‘controversies’ may be understood as the specific theme of a topic.
Anyone who has explained the topic to someone from outside the debate
community may also recognize these themes as those brief summaries of
the debate topic.

Asking for a central controversy in each ‘area’ paper can allow the
community to vote on each area with a greater confidence. The last two
topics, which featured extensive work by individual authors, provide
some clear examples. Instead of listing the ‘China’ topic on the area
ballot, we might have instead listed the controversy of trying to
produce economic policy changes by the Chinese government.
Alternately, the ‘court’ topic could have been listed as ‘reverse
major Supreme Court cases.’ In both cases the precision of the
specific wording is not a necessity. The next stage of the process
will be tasked with that specific responsibility. The primary
challenge for each author of a controversial area paper is to identify
that policy concern.

This also keeps our process consistent with the mandate of the CEDA
constitution (Article 2), which describes the goals of debate
including to “promote the value of argumentative discourse as a means
of producing reasoned, measured, cooperative solutions to contemporary
problems of social and political significance.”

The Elements of a Controversial Area Paper

A fully developed paper should include:

Mainstream options for policy change - The central task of these
papers is to identify the most mainstream or central proposals for
change within a given controversial area. This is often understood as
identifying the few "middle of the road" affirmatives with evidence
and cites for solvency advocates. These are the central issues at work
in the larger controversy. The identification and citation of
important authors can help guide the development of the topic wording
and allow a common subject of community debate. The paper may also
identify the central literature based arguments available to the
negative, i.e., what are the major argumentative assets for opponents
of change? For both sides, authors should consider traditional policy
and critical literature that is relevant to this controversy. Solid
work in this element is essential to ensuring that later wording
options reflect the central argumentative controversies.

Unique educational opportunities - There are obviously argumentative
strategies for both sides common to most topics, these papers should
be primarily concerned with the unique opportunities provided by this
controversy. The job of the topic selection process is not to produce
a single type of arguments, but rather to help provide the playing
field for arguments developed by each squad and team. These
considerations may include the last time such areas were debated and
how earlier topics overlapped (if at all) with these areas.

Papers should also consider the potential public benefits of potential
topics. Does your controversy provide a way to access significant
public policy debates? Are there ways that your paper could involve
local communities? Remember that the winning controversy will govern
how 100 universities and almost 3000 students research for an entire
season. You may identify specific events that will help draw attention
to this topic (such as debating the Arab Spring topic during the
democratic revolutions or the Nuclear Posture Review during the
2009-10 season) that help to explain why this controversy is
specifically valuable to debate during this specific season.

Potential directions for wording papers - These controversial area
papers are not required to include specific wording recommendations,
although authors may include these as suggestions. It is very
important that authors provide suggestions for approaching the next
phase of the process. The greatest value that authors can provide is
preliminary analysis of the specific elements of this controversy.  Is
there a debate about the best level of governmental response? Is there
a general direction that new policies should follow? Are there certain
agencies or interested parties that define the terms in specific and
meaningful ways?

Keep in mind that the controversy paper is a starting point for the
next phase of committee work. You may suggest a range of approaches or
even a specific strategy for how to divide your proposal into 3-4
working groups to advance your work into a series of wording options.
Author should not feel compelled to only provide one approach or one
mechanism in their proposal. The best controversy paper identifies the
general task that the committee and community will explore, not one
that defines only a singular wording.

Recommendation of the author – It is of tremendous importance that
each author treats their task as part of a due diligence on behalf of
the larger community. It is important that interested parties work on
these papers, but each author should also consider that there may be
specific historical moments where some topics are better or worse
suited for the intercollegiate community. This concern was voiced in
the fall of 2001, when there was tremendous interest in selecting a
topic that dealt with terrorism for 2002-2003. At that time, however,
it was felt that the necessary literature might be ‘too ripe,’ that is
not sufficiently explored in scholarly detail, to allow for the best
possible topic. This concern was also raised in this last topic cycle,
when some argued that there should be additional time to let the
congressional debate on immigration policy settle before it was
considered. An author of a paper develops additional insight into a
controversy and the community would benefit from this moment of
evaluation. Accordingly, we would ask that authors provide their
recommendation of the topic’s inclusion on the upcoming ballot.
Options for this recommendation include: strongly support, support
with reservations, no opinion, oppose with reservation, strongly

Research Resources – We encourage authors to identify and share
important research resources. Authors should specifically consider
identifying and building bundles of RSS feeds that could be used by
the entire community. In our new media environment, it is very
important to identify important research materials that will allow the
topic to develop over the course of the season.

Final Thoughts

Writing topic papers at any stage is a process fraught with a
tremendous amount of hard work and little thanks. The nature of the
process ensures that every topic but one will be rejected each year.
That seemingly cold fact should not dissuade potential authors. It is
the process of identifying, comparing and ultimately voting for a
specific area that helps to keep this process valuable. I mention this
only to encourage people to work on these papers, but not to invest so
much of themselves that it is difficult to handle the selection of
another paper. For this process to work at its best, we need a number
of committed community members to write these papers each year. They
need not be longer than 10-15 pages if they follow these guidelines.
Even if they are not selected, each author can share in the comfort
that they are providing a valuable service to the community and that
each controversial area may be considered in following years. In the
previous threads on the forum you will find all full archive of recent
papers to help you become comfortable with the writing process.

* Controversy-Wording Paper Guidelines.pdf (279.34 KB - downloaded 630 times.)
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