Empirical debates, as opposed to normative debates, are debates in which no specific action or model is required, but, instead, a statement must be proven by one side and disproven by the other. They are, in most competitions, the less common form of the two types of debating topics.
Recognising empirical topicsEdit
Empirical topics are normally debates that have some form of the verb 'to be' in them; for example, the topic, 'That Wikileaks is good for democracy' can be easily recognised as empirical because it uses a form of the verb 'to be'. This is the most simply and most common way of recognising empirical topics.
However, not all empirical debates require a form of 'to be'. In some topics, such as 'That we have a responsibility to the Third World,' the empirical nature of this topic can't be recognised using the earlier method; although it involves no form of 'to be', the topic is a general statement that requires specific action. The best method of recognising these types of empirical topics is simply to consider what each side must prove and whether any specific action is required.
Debating empirical topicsEdit
Making empirical topics normativeEdit
Some empirical topics can easily and simply be made into normative debates by extrapolating an action from the general statement. For example, while the topic 'That schools are responsible for cyberbullying' is, strictly, empirical, in can easily be made into a much clearer normative form about whether schools should have this role. Where possible, teams should attempt to make empirical topics normative, as it will give their case much greater clarity.
Winning empirical debatesEdit
When an empirical debate is put forward, to provide a convincing case, each side should attempt to create a yardstick-this means that they set out three of four categories or statements that they need to prove to be true to win the debate. This should happen as part of the first affirmative speaker's definition, and each argument needs to be linked back to this yardstick. Further, these different categories or statements will form the basis of the 3rd speakers' speeches on both sides.