Paper Call for Special Issue in Argumentation and Advocacy: Intercollegiate Policy Debate, A Decade in Review

This special issue is a reflective and retrospective on policy debate 10-years after Emporia State University’s historic and unprecedented triumph of “uniting the crowns,” winning both the National Debate Tournament (NDT) and the Cross Examination Debate Association National Tournament (CEDA) in 2013. With the recent discontinuation of Emporia’s debate program and the third uniting of the NDT and CEDA crowns by Wake Forest University in 2023, this issue is in service to pressing exigencies facing intercollegiate policy debate. This issue will reflect on the current state of intercollegiate policy debate by attending to persistent (or emergent) controversies and/or antagonisms within the activity since Emporia’s win. Scholars of argumentation, instructors, and coaches of intercollegiate debate are invited to provide thoughtful commentary and analysis on arguments that have circulated in debate over this past decade, substantive, formal, or aesthetic features of NDT and CEDA debates, and trends affecting the activity’s broader argument culture. More specifically, we encourage submissions that speak to any one of six subthemes, as described below: Debate about Debate, Equity, Evidence, Judgement, Progression, and Relevance.

Debate about Debate

Intercollegiate debate is an exceptionally self-reflexive activity. As both the 2013 and 2023 final rounds of the National Debate Tournament demonstrate debaters are having “debates about debate” with increasing frequency, grappling with one another over contestable visions of what debate means and how debate is practiced. Submissions that explore the subtheme of Debate about Debate may consider topics such as: consensus and dissensus, rules and norms, form and substance, framework and topicality, stasis and controversy, role and burden, and more.


Since 2013 the number of schools and teams participating in intercollegiate policy debate have significantly declined. This drop in participation has occurred for a variety of reasons including budgetary cuts, asymmetric travel funds, geographic isolation and declining regional competition opportunities, competing alternative debate formats, argument polarization, racist backlash to Black and Brown success, and pandemic realities that have accelerated and exacerbated all of these trends. Policy debate is rife with inequities. Submissions in this subtheme should leverage equity as an apriori concern and unpack the challenges and/or opportunities for a more inclusive community and competitive intercollegiate policy debate field.


One opportunity for dialogue within intercollegiate policy debate surrounds evidence. In contention is not just what kinds of evidence standards or norms debaters, coaches, and judges ought to adopt, but what constitutes quality argumentation itself and what role evidence should play in making or enhancing an argument altogether. From primary and secondary sources to facts, testimony, and judgments there exists a variety of ways students and coaches seek to bolster claims offered in debate rounds. Submissions in this subtheme should focus their inquiry on the role of evidence in intercollegiate policy debates.


Judges, and their Judgements, play an essential role in debates by fulfilling a number of important functions. These include arbitrating the debate’s “winner” and “loser”, providing aesthetic commentary to participants (e.g. “speaker points”), pedagogical instruction, and even ethical intervention. Submissions that explore the subtheme of Judgment may consider topics such as: judge role and bias, judicial activism and constraint, judge paradigms and philosophies of Judgment, judge feedback and reasons for decisions (RFDs), and more.


There is much need for discussion about the manner, and to what extent, debate has evolved over the last decade. While some in the intercollegiate policy debate community have suggested that debate and debate practices have experienced “progress,” dissenting voices have highlighted the importance of deliberating on how debate has changed for the worse (or not at all). Accordingly we invite submissions examining “progress” or lack thereof within intercollegiate policy debate. Submissions may offer a genealogical or historical perspective on an argument or style of argumentation, holistically engage argumentation in intercollegiate policy debate or broadly take up substantive issues shaping the intercollegiate policy debate community. Irrespective of approach, strong submissions will center the intersections of progress and intercollegiate policy debate.


Intercollegiate debate is not a self-contained activity; the activity, and its participants, interface with a variety of civic and private institutions. At the same time, competitors come to intercollegiate debate for a variety of reasons, and universities sanction and fund such programs for equally diverse reasons. Submissions that explore the subtheme of Relevance may consider topics such as: debate’s relationship to the academy and Argument/Communication/Rhetorical Studies, debate’s placement or status in broader argument culture, the impact of debaters and debate practices on public and private life, and more.

Submission Categories

To address these important topics and subthemes, contributors are provided three submission categories: Original Manuscripts, Forum Conversations, and Critical Reflections.

  1. Original Manuscripts: These submissions should be no longer than 9,000 words, inclusive of abstracts and references, and should attend to the special issue theme or subthemes.
  2. Forum Conversations: These submissions should involve direct commentary and frank discussion among contributors over the special issue theme or subthemes. Those wishing to submit to the Forum Conversation category should seek out collaborators and interlocutors in advance and compose collated submissions in direct conversation with each other. Co-authored forums that complement one another or diverge in enlightening ways will be prioritized. Submissions should include 2-4 authors and be no longer than 8,000 words, inclusive of abstracts and references. Exceptional single-author submissions (no longer than 2,000 words, inclusive of abstracts and references) will also be considered in this category provided they can be organized into conversation with other contributors.
  3. Critical Reflections: These submissions should be scholarly editorials or commentary speaking to the special issue theme or subthemes. We encourage introspective, first-person, and experiential pieces no longer than 3,000 words, inclusive of abstracts and references.

Submissions are due by September 5th, 2023.

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