Legitimacy of Sources

Establishing the credibility of a source can be challenging, especially during a round. This article provides an overview of the main types of sources seen in rounds, so you can easily identify and utilize this information.

Parliamentary debate formats, including World Schools, Parliamentary, and HSPDP, has many strengths. They are more rhetorically focused and teach better overall persuasion skills as a result. You learn how to argue on your feet. With all of that being said, source quality, particularly in impromptu rounds, is not one of its strengths. In this article, we’ll go over how to appear as if you have the best sources. This tends to be a combination of actually good evidence and a whole lot of packaging. Though you should never lie or even exaggerate beyond reason, in rounds in which you had 20 minutes to prep, it is very important to know how to make things seem credible.

We will analyze prepared rounds out of the way first, because these are the rounds in which you should actually have decent sources. Think unbiased think tanks, reputable universities, well-known philosophers and high-quality journalism. Parliamentary debate formats don’t tend to become in-depth analyses of sources, so as long as your source sounds credible, it will probably be taken at face value.

The following are some key phrases that indicate a quality source or a source that seems high quality.


This means that the source is a compilation of a set of different studies. For example, a meta-analysis of polling data might include 60 different polls aggregated. Thus, a good meta-analysis is always more reliable than a single study. If you have contradictory facts, point out if yours is a meta-analysis and why it matters.


This means the findings of the paper have been verified by other scientists/researchers. Thus, it is far more likely to be accurate.

University Studies

A bias towards big name universities and Ivy League schools when establishing credibility in debate is 100% rooted in snobbery. Is it fair that a medical source from Yale might be taken more seriously than University of California at San Francisco, even if the latter has a better medical school? No. But unless a judge knows a lot about a certain field, they tend to assume that more prestigious schools are better.

What are you supposed to do in an impromptu round? Note that first and foremost, everyone is in the same position. Don’t stress if your case doesn’t have as much evidence as one you had hours to prep. There are ways to include credibility in your case without as many sources. Connecting your case to a philosophical concept, giving historical examples or referencing a modern country’s similar practice are all sources that do not require research. Incorporating these sources into your case gives it more weight but will not require internet preparation.

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