top of page

Parliamentary Debate: The Complete Guide

This article serves as an introduction to the Parliamentary format and will help you decide if it is the right fit for you.

Parliamentary debate is ultimately a combination of various other formats. It uses the rhetorical analysis from World Schools Debate while simultaneously adopting an emphasis on facts and statistics seen in Policy and Lincoln Douglas debate. If you value a combination of these formats, Parliamentary is perfect for you.

In each round, you will receive a motion and a side you are required to argue. You will be on either the affirmative side, also known as the proposition or government side, or the negation side, also known as the opposition side. The affirmative team agrees with the given motion, while the negation side disagrees with the affirmative interpretation of the topic. Each team has two speakers, one of which will give the second speech, and the other who will give both the first and third speeches.


The timing and order of the speeches are given below (note that some tournaments may differ):

1st Affirmative - 7 minutes.

1st Negation - 8 minutes.

2nd Affirmative - 8 minutes.

2nd Negation - 8 minutes.

3rd Negation - 4 minutes.

3rd Affirmative - 5 minutes.


The first speakers lay out the respective case presented by their side. The first negation has an extra minute than the first affirmative speaker so that the negation has additional time to refute the affirmative case. Both of the second speakers focus primarily on refuting the other team’s framing and argumentative case. Finally, the third speakers summarize the round by analyzing the major “voter issues,” or clash points, and describing how their team wins each of the clashes. There is typically a 15 second time interval between speeches. During that time, the relative speaker will present an off-time roadmap, where they give an outline of their speech for the round. After the speaker finishes presenting their roadmap, which is not factored into their given time, they will begin the speech.


Throughout the course of a speech, there are three ways in which the current speaker can be interrupted by the opposing side. First, a point of information, or POI, is a question posed by the opposing team aimed to confuse or force a concession from the current speaker. These questions last for about 15 seconds and are given during the constructive speeches aside from the first or last minutes. Second, a point of order is a notice by the opposing team that the current speaker has violated the rules of Parliamentary debate. Finally, a point of clarification, which is asked of the first speaker, can clarify any aspect of the plaintext or case presented during the speech.

Round Preparation

One aspect of Parliamentary debate that is unique to the format is that every round is prepared impromptu. This means that you will receive a motion 15-20 minutes before the start time of the round. During this time, you will either have the internet, a dictionary, or no resources available to write your case - the limitations depend on the individual tournament. In light of this impromptu aspect of the format, having a solid understanding of current events is crucial. While this process might seem daunting at first, practice with a few impromptu topics will ensure that the preparation of a case within the time limit is quite simple.

For more information on the content discussed in this article, please visit our Parliamentary Resource page.

bottom of page