Extension Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

What is an extension?

Anything and everything under the sun that hasn’t been mentioned in the Opening team’s speeches on your bench should be considered a valid extension. As quoted directly from the WUDC manual:

"The Government Member and Opposition Member are each responsible ‘extending’ the debate. An extension is defined as anything that hasn't yet been said by that side of the debate. An extension can take a number of forms including:

1) new arguments which have not yet been made in the debate, whether additive to their own case or responsive to material raised by the other side,

2) new examples,

3) new analysis or explanation of existing arguments,

4) new applications of existing argumentation (e.g. if the Member points out that one of their opening half’s arguments is able to defeat a new argument from the other side)."
(Simplified version: Anything new. Anything.)

The strength of your extension is the primary determinant of the weight of a closing team’s contribution to the debate.
(Simplified version: Your extension is your life, you will die without an extension.)

Since whips are not allowed to bring new matter into the debate (we will explore this in our article about whipping next week), it is of utmost importance that the Member’s speech must make establishing a proper extension as their top priority.
(Simplified version: There is nothing more important than staying alive, have an extension.)

The easiest way to eat doughnuts (come 4th) in a closing position is to have no significant extension and hence contribution to the debate.
(Simplified version: Don’t die, have an extension.)


  1. Don't discuss anything the opening team on your bench has mentioned unless you are attempting to highlight their inadequacies and add-on to what has already been said.

  2. Don't use material from the opening team on your bench to engage in rebuttal. They will get credit for that material, you will not. (Unless you can find a way to apply that existing material to defeat a new argument that hasn't yet been taken down)

  3. Don't paraphrase or worse still, repeat what the opening team on your bench has argued.

(Simplified version: The arguments of the Opening team are owned by them and they will receive all the credit for those arguments. You can only receive credit in the debate through your extension. Have a life, have an extension)

Are rebuttals extensions?
Yes they are, as long as the ideas within those rebuttals are new to the debate, your adjudicator should credit it as a legitimate extension. Unfortunately, in practice, there are many adjudicators out there who will only credit your explicitly stated substantive as an extension.

Partly as a result of this, we would strongly urge you to start delivering your extension material in your member’s speech sooner rather than later. How much time you would need to dedicate to delivering a new substantive will obviously depend on your own ability as well as the specific debate you are in. However, as a rule of thumb, I have a mantra that I make my students recite whenever they leave too little time for their extensions and, inevitably, lose.

“If I start on my extensions after the 4:30 mark, I will lose.”
“If I start on my extensions after the 4:30 mark, I will lose.”
“If I start on my extensions after the 4:30 mark, I will lose.”

As we have previously mentioned, nothing that we suggest in these articles should be  taken as the divine truth. You can still come first place from a closing position even if you do not explicitly flag-out an extension at any point in your speech and just spend 7 minutes on rebuttals alone. However, in most circumstances, and with many adjudicators, not having an explicitly stated extension and spending insufficient time to analyze it in great detail will cause you to lose points in the debate.

Here are a few tips you may find surprising but we would urge you to try out in your Member Speech.

1. Have zero rebuttals and spend all your available time on developing and delivering your extension material.

Ok, I am not suggesting an ideal member speech should not include rebuttals. Trust me though, this is less crazy than it sounds. In most circumstances, having no rebuttals would be far less damaging to your team rankings and speaker scores than having no new substantive / extension. In some circumstances, it would actually be correct to spend very little time on responses especially for Member of Government, because you may be trying to start a fresh discussion with fresh perspectives in Closing Government (CG).

This makes sense for two reasons:  

a) By running new and fresh extensions which are significantly different from Opening Government (OG), you may be naturally able to sidestep Opening Opposition's (OO) attacks anyway.

b) Since you cannot claim any credit from OG’s argumentation, there is no need to spend any time defending them, especially if you are running a separate and distinct argument.

2) Deliver your new substantive / extension before your rebuttals.

Everyone knows that it is the norm to start your speech with rebuttals rather than substantives, but few people actually can come up with a good list of reasons why rebuttals should come before substantives.

To prove my point, take up to a minute to think about why it would be better to deliver your rebuttals before your extension.






















Could you come up with any? If you can’t, why do you blindly choose to deliver your rebuttals before your substantives? Why haven’t you experimented with doing it the other way around?

Cue another mantra I sometimes force my students to recite.

“Everything I know about debating is wrong, including what my coach is about to tell me.”
“Everything I know about debating is wrong, including what my coach is about to tell me.”
“Everything I know about debating is wrong, including what my coach is about to tell me.”

The point i’m trying to make here is that too many debaters simply lapse into certain debate habits without actually thinking critically about why they are doing what they do. This happens a lot especially with school level debaters who do not receive much coaching (or worse still, are badly coached). They learn how to debate via mimicry, copying what others do without considering the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Before long, the entire debate society becomes a group of debating robots.

So, why should you experiment with delivering your extensions before your rebuttals?

  1. As mentioned earlier, it is far less damaging to miss out on rebuttals than to not deliver an explicitly stated extension. By starting your Member speech with your extension, you guarantee that you allocate enough time to explain and develop your extension as much as you possibly can.

  2. Sometimes, your extension will serve as a natural response to the arguments of your opposing bench. By delivering your extension first, you will have more material to work with to attack your opposing bench’s arguments / case.

  3. Many debaters end up repeating the same ideas in their rebuttals and their extensions, running out of time as a result. If you deliver your extension first, it may be easier to avoid repetition.

As always, you shouldn’t simply resort to this as a default. Try out different ways of structuring your member speeches and figure out which works better in different situations.

3) Think of your Member Speech as a 7 minute speech about your extension, while making an active effort to integrate all your responses within the extension.

For example, in a debate about legalizing assisted suicides,  Member of Opposition might say:

"Panel, in my extension, I will explain to you why states should outlaw assisted suicide to protect an individual’s future self and his or her ability to construct meaning at a later point in time. The meaning and value of life is not and should not be contingent on an individual’s happiness at any particular point in time. After all, life is never smooth-sailing and will inevitably have its ups and downs. What makes life meaningful and valuable is the agency it accords to people which enables them to construct meaning in their existence."

This is a direct response to Government’s arguments about the miserable state of existence for those who would seek their own end, their current state of misery in the overwhelming majority of cases will not be permanent, and it is the role of the state to preserve that life and aid people in the search and construction of new meaning in their existence.

Debating can be seen as a game where each team manage an equal amount of resources (7 minute of time for a speech). The team that manages their resources the most efficiently will have a significant advantage in achieving victory over the other 3 teams. By using your extension as a response to arguments from the opposing bench, you are able to be more efficient in your time-management, saving you additional time to deliver more material and hence claim more contribution within the debate.

Integrating your responses is an especially useful tactic in dealing with what we call the Member of Opposition problem.
(Urban Debate Dictionary: The MO problem, a dicey situation where the MO has to engage with 3 speakers worth of material from PM, DPM and MG, and still have enough time to deliver a well-substantiated extension.)

4) Before you deliver any rebuttal, ask yourself a simple question: Does the material I am responding to threaten my extension?

Your extension can be threatened by the opposing benches matter in two ways.
a) Your opponent’s matter can directly threaten your extension by contradicting it or diluting its persuasiveness.
b) Your opponent’s matter can indirectly threaten your extension as a rival which contributes more to the debate.

In these two situations, responses to your opponent’s matter are necessary to increase the persuasiveness of your extension and to showcase how your extension provides greater contribution to the debate as compared to rival arguments.

On the other hand, opposing material which doesn’t threaten your extension doesn't necessitate a response. As mentioned earlier, closing teams are evaluated based on their contribution to the debate based on the weight of their extensions. Opposing material which threatens your extension is likely to affect your ranking if not responded to, those which do not threaten your extension is likely to be inconsequential to your ranking and you should not waste valuable resources (time in your speech) on it.

Horizontal Extensions vs Vertical Extensions

Horizontal Extensions are new arguments which do not rely on the initial premises set up by your opening team. By providing additional context or characterization, reframing the problem within the debate, or identifying new stakeholders within the debate, your extension material will probably stand independently of what has already been explored by your opening team.

Vertical Extensions on the other hand, do borrow initial premises set up by your opening team in order to:

1) offer a variation or expansion of what has already been said in an attempt to reinforce an existing argument
2) draw fresh conclusions from existing argumentation

Since the rules of BP debating state that all new material should be considered a legitimate extension, it is important to note that, contrary to popular belief, horizontal extensions are not inherently superior to vertical extensions. That being said, I know of at least 3 different types of bad judges who do not credit Vertical Extensions appropriately.

3 types of terrible judges:

1. Those who only credit Horizontal Extensions and ignore Vertical Extensions.

These are the judges who mistakenly believe that extensions must be completely new and novel in order to be legitimate. As mentioned earlier, according to the rules of the WUDC judging manual, anything and everything that hasn’t already been argued constitutes a legitimate extension.

Just because an argument has been made doesn’t mean it was properly executed/ can’t be argued better. Otherwise it would be in the the best interests of the Opening team to briefly mention 10 different arguments in order to deny their Closing team any space to find new argumentation.

2. Those who discredit the extension of the closing team because the extension proves the same conclusion as the opening team.

As much as some may pretend otherwise, in most debate motions there are a fairly limited set of ideas and issues. It is unreasonable to expect closing teams to derive a new set of conclusions. It is perfectly legitimate for the closing team to attempt to prove the exact same set of conclusions as the opening team based on their new matter, even if that conclusion has been resoundingly proven by the opening team. BP judging has to be comparative across all four teams. The question to ask is this: which arguments were more effective in proving the same end conclusion?

3. Those who evaluate the Vertical Extension of closing teams by rejecting premises borrowed from the opening team’s argument

By this metric, it would be close to impossible to run any vertical extensions successfully. The opening team does not OWN the exclusive right to forward a line of argumentation simply because they were the first to do so. Many Opening teams may establish crucial initial premises of an important argument but may nevertheless fail to complete the argument, allowing Closing teams to hijack the argument.

For example, in the motion, THW make developmental aid conditional on women’s rights.

An OG team may argue that this policy would be effective in achieving greater respect for the rights of women by providing regimes a financial incentive to comply with the associated demands. Since developmental aid is crucial for the functioning of the government and its ability to satiate voter’s demands, they are likely to yield to pressure.

A CG team may provide vertical extensions by filling in the blanks, providing analysis as to
a) How states utilize developmental aid
b) How states are impaired when developmental aid is withheld
c) How ordinary citizens as voters are likely to be affected by the dearth of developmental aid
d) Why voters are likely to apply pressure to their governments through the ballot box?
e) Why governments often resist calls for better treatment of women in the status quo and how this policy will shift their decision making calculus.

Just because an Opening team attempted to tackle an argument and provides some foundational premises doesn’t mean that they successfully prove the argument.

The sad truth is, vertical extensions are far more difficult to evaluate objectively, and even the best judges struggle to agree on a unifying standard to apply. It can be legitimate strategy for closing teams to prefer Horizontal Extensions, especially in the early prelim rounds when your adjudicator may not be the most experienced. In a break round however, we would expect most judges to be experienced and skilled enough to adjudicate vertical extensions appropriately. Although if you do know of certain judges or even entire circuits that for some inexplicable reason never credit Vertical Extensions, then react appropriately. Shame them during the debate and make them give you credit. Ok I'm kidding, just run Horizontal Extensions too.

That said, here’s what you can do to avoid the pitfalls of vertical extensions and to establish your vertical extension as being superior to the Opening team’s material.

"My opening team said xyz, here’s why it was insufficient and inadequate in proving a certain conclusion, hence allowing our opposing bench to cast doubt by running certain rebuttals. This is the exact extent of the argument from the opening team, I will now highlight where their argument ends and where my extension begins.

My extension is significant because it provides crucial links to proving a certain conclusion or because it provides crucial responses to the opposing bench, or it insulates the argument from most attacks, or it provides greater clarity as to how certain outcomes are achieved.

In comparison, my vertical extension provides greater contribution to the debate than the initial argument forwarded by the opening team."

Teams often feel a need to display bench solidarity and avoid criticisms of their opening team. That is insane, they are your competitors. The two teams on the same bench are like two political parties which are coalition partners in a government. At the end of an election cycle, each party relies on voters (in the case of a BP debate, the adjudicator to give them the win) to return them into power, as a result they would take every opportunity to outshine each other, this includes blowing your own trumpet while stressing the inadequacies of your coalition partner. While you should stop short of rebutting your opening outright, you should most definitely prove why your extension was more important in the context of the debate.

So remember kids, always have an extension, don't be rigid in the ways you run your extension, and always explain to the dumb judge why your extension matters.

Taking POIs

Finishing 1st Is Overrated