Who Participates In A Debate?

The people who participate in a debate are two debaters in charge of defending opposing positions on an issue, a moderator and a secretary. 
The two debaters can be individuals or teams. Both the moderator and the secretary must be impartial throughout the debate. Occasionally there is also the figure of the adjudicator.

A debate is a form of public speaking. It is a formal and direct oral contest where two or more people must defend a position with arguments within a set time. It can comprise individual participants or teams (QatarDebate, 2017).

Who Participates in a Debate

The Oxford dictionary defines the word debate as a formal discussion on a specific topic that takes place during a public meeting or assembly and where opposing arguments are supported by the debaters. A debate usually concludes with a vote.

A typical debate between students includes two teams who are presented with a proposition about which they must debate. Each team has a set period of time to prepare its arguments and later present and defend them (Davis, Zorwick, Roland, & Wade, 2016).

The subject of a debate is unrestricted. However, most debates are about controversial issues that are attractive to the audience. In some debates, the audience is also invited to participate and ask questions of the debaters.

What kinds of people participate in a debate?


Simply put, the debaters are the two opposing parties who are given a proposition to debate. There is a part that argues for and supports the proposition and there is another part that argues against and attacks the proposition.

Both the affirmative or favorable part, as well as the negative or against part, must present their arguments within a limited time frame (Byers, 2016).

Another way of calling the debaters is as proposition (those who are in favor) and opposition (those who are against). The proposition will always accept what is initially suggested, while the opposition will oppose the proposed and refute it, denying its validity.


One of the participants in the discussion is called the moderator. This individual is in charge of introducing the debaters to each other and to the audience.

In the same way, it is responsible for timing the time when one of the parties is presenting their arguments (LaMay, 2016).

The moderator should make sure that the clock stops when it has to. In this way, the debaters will be able to support their arguments within the same time frame.

When one of the debaters spends more than 30 seconds of the time assigned to him to present his position, the moderator must emit a constant alarm sound that indicates that his turn has ended. The debater must immediately interrupt and end his speech.


The secretary is the one who takes note of everything that happens in a debate. This individual must fill out the forms for both teams, writing down all kinds of relevant information and the times it takes to present their arguments.

The secretary keeps a record of the times in a table that must be delivered to the adjudicator at the end of the interventions by the debaters. This is the subject in charge of collecting any type of information necessary for the adjudicator to issue a final verdict.

On some occasions, the job of moderator and secretary is carried out by a single person. You can even modify the structure of the participants and include a timekeeper to control the times of the debate. In this case, the moderator is the one who must keep a record of all the events that take place during the debate (OSDN, 2014).

Both the moderator and the secretary must act in a professional and impartial manner at all times.


In a debate there cannot be a tie; only one party can win. The adjudicator’s job is to decide who wins the debate. In order to make the correct decision, it is essential that the adjudicator has paid full attention to the debaters.

To make such a decision, the adjudicator must identify the key issues that were addressed during the debate. These issues are those that highlight the position of each of the parties and their response to the arguments given (Mateo, 2008).

In this way, the adjudicator briefly summarizes the positions and arguments of each side and the explanation that each party has given to determine which has the advantage.

It also rates the discursive capacity of the parties, their capacity to convince and deducts points in case mistakes have been made and they have not been remedied during the speech.

Procedure of a debate

The basic style of a debate varies widely in terms of format. The time limits, the order of the speeches and the way the arguments are presented are different for each debate.

Additionally, the format for conducting a debate varies from one institution or organization to another. The rules can also vary, especially when it comes to a competition or contest.

Despite the possible differences, all discussions will have common elements. Generally its participants are closely related to social, religious, educational and ecological contexts. The participants will always be counterparts distributed in teams arranged with an equal number of debaters.

The order given to carry out a debate is usually the same: first the part in favor of the proposition speaks and then the opposition speaks. This order is repeated several times so that the participants can fully defend their position.

Each debater has a set time frame to present their arguments. The moderator must notify you when there is a minute left for your time to expire. These times are established by the organizer of the debate and are based on the experience and level of knowledge of the parties that discuss.

Throughout the debate, a secretary participates, who is in charge of taking note of the important points of the debate, exercising the role of support for the moderator.

Occasionally, a debate features an adjudicator, who must deliberate at the end of the debate to determine who is the winner. The adjudicator’s decision is final and unchangeable (Freeley & Steinberg, 2014).


  1. Byers, D. (October 7, 2016). CNN Media . Retrieved from How the town hall presidential debate works: money.cnn.com.
  2. Davis, KA, Zorwick, ML, Roland, J., & Wade, MM (2016). Debate as a Platform for Dialogue and Mentoring. In KA Davis, ML Zorwick, J. Roland, & MM Wade, Using Debate in the Classroom: Encouraging Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration (p. 103). New York: Routledge.
  3. Freeley, AJ, & Steinberg, DL (2014). Argumentation and Debate. Boston: Wadsworth.
  4. LaMay, C. (September 23, 2016). S. News . Retrieved from Moderate – Period: usnews.com.
  5. Mateo, AD (August 18, 2008). DEBATE AND ISSUE 101 . Obtained from Role of an Adjudicator: parliamentarydebate.blogspot.com.
  6. (March 8, 2014). OSDN . Obtained from Speech and Debate Timekeeper: osdn.net
  7. (2017). Qatar Debate . Retrieved from What is Debate ?: qatardebate.org.

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