Before beginning an online debate, you should understand the different types of debate. Definitions and examples of each type of debate are listed below.


The traditional form of debate practiced by academic debate teams. In an online environment, formal debate can take place by dividing the class into teams and assigning each team a specific argument.
Informal Exploratory Debate
A heightened form of discussion where students discover and investigate concepts and conflicts within a topic or issue.
Devil's Advocate
A discussion in which one or more students are assigned the task of respectfully disagreeing with others’ stated points of view.

We find the following things to be helpful before beginning a debate activity:

  • Assign relevant readings: i.e. books, articles, websites or other texts.

  • Identify additional resources and encourage students to submit resources.

  • Develop and provide guidelines for debate topics
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  • Select debate format
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  • Provide the 9 Principles of Good Debating to your students.

  • Develop and provide timelines for activity.

  • Develop an evaluation method and share guidelines with students.

Move onward to Facilitating Debate!

Modified November 2002
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