Debate Evidence:  Guide to Making Evidence Cards


Evidence in debate comes from passages taken directly from articles, reports, books, speeches, and transcripts.  Sometimes evidence is called “cards” because we often put one piece of evidence on a 4x6 index card.


There are 3 parts to an evidence card:


1)      The Tag/Claim—a brief statement summarizing the point of the evidence.  The tag must be a complete idea (subject and verb).  You write the tag after reading the evidence.  (see “Evidence Citations” below).


2)      The source citation (see “Tags” below)


3)      The exact passage as copied from the article (cut and paste) and placed in a document to be copied and shared. (see “Handing in Your Evidence” below)





People of Western Sudan are Victims of Atrocities


Simon Robinson, NQG, Time, October 4, 2004, p.44


Aid workers and human-rights researchers say the violence that has convulsed western Sudan since February 2003, and the ensuing hunger and disease, has killed up to 50,000 people and forced some 1.4 million from their homes. Human-rights groups estimate that thousands more are displaced every week. Hundreds of women have been raped, including 41 in a single episode of gang rape last February in the town of Tawila.


Obtaining Evidence

As you read articles about the debate topic, you should note passages that will make good evidence quotes. 


What Makes A Passage Good Evidence?

Although it is difficult to say exactly what will be useful in a debate, good evidence fits the following criteria:

1.     The excerpt says something that may be useful in a debate.  That is, it supports an argument that a debater is likely to make.

2.     The excerpt is authoritative.  It is from an expert, cites a credible study, or gives strong reasoning to support the argument.  It should also be free from excessive bias.

3.     The excerpt is concise.  Because the evidence is read verbatim during the debate, an ideal passage communicates the idea with a minimum of words-- usually 3-7 sentences.

4.     The excerpt is taken in the context of the article.  An excerpt should never alter the meaning the author intends.  Any qualifiers should be included.  Additionally, statements the author goes on to disagree with should not be represented as the author’s view.  Never take only partial sentences.



Evidence Citations


A complete source citation consists of:


§         Author (first and last name)

§         Author's qualifications

§         Publication

§         Full Date of Publication

§         [page # or electronic source—web site or database]


If this information is not available, use the following as substitutes

§         NAG (no author given)

§         NQG (no qualifications given)

§         If there is no publication title, use the title of the article or report

§         NDG (no date given).  If no publication date is given, you should record the date you downloaded the information, but be sure to state this as the date downloaded.


Please note:

§         Provide this information in this order.  All of our citations should be uniform.

§         You do NOT need to note the title of the article if you have provided the publication.

§         Please note when information is not available.  When no notation is provided, we don't know if you forgot to include information or if it wasn't there.

§         It is unethical to withhold relevant information if it is available. 

§         Qualifications generally refer to a person's profession--we don’t need a personal history.


Sample Citations:


Correct:            Amy Rollerford, staff writer, Newsweek, May 12, 1999 [p.12]


Incorrect:          Amy Rollerford, "Seven Reasons To Abolish The Death Penalty,"  Newsweek, May 12, 1999



Correct:            Jonathan Chung, Prof. Of International Relations at Harvard, "An Analysis of US Cuban Policy,"  NDG, [, downloaded 10-1-01]


Incorrect:          Chung, Jonathan,, 10-1-01



Correct:            Associated Press (NAG), July 4, 1998 [Proquest]


Incorrect:          AP, 7-4-98



A tag is like a headline for the excerpt that you write.  It should accurately summarize the main idea of the passage using powerful language and a minimum of words (ideally seven or less).  The tag will help you keep track of evidence and will help your opponent and judge flow (note) your arguments. 


What makes a good tag (headline) for a piece of evidence?

§         The tag summarizes the main idea of the excerpt accurately

§         The tag is a complete idea (subject & verb)

§         The tag uses powerful and descriptive language

§         The tag is usually seven words or less


Handing in Your Evidence

§         Evidence should be handed in on   x 11 sheets of white paper.

§          You should place as many evidence cards on a sheet as possible (given these guidelines), but never divide one card onto multiple sheets.  If a cards does not fit on the page in its entirety, move it to the next page.

§         Evidence will not be accepted without complete citations and tags.

§         Make sure your hand in evidence with 1.5 inch side margins

§         Please label evidence as “AFF” or “NEG  If possible, organize your evidence into aff and neg sheets before handing it in.

§         Please put your initials on each page of evidence you turn in.

§         For long passages, it may be useful to underline the key concepts.  Leave the entire passage on the page, but underline the lines that you think should be read in the debate.  Of course, underlining should never alter the meaning of the longer passage—it is just used to save time during the debate.

§         You may hand in paper copies to Mr. Hering or e-mail the word document to Mr. Hering (preferred).