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Guide to Debate

APDA: A Brief Overview

The American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) includes over 50 member schools and hundreds of debaters. Founded in 1981, APDA united multiple debate organizations, establishing an organized, national league for debate. APDA hosted its first National Championship in 1982, and the league has grown in size each successive year. On February 11, 2000, APDA reached an important milestone, when it became APDA Incorporated, a tax-exempt non-profit organization.

APDA promotes a healthy discourse on contentious issues and an excellent network of social interaction. APDA has a rich alumni system, a testament both to the value of debate and the importance of the friendships made during ones debate career.

The weekly tournaments, which range in size from fewer than 25 teams to over 160 teams, lie at the heart of APDA. These two-day tournaments include debaters from America, Canada, and several other countries. The host school houses tournament participants, provides a banquet, and sponsors a party on Friday evening. Over thirty-five tournaments occupy the APDA schedule from September to April. Many weekends include multiple tournaments to accommodate the geographic spread of APDA member schools.

In addition to the regular tournament schedule, APDA hosts an annual September Novice Tournament, designed to introduce new debaters to APDA through competition, instructive seminars, and demonstration rounds. APDA concludes its season with the National Debate Championships (qualification standards and details will be discussed later). In addition, APDA schools participate in the North American Debate Championships (in conjunction with the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate) and the World Debating Championships.

APDA Board and Meetings

Every April, APDA holds elections for its Executive Board, which consists of a President, Vice-President of Operations, Vice-President of Finance, and three Members-at Large. In addition, APDA elects two outside trustees, individuals who are no longer debating, but still have an active interest in providing advice and expertise to APDA Inc. The elections for the six executive board positions take place at the last large tournament of the year, while the trustee positions are filled at the National Debate Championships.

Elections allocate one vote to each member school. Each school ranks the candidates for a particular position and the votes are tallied according to a system called preferential voting. Elections are held first for President, then VP Ops, then VP Finance, and finally for the three Member positions. Each election affords an opportunity for speeches and a question and answer period. Please refer to the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws for a detailed description of the election procedures and the duties of each office.

The APDA Board holds at least three meetings per semester. Meetings deal with issues related to the organization of the league, for example, scheduling, bidding to host special tournaments, amending the articles, and electing new officers. APDA does not participate in funding or organizing the weekly tournaments except to provide a schedule. The fall schedule is determined at the previous years Nationals, while the Spring Schedule is determined at a Fall Tournament APDA meeting. Like elections, APDA meeting votes give each school equal representation. Meetings loosely follow Roberts Rules of Order, and exact procedures can be found in the Articles of Incorporation and its By-Laws.


Each year, debaters on APDA compete for three year end awards, Team of the Year (TOTY), Speaker of the Year (SOTY), and Novice of the Year (NOTY). The three awards are cumulative, and reflect performance and accomplishment at sanctioned tournaments. A sanctioned tournament is one in which at least 5 APDA schools are represented, with 16 or more total teams (excluding Nationals, Northams, and Worlds). The awards are presented at the National Championship in April. The points for the awards are garnered and tabulated based on the following systems:

TOTY reflects the performance of a team of debaters from one school (hybrid teams are ineligible). At a given tournament, the top four teams receive TOTY points. The top team receives 10 points, plus 2 points for every 16 teams competing for a maximum of 20 points. The second place team receives 6 points, plus 2 points for every 16 teams competing for a maximum of 16 points. The third and fourth place teams receive 2 points each plus an addition 1 point per 16 teams attending with a maximum of 7 points. The end of the year award counts a teams best five finishes.

SOTY reflects the performance of an individual debater. At a given tournament, the top four speakers receive SOTY points. The top speaker receives 10 points, plus 2 points for every 16 teams competing for a maximum of 20 points. The second place speaker receives 7.5 points plus 2 points for every 16 teams competing for a maximum of 17.5 points. The third place speaker receives 5 points plus an additional 2 point per 16 teams attending with a maximum of 15 points. The fourth place speaker receives 2.5 points plus 2 points per 16 competing teams with a maximum of 12.5 points. The end of the year award counts a debaters best six finishes.

NOTY reflects the circuits top novice speaker. NOTY points are awarded to the top four novices at a given tournament. The top novice receives 10 points, the second novice 7.5 points, the third novice 5 points, and the fourth novice 2.5 points. In addition, each of the top four novices receives 2 points for every 10 novices competing at a tournament, for a maximum of 10 additional points. The end of the year award counts a debaters best six finishes.

Nationals, Northams, and Worlds

In addition to the regular season tournaments, APDA participates in or sponsors three major tournaments. APDA and CUSID, the Canadian debate organization, co-sponsor The North American Championships (NorthAms). This three-day tournament takes place in the second semester, and alternates each year between hosts in the United States and Canada. Northams is an extremely prestigious tournament, and usually attracts many teams from both countries. The Worlds Championship is a British style title tournament, which takes place in a different country each year. Numerous American teams compete in this tournament, flying to such sites as Australia, South Africa, and the Phillipines.

The National Championships complete APDAs schedule. A different team each year hosts the tournament, which invites debaters who have qualified by reaching at least one final round at an APDA tournament or participating in elimination rounds at Northams or Worlds. Each member school can send one free seed team to compete at Nationals in addition to debaters who have qualified. Nationals consists of six preliminary rounds plus break rounds. There is also a formal banquet and party, during which graduating seniors give farewell speeches.