Big Questions Debate

Big Questions Logo Big Questions is a debate format and fund raiser supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and administered by the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA). High school and middle level students will grapple with complex worldview questions as they debate both sides of the 2017-2018 topic:

Resolved: Humans are fundamentally different from other animals.

Schools who hold Big Questions debates are eligible to receive thousands of dollars per event. These debates can be held at a tournament, with your team, or in your classroom. Read eligibility guidelines below. Note that each student participating must participate in three debates (rounds). We also recommend reading the buttons to the right.

  • Rounds must follow the Big Questions format described in the Big Questions Format Manual.
  • Minimum student participants: 15
    • A partnership counts as two students
    • Only students who compete are counted as participants, not audience members
  • Minimum number of rounds: 3
  • There must be a suitable number of different judges relative to the level of participation.
  • Elimination rounds are encouraged, but not required.
  • Your own school’s students qualify under the grant and may be counted toward your total number of student participants.
  • You can apply to host multiple events. Each event should have a significant amount of new participants.
  • You do not need to be a member of the NSDA to apply. To be eligible, schools must be in the United States.
  • Please apply early, even if your event is months away! Application info can be tentative.
  • 1 or 2 debaters on each side; rounds can be 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, or 1 vs. 2
  • Time of Speeches (similar to Public Forum)
    Affirmative Constructive – 5 minutes
    Negative Constructive – 5 minutes
    Question Segment – 3 minutes (affirmative asks first question; free-flowing afterwards)
    Affirmative Rebuttal – 4 minutes
    Negative Rebuttal – 4 minutes
    Question Segment – 3 minutes (same format as above)
    Affirmative Consolidation – 3 minutes
    Negative Consolidation – 3 minutes
    Affirmative Rationale – 3 minutes
    Negative Rationale – 3 minutes
    Prep Time – 3 minutes / side
  • See the manual for more details.
  • You will receive $300 upfront after your application has been accepted. The second portion of the award will be received after reporting documents have been turned in.
  • The amount of the award will depend on the number of students that compete. A minimum of 15 students must attend. 15 attendees will earn you $500. Any additional participants over the initial 15 earns you an additional $25. There is a $10,000 award cap per school or organization.
  • A $100 bonus will be awarded to an event including 3 or more schools.
  • A $100 bonus will be awarded to an event that is added to a school’s regular season tournament.
  • The NSDA reserves the right to bill back tournaments for the $300 provided upfront if the minimum number of students or rounds is not met.