What Do You Have to Hide?

Whether it’s a definition, a statistic, or a quotation, you should explicitly acknowledge every word you read in the round that didn’t come from you. Read your sources. Why?

1. Credibility Boost

Show the judge that your case isn’t just the product of a late night and too much Mountain Dew. Respected experts side with you. You did your research. You know what you’re talking about. “Sources are available on request,” is not enough – first, because it is unimpressive, and second, because you’re essentially saying: “I researched it, my sources are credible, just trust me on this one, okay?”

This defeats the entire purpose of reading evidence, which is that for once, the judge doesn’t have to take your word for it. Reading evidence should help you win! You earned this moment. The whole room should see how much harder you worked to prepare for the round. Don’t waste a great opportunity for the sake of three and a half seconds.

2. Ethical Concerns.

Using someone else’s words without attributing them is not acceptable behavior. You owe it to the author and your audience to hold yourself to a higher standard of integrity. Guess what’s stopping your opponent from writing his own evidence and citing “a wise person”? Reading the source in the speech. It’s a basic ethical standard that every debater should be taught before reading a single card.

Expose your sources to scrutiny. When you read a card without evidence, what you’re telling the room is this: “I have nothing to hide, but you’ll have to spend your precious cross-ex time digging just to find out if that’s true.” That looks as exploitative to the judge as it actually is.

Skipping the reading of sources is on the verge of becoming a trend in some regions. Don’t be a part of it. If you declare your sources scrupulously, you’ll win more rounds, and more importantly, you’ll win them ethically.