How to use debatabase

The purpose of this guide is to tell you about how you can use the debatabase and more importantly how you can contribute to it. It will also explain the process that goes into updating the debates before the changes you suggest are added to the main debate.

Why a debatabase debate is useful

The elements of a debatabase debate

How you can contribute to a debatabase debate

The process for updating debatabase debates

Do you want to do more?


Debatabase debates are useful both for debaters and non-debaters alike. For debaters they provide an introduction to a debate topic giving ideas for possible argument to be used in a debate as well as evidence that can be used and ideas for where a user can go to find more information. For a non-debater the debatabase entries provide both sides of a debate in one place. Where normally you might have to read articles in say both the Telegraph (UK right wing news paper) and Guardian (UK left wing newspaper) to get arguments on both sides our debates allow you to read both sets of arguments and compare them so allowing you to decide for yourself which side’s arguments have more merit.


Debatabase debates have a pretty simple structure:

Motion: first there is a motion which takes the form of ‘This House would/believes <statement>’. This is what the debate is about. “This House” is everyone present. “would” means that the statement is a policy that the proposition is trying to implement and “believes” means the debate will be analysis, usually about values.

Introduction: This does two things; 1st it should define any ambiguous terms in the motion and second it provides the context of the debate. This means it will provide the setting – in debatabase debates the setting may be explained for more than one country as we do not know where you are reading the debate from.

Points for: There are up to six arguments arguing that the motion should be accepted. Most points will have four elements:

  • The assertion the point is arguing.
  • An explanation of that assertion to tell you why the assertion is correct.
  • Evidence showing the assertion is correct in the real world.
  • References so that you can check the evidence is correct.

Points against: similarly there are up to six arguments arguing that the motion should be rejected.

Counterpoints: Counterpoints are not advancing the other side’s argument, rather they are directly attacking the point – This may mean the counterpoint provides alternative evidence, attacks the logic of the point, or undermines the credibility of the point.

Bibliography: This includes all the references used in the debate.

Further reading: Where you can go to read more about the topic of the debate. Where there is one this has been suggested by the curator.


Voting on debatabase

The simplest form of interaction you can have with the debate is to give your opinion of the motion. The first vote should be your opinion before you read the debate and the second after you have read the debate. Please vote on both. The difference between the two will therefore show if you have been persuaded at all by either side’s arguments.

Your vote will show up in two places. First it will show in the pie charts at the bottom of the debate below the second vote. Second there is a list of the stances you have taken on debatabase debates in your profile page under ‘stances’.

Sharing debatabase debates

We encourage you to like, tweet and share the debate with your friends.

discuss this debate

This creates a forum post in the ‘debatabase discussions’ that links back to the debate. You can then add your comments and start a discussion on the debate. This should be used whenever you are not sure of the exact wording you want to suggest to change a point so cant suggest an improvement. However it should also be used to criticise the existing debates, point out mistakes, or suggest new points relevant to the debate. Once suggestions have been discussed editors will pass these suggestions on to curators or pick out any useful parts of the discussion.

However if you are wanting simply to discuss something that is in the same topic area as the debate rather than the debate itself we suggest you start a new topic elsewhere in the forum.

improve this debate

Using the ‘improve this’ option is the way to add to a debatabase debate that will most likely result in what you write being added to the debate. There are improve this buttons on each point and counter point. When you click on ‘improve this’ you are given the text of the point as it is now so that you can make the changes you wish to make to that point while keeping as much of the original as you wish intact.

You also need to add whether you are correcting what is already there, adding new content, or adding a new reference. When you click save the improvement to the debate will be sent to the editors and curator of the debate for their consideration on whether to include your change (see below).


Do not expect your suggested improvements to show up on the debatabase debate immediately. The suggestion gets checked several times before the debate itself is updated and this may take several weeks.

As a first stage all the improvements you suggest for debatabase are checked by editors or by IDEA administrators. If a debate has an editor assigned to it their name will show on the sidebar of the debate. Editors have an interest and quite a lot of knowledge about the debate they are editing, in some cases they may also be the person who wrote the original debate. An editor will check each improvement and decide whether the suggested improvement is appropriate, has been put in the right place, has correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, and of course decide if it is actually an improvement over what the debate already has.

Once an editor has accepted an improvement the improvement is added to a list for the curator to check when s/he has time. The curator is mostly checking that the facts of the improvement are correct but like the editors many make other changes as well. When the curator accepts this improvement it will be added to the debate.

Where there is no editor or curator these roles will be carried out by IDEA staff.

We hope you enjoy contributing to debatabase!


Go back to the Debatabase homepage.

Discuss debatabase debates on the forum.


Are you interested in not just improving or editing a Debatabase debate and want to do more for Debatabase? Do you want to try your hand at writing a Debatabase debate? If so we do take debate submissions.

Please read our guide to writing Debatabase debates which will tell you what you should include and how best to structure your debate and the style guide.

Email any submissions to Alex Helling and please email any questions or if you want advice on writing a debate.