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Difference between Argument and Debate

• Categorized under Language | Difference between Argument and Debate

Argument vs Debate

essay vs debate

What is the difference between argument and debate? Both ‘argument’ and ‘debate’ are related terms that can be used by English speakers to describe speaking about a topic and providing support to their opinions on it. For example, “She presented an argument about her opinion on the topic, and that lead to a debate among her coworkers.” The noun ‘argument’ means in technical terms statements, reasoning or evidence presented by someone in written or spoken form that support something, such as a particular opinion. For example, “He provided a valid argument for having a four day work week.” It can also have the meaning of a discussion in which people express their differing opinions with one another on a topic. For example, “The company allowed the argument of the issue of a four day work week to be discussed openly by all at the meeting.” Arguments in this sense are generally persuasive in their nature about a subject, but don’t often end in a decision or a formal ruling. ‘Argument’ also has a less formal and more commonly used meaning of an angry or passionate disagreement about something. For example, “Bob got into a heated argument with his boss about whether or not he should have Fridays off each week.”

A ‘debate’, as a noun, is understood as a formal discussion between people or groups of people that is regulated. Interestingly, debates are considered based on ‘arguments’, which are lines of reasoning, support or evidence about a subject. However, a debate has the feeling of a larger, longer or more formal discussion. A formal debate may even be judged by a person or a panel of people, with one side winning the debate by providing the best lines of reasoning or support for the issue. For example, “She argued that people should have the right to decide about their own medical care at the debate.”

A debate has also come to have a meaning similar to an argument in the negative sense in colloquial English in modern usage. For example you may hear someone say, “The child had an all-out debate with his mother about not eating his peas.” In this less formal usage, the word ‘debate’ is used to show the discussion or disagreement was more involved or longer than a normal argument, or perhaps less emotional or passionately angry. ‘Debate’ carries the idea of more intellectual discussion about disagreement when used this way, as opposed to ‘argument’, which implies a more emotion driven quarrel.

In general, ‘Argument’ means a line of reasoning or evidence in support of an issue or opinion. It has a more informal usage, as well as it can imply a personal dispute that has a more negative meaning to it. ‘Debate’ is more often used as a formal word that implies a larger or public-style discussion with people supporting both sides of the issue and rules or specific guidelines governing the proceedings.

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Cite APA 7 Hutchinson, A. (2016, June 8). Difference between Argument and Debate. Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects. http://www.differencebetween.net/language/difference-between-argument-and-debate/. MLA 8 Hutchinson, Aaron. "Difference between Argument and Debate." Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects, 8 June, 2016, http://www.differencebetween.net/language/difference-between-argument-and-debate/.

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  • How to write an argumentative essay | Examples & tips

How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips

Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An argumentative essay expresses an extended argument for a particular thesis statement . The author takes a clearly defined stance on their subject and builds up an evidence-based case for it.

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Table of contents

When do you write an argumentative essay, approaches to argumentative essays, introducing your argument, the body: developing your argument, concluding your argument, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about argumentative essays.

You might be assigned an argumentative essay as a writing exercise in high school or in a composition class. The prompt will often ask you to argue for one of two positions, and may include terms like “argue” or “argument.” It will frequently take the form of a question.

The prompt may also be more open-ended in terms of the possible arguments you could make.

Argumentative writing at college level

At university, the vast majority of essays or papers you write will involve some form of argumentation. For example, both rhetorical analysis and literary analysis essays involve making arguments about texts.

In this context, you won’t necessarily be told to write an argumentative essay—but making an evidence-based argument is an essential goal of most academic writing, and this should be your default approach unless you’re told otherwise.

Examples of argumentative essay prompts

At a university level, all the prompts below imply an argumentative essay as the appropriate response.

Your research should lead you to develop a specific position on the topic. The essay then argues for that position and aims to convince the reader by presenting your evidence, evaluation and analysis.

  • Don’t just list all the effects you can think of.
  • Do develop a focused argument about the overall effect and why it matters, backed up by evidence from sources.
  • Don’t just provide a selection of data on the measures’ effectiveness.
  • Do build up your own argument about which kinds of measures have been most or least effective, and why.
  • Don’t just analyze a random selection of doppelgänger characters.
  • Do form an argument about specific texts, comparing and contrasting how they express their thematic concerns through doppelgänger characters.

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See an example

essay vs debate

An argumentative essay should be objective in its approach; your arguments should rely on logic and evidence, not on exaggeration or appeals to emotion.

There are many possible approaches to argumentative essays, but there are two common models that can help you start outlining your arguments: The Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.

Toulmin arguments

The Toulmin model consists of four steps, which may be repeated as many times as necessary for the argument:

  • Make a claim
  • Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim
  • Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim)
  • Discuss possible rebuttals to the claim, identifying the limits of the argument and showing that you have considered alternative perspectives

The Toulmin model is a common approach in academic essays. You don’t have to use these specific terms (grounds, warrants, rebuttals), but establishing a clear connection between your claims and the evidence supporting them is crucial in an argumentative essay.

Say you’re making an argument about the effectiveness of workplace anti-discrimination measures. You might:

  • Claim that unconscious bias training does not have the desired results, and resources would be better spent on other approaches
  • Cite data to support your claim
  • Explain how the data indicates that the method is ineffective
  • Anticipate objections to your claim based on other data, indicating whether these objections are valid, and if not, why not.

Rogerian arguments

The Rogerian model also consists of four steps you might repeat throughout your essay:

  • Discuss what the opposing position gets right and why people might hold this position
  • Highlight the problems with this position
  • Present your own position , showing how it addresses these problems
  • Suggest a possible compromise —what elements of your position would proponents of the opposing position benefit from adopting?

This model builds up a clear picture of both sides of an argument and seeks a compromise. It is particularly useful when people tend to disagree strongly on the issue discussed, allowing you to approach opposing arguments in good faith.

Say you want to argue that the internet has had a positive impact on education. You might:

  • Acknowledge that students rely too much on websites like Wikipedia
  • Argue that teachers view Wikipedia as more unreliable than it really is
  • Suggest that Wikipedia’s system of citations can actually teach students about referencing
  • Suggest critical engagement with Wikipedia as a possible assignment for teachers who are skeptical of its usefulness.

You don’t necessarily have to pick one of these models—you may even use elements of both in different parts of your essay—but it’s worth considering them if you struggle to structure your arguments.

Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction , a body , and a conclusion .

Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction . The introduction serves to capture the reader’s interest, provide background information, present your thesis statement , and (in longer essays) to summarize the structure of the body.

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how a typical introduction works.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

The body of an argumentative essay is where you develop your arguments in detail. Here you’ll present evidence, analysis, and reasoning to convince the reader that your thesis statement is true.

In the standard five-paragraph format for short essays, the body takes up three of your five paragraphs. In longer essays, it will be more paragraphs, and might be divided into sections with headings.

Each paragraph covers its own topic, introduced with a topic sentence . Each of these topics must contribute to your overall argument; don’t include irrelevant information.

This example paragraph takes a Rogerian approach: It first acknowledges the merits of the opposing position and then highlights problems with that position.

Hover over different parts of the example to see how a body paragraph is constructed.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

An argumentative essay ends with a conclusion that summarizes and reflects on the arguments made in the body.

No new arguments or evidence appear here, but in longer essays you may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your argument and suggest topics for future research. In all conclusions, you should stress the relevance and importance of your argument.

Hover over the following example to see the typical elements of a conclusion.

The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

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Debate — Questions, Structure, and Topics

Daniel Bal

What is a debate?

A debate is a form of public discourse that presents organized arguments by two opposing sides. In a typical debate, two sides (affirmative and negative) are given a proposition to debate using a structured format that differs based on the type.

The affirmative side advocates for the proposition, providing supporting evidence and explanation, while the opposing side refutes the resolution. Therefore, the affirmative wants to convince the audience to adopt the resolution, while the opposition side wants them to reject it.

What is a debate?

The audience varies depending on the topic of the debate. Consider the following examples:

Political: Voters

Policy: Lawmakers

Trial: Jury

Public Debate/Forum: Community members

Debate questions

The basis of a debate stems from the resolution, a declarative statement determined by a question. The resolution contains the claim the two sides will debate. These statements derive from debate questions:

Structure for debate

The specific structure depends on the form of debate. However, every formal debate contains a judge, opposing sides, speeches, and a decision.

Debates are set up to persuade a panel of judges rather than the opponent.

There are always two sides in a debate – one that agrees with the resolution (affirming) and one that disagrees (opposing).

Each debate includes rounds of speeches that present the side’s argument. The placement of the speech in the debate impacts its purpose.

Structure of debate

The constructive speech is each team’s first speech to build their case.

Rebuttals provide the opportunity for both sides to discredit their opponent’s argument.

Cross-examination allows each side to question the other side.

The period where speakers from both sides can ask and answer each other’s questions is called crossfire . The grand crossfire functions in the same way, except all four speakers participate.

Closing statements offer each side a final opportunity to present their argument.

Upon conclusion of the debate, the judge(s) or moderator decides the winning side.

Types of debates

Team policy, Lincoln-Douglas, spontaneous argumentation, public forum, and parliamentary are the most common types of debates.

Team policy debates consist of two teams of two who take a position concerning a predetermined policy. One team argues to enact the policy while the opposing team members offer reasons to reject it.

Team policy debates

Policy debates are structured as follows:

Lincoln-Douglas debates consist of one speaker debating against another speaker and are a common form of high school debates. The topic typically concerns social and philosophical issues with questions concerning ideas such as morality, justice, democracy, etc. They focus on determining if certain thoughts or actions are good or bad, right or wrong, and moral or immoral. Presidential debates typically look most like Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Spontaneous argumentation (SPAR) is a quick and simple type of debate. It typically involves two debaters given a topic right before the debate, allowing only a few minutes for preparation.

Spontaneous argumentation debate

Public forum debates feature two teams with two speakers each who debate a topic regarding a current event.

A parliamentary debate includes two teams with two speakers each. The affirmative team is often referred to as the government and is trying to uphold the resolution, whereas the negative team (the opposition) opposes the government’s viewpoint. The government identifies a problem and offers a solution, while the opposition argues against that solution. The rules for this type of debate originated from British parliamentary procedure.

Parliamentary debate

Debating tips

When debating, the following strategies can positively affect the outcome:

While some debate formats allow for a limited amount of preparation time, utilize the time provided. It is best to take as much time as possible to formulate an argument. Going into a debate unprepared not only impacts the argument but can negatively influence body language, eye contact, volume, pacing, etc.

Focus and stay on topic. Make sure each sentence has a purpose and supports the argument.

Use good public speaking skills like appropriate eye contact, volume, pacing, intonation, inflection, posture, etc., which show the speaker’s confidence. Sometimes the presentation can be as important as what is presented.

Debates provide speakers with the opportunity to respond to their opponent’s argument. Focus on actively listening to the opposing side. While it is possible to predict their argument, providing a direct response to something they said is much more persuasive than moving forward as if there is no opposing side.

The point of a debate is to attack the argument , not the opponent.

Debating tips

Debate topics

The following are example topics for each main type of debate:

Team Policy Debate

The United States federal government should substantially increase its protection of its water resources.

The United States federal government should substantially increase its security cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in one or more of the following areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and cybersecurity.

New York should offer universal healthcare to its residents.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

In a democracy, a free press ought to prioritize objectivity over advocacy.

Radicalism is preferable to incrementalism to achieve social justice.

Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.

The actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the actions of individuals.

Spontaneous Argumentation (SPAR)

Lying is sometimes justified.

High schools should require uniforms.

Voting is a duty and not a right.

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Money can buy happiness.

Public Forum Debate

Japan should revise Article 9 of its Constitution to develop offensive military capabilities.

The United States should establish a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan.

Parliamentary Debate

In the US criminal justice system, truth-seeking ought to be valued above attorney-client privilege.

Chain stores are detrimental to the best interests of the American public.

The United States Senate should eliminate the filibuster.

How to Write a Good Debate Essay

When the word “debate” occurs in an essay title, you are being asked to examine a subject in which there are opposing views. The aim is that your essay will lead to support for one side, based on clear argument, effective judgement and justification for the decisions presented and arguments presented. The foundation of a good debate essay is effectively completing research combined with being able to refer to facts and credible information. The biggest challenge is to remain unemotional, whilst still persuading your audience of the validity of the arguments you are making in support of your chosen side.

Writing your debate essay


Your introduction should ensure that your reader understands what topic is being debated and encourage them to read more. One effective way to start is with a question, which sets the stage for you to state your position on the subject (your thesis statement). For example, “Does online learning creates laziness in students?”.

The aim is that your readers will have an immediate answer to the question, and this then drives the arguments you are presenting. An alternative approach is to refute a statement, framing the subject negatively, for example, “There are studies which suggest online learning creates laziness, however, studies have shown that online learning actually increases motivation”. In this case you are encouraging the reader to support your argument. In both cases, you have set a foundation with your introduction which needs to be built on by effective arguments and evidence.

The body text of your debate essay should be separated into paragraphs, each one of which will cover a different reason / rationale for the viewpoint you set out in your introduction. For each point you should provide back-up information from credible sources, which demonstrates that you have evaluated evidence before drawing a conclusion and opinion. Each paragraph should introduce your argument for or against, depending on your perspective, and include where appropriate, statistical evidence, illustrative data and clearly referenced sources. A good tip with a debate essay is to also present the counterargument for your point and refute it with viable sources to demonstrate why it is incorrect, demonstrating your understanding of the subject. The structure of the body text should be logical, moving from one argument to another with effective connections such as “Furthermore”, “Notwithstanding”, “Moreover” or similar to ensure coherence of argument.

The conclusion to your debate essay should be a summing up of all the positive points you have made, reaffirming your stance on the issue and should refer back to your thesis statement or original question. This enables you to demonstrate that you have effectively provided a strong justification for your point of view and in so doing, persuaded the reader of the accuracy of your perspective and opinion.

Key Words for a Debate Essay

  • In the same way
  • On the other hand
  • Nevertheless
  • On the contrary
  • Subsequently
  • Specifically
  • Furthermore
  • In consequence

Tips For Writing A Debate Essay

An argumentative paper depends on various aspects that can either build the conversation or break it. Here is how to write a debate essay step by step and get your point through in a convincing manner:

  • Choose the topic wisely. Make sure it is a controversial topic that can have a debate both ways. You can pick any topic from child education to medicinal marijuana. The topic itself needs to have a compelling pull to keep the audience involved.
  • Once the topic is decided, figure out which side you are on. For topics like domestic violence, most people will be against it, but you can still create an argument around it confidently.
  • Make sure you have done your research to articulate the facts and stats which go both in favour and against the topic. Your opponents may have a different perspective than you, but if you have solid grounds that can prove your stance, you can make them agree with you.
  • Know your audience. The readers of your essay will be very crucial to you building your argument. If you are writing a term paper, you may focus more on sentence building, structuring, and formatting. But if you are drafting for a competition, you need solid supporting research which can be cited and argued.
  • Have your facts ready. Without figures and numbers, a paper loses credibility. It becomes more of an opinion-piece than a debate essay grounded in facts.
  • The last, the most important factor. Select an issue you are most passionate about. If you feel strongly about it, you will be able to express your thoughts and also be able to research it with dedication.

Consider these tips combined when you think about how to make a debate essay convincing and interesting. Don’t forget, your opponent may not agree at all with your verdict, but at least you would present your vision with strong arguments and leave a good impression on the readers.

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What is argumentation and debate.

An  Argument  is a claim

supported by evidence and reasoning in the context of some controversy.

Argumentation  is the study of how arguments are constructed and evaluated.

Debate  is a speaking game in which two sides role play arguing for or against an agreed upon proposition.

A  proposition  is a statement in support of a value, belief or policy.

Value   is about what is right or wrong or good or bad.

Resolved: conservatives are better than liberals.

Resolved: the old is better than the new.

Resolved: this house regrets the founding of the United States.

A  belief  is about what is factually true or false.

Resolved: The theory of evolution is the best explanation for the origin of life.

Resolved: Life begins at conception.

Resolved: There is Life after death.

A  policy  concerns what should or should not be done.

Resolved: creationism should be taught along side evolution in public school classrooms.

Resolved: Abortion should be banned.

Resolved: Hillary should be our president.


Nature of Debate

Three values about debate:

1.  Debate is  bilateral .  Two sided. There is a proposition side and an opposition side to every debate.

2.  The  fairness doctrine . Each team is given the same about of time.

3.  Rationality  is central.   He or she who asserts must prove.  Every claim must be proven with some kind of evidence or reasoning. An argument without proof is called an assertion.

Three basic guidelines:

1.  Purpose is to determine which side argues better  (not to determine what is true or which side is right or wrong.)

2.  The debate is  directed or spoken before an audience, judge or panel of judges — it is NOT directed to the opponent.  The goal is to convince the judge , not the other side.

3.  Debate is  technical and rule governed .  Each speaker has certain burdens or expectations for what is said and done. Like other games, rules must be followed.

Debate Formats

1.  Lincoln – Douglas  — one proposition speaker against one opposition speaker.

2.  Parliamentary  — two, two person teams debate each other. Each side presents two main constructive speeches and then each side gives one rebuttal speech. Watch a parliamentary debate. NU vs. Oxford University in Kirkland


3.  World Style   — four, two person teams debate each other. Two proposition teams and two opposition teams present a total of eight speeches. 

Eagle  ≡  Faculty  ≡  Gary Gillespie  ≡  What is Argumentation and Debate?

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Argument vs Debate: Difference and Comparison

An argument tends to be emotionally charged, focusing on winning over the opponent rather than understanding. It involves personal attacks and lacks a structured approach. On the other hand, a debate is characterized by respectful exchange of ideas, supported by evidence and logic, with the aim of reaching a mutual understanding or conclusion.

Key Takeaways An argument is a disagreement between two or more people or parties, while a debate is a structured discussion that involves presenting arguments and counterarguments on a particular topic. Arguments tend to be more emotional and less structured, while debates tend to be more logical and structured. The goal of an argument is to prove a point, while the goal of a debate is to consider different perspectives and come to a conclusion.

Argument vs. Debate

Argument and Debate differ in that argument is a characterized discussion where reasons are put forth, and a debate is a formal discussion held competitively within an assembly hall.

Argument vs Debate

The standard dictionary defines an argument as ‘ a disagreement or quarrel.’ So, the argument is characterized by discussions of disagreements that do not have a specific order and is a non-contested event.

The verb form of this word is ‘argue,’ used to show disagreement.

The word debate, according to the standard dictionary, is defined as ‘ a formal discussion’ when the word’s noun form is used.

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When used as a verb, though the word remains the same, the meaning of the word changes. They are commonly used in their verb form in sentences.

Comparison Table

What is the argument.

An argument is a verbal or written exchange where individuals express diverging viewpoints or perspectives on a particular topic, with emotional intensity.

Characteristics of an Argument

  • Emotional Engagement: Arguments are charged with emotions, where individuals may become defensive or aggressive in defending their viewpoints. Emotions such as anger, frustration, or resentment can escalate, hindering rational discourse.
  • Focus on Winning: In an argument, the primary objective shifts towards winning over the opponent rather than seeking mutual understanding or finding common ground. This can lead to a combative atmosphere where individuals prioritize asserting their stance rather than listening to opposing viewpoints.
  • Lack of Structure: Arguments may lack a structured approach, devolving into chaotic exchanges where logical reasoning takes a backseat to emotional outbursts. Without a framework for constructive dialogue, arguments may spiral into unproductive exchanges.
  • Personal Attacks: Individuals engaged in an argument may resort to personal attacks or insults, targeting the character or integrity of the opposing party rather than addressing the substance of their arguments. This can further exacerbate tensions and hinder the possibility of reaching a resolution.


What is the Debate?

Debate is a structured discussion where participants present and defend their viewpoints on a specific topic or issue in a formal setting, aiming to persuade the audience or opponents through reasoned arguments and evidence-based reasoning.

Characteristics of a Debate

  • Structured Format: Debates follow a predefined structure, including opening statements, rebuttals, cross-examinations, and closing arguments. This structured format ensures that each participant has the opportunity to present their arguments systematically and respond to the points raised by others.
  • Respectful Exchange of Ideas: Unlike arguments, debates emphasize respectful discourse, where participants engage in constructive dialogue without resorting to personal attacks or emotional outbursts. Debaters focus on addressing the substance of the arguments presented rather than attacking the individuals presenting them.
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning: Debates rely on evidence-based reasoning, where participants support their arguments with relevant facts, statistics, examples, and expert opinions. The use of evidence enhances the credibility of the arguments presented and helps to persuade the audience or opponents.
  • Critical Thinking and Analysis: Debates encourage critical thinking and analysis, as participants are required to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their own arguments as well as those of their opponents. This fosters intellectual engagement and encourages participants to consider multiple perspectives on the issue being debated.
  • Objective of Mutual Understanding: The primary objective of a debate is not necessarily to “win” in the traditional sense but to contribute to a deeper understanding of the topic or issue at hand. Participants strive to engage in reasoned discourse, listen to opposing viewpoints, and potentially revise their own perspectives based on the arguments presented during the debate.


Main Differences Between Argument and Debate

  • Argument: Often emotionally charged, with individuals becoming defensive or aggressive.
  • Debate: Emphasizes rational discourse, minimizing emotional outbursts in favor of reasoned arguments.
  • Argument: Focuses on winning over the opponent, at the expense of understanding.
  • Debate: Aims for mutual understanding or reaching a consensus through constructive dialogue.
  • Argument: Typically lacks a structured approach, leading to chaotic exchanges.
  • Debate: Follows a predefined structure, including opening statements, rebuttals, and closing arguments, ensuring systematic presentation of viewpoints.
  • Argument: May involve personal attacks or insults, detracting from the substance of the discussion.
  • Debate: Encourages respectful exchange of ideas, with participants focusing on addressing arguments rather than attacking individuals.
  • Argument: Relies less on evidence, driven by personal opinions or emotions.
  • Debate: Emphasizes evidence-based reasoning, with participants supporting arguments with relevant facts, statistics, and expert opinions.

Difference Between Argument and Debate

  • https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17405904.2015.1074595
  • https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=wERBomDOPqMC&oi=fnd&pg=PA115&dq=argument+vs+debate&ots=cZQyZQTV7J&sig=TIvJGe2u39EZhCS_6R1lz5dQtSw

Last Updated : 03 March, 2024

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Emma Smith holds an MA degree in English from Irvine Valley College. She has been a Journalist since 2002, writing articles on the English language, Sports, and Law. Read more about me on her bio page .

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22 thoughts on “argument vs debate: difference and comparison”.

This article was clear and concise, a great piece of writing

I agree, it didn’t deviate from the main topic

It offered a precise comparison between the two terms

The article was definitely an interesting read. Some examples could have been added to better illustrate the differences.

True, more examples are always helpful

I agree, real-life illustrations would have made the differences clearer

This article is lacking in depth. The comparison table could have provided more information

The article provided a good understanding of the fundamental differences, I appreciate it

Yes, it has been an educational read

It could have delved deeper into the topic, but generally informative

The comparison between argument and debate was well-explained

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It provided a clear understanding of the differences

I’ve never taken the time to really understand the difference. This article helped clear things up.

It’s been quite informative, I agree

I appreciate the in-depth analysis provided, it helped me understand the differences better

Indeed, the article gave a good insight into the distinctions

The comparison table was very helpful.

Yes, it provides a clear distinction in a structured manner

Great comparison! Shows that we need to understand the correct use of English words before using them.

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essay vs debate

How To Debate: Mastering the Art of Persuasive Discourse

How to debate

A debate is a form of persuasive communication involving two sides arguing for and against a specific position. The exercise is structured with many rules and conventions that a debater must follow. Knowing how to debate is crucial for success.

Being able to engage in a spirited debate is an essential skill in today’s complex and interconnected world.  Whether in academic settings, professional environments, or personal conversations, the ability to present and defend your ideas effectively significantly affects your reputation and influence.

This article explores key principles and practical tips to  develop your debating prowess , enabling you to articulate your views persuasively, handle counterarguments gracefully, and foster a constructive exchange of ideas. With these tools at your disposal, you’ll be ready to navigate the realm of debates with confidence and intellectual agility.

Table of Contents

What Are The Five Types Of Debates?

Debating is more than just expressing your opinion; it involves the art of persuasive discourse, where logical reasoning, compelling evidence, and respectful communication converge.

Here are five common types of debates:

  • Policy debates focus on  analyzing and evaluating specific courses of action  or proposed policies. Participants delve into the potential benefits, drawbacks, and impacts of different policy options, often employing research and evidence to support their arguments.
  • Value debates revolve around  discussing and weighing moral, ethical, or philosophical principles.  Participants explore abstract concepts such as justice, liberty, or equality to establish which values should be prioritized and why.
  • Fact-based debates center on  examining empirical evidence  and verifying the truth or accuracy of a given statement or claim. Participants present data, research, and expert opinions to support their arguments, often engaging in a rigorous analysis of facts and evidence to determine the most accurate interpretation.
  • Team debates involve groups of participants working collaboratively to present arguments and counterarguments. Typically structured as a competitive event, these debates require coordination and strategy, with each team member contributing their unique perspective to put forward a cohesive and persuasive case.
  • Formal debates  adhere to specific rules and protocols, often following established formats such as parliamentary or  Lincoln-Douglas debates . These debates emphasize structured discourse, timed speeches, and strict guidelines for rebuttals and cross-examinations.

5 types of debate

What Are The Three Main Parts Of A Debate?

The three main parts of a debate are the opening statements, the rebuttals, and the closing statements.

  • The  opening statement s serve as the foundation of a debate. Each participant or team presents their initial arguments and outlines their main points. This is the opportunity to establish a clear position, provide supporting evidence, and capture the audience’s attention.
  • Opening statements should be concise, persuasive, and set the stage for the rest of the debate.
  • Rebuttals are the heart of a debate,  where participants directly address and challenge the arguments put forth by their opponents. During this phase, debaters critically analyze the opposing views, identify flaws or weaknesses, and present counterarguments supported by evidence and logic.
  • Rebuttals require quick thinking, effective communication, and the ability to dismantle opposing claims while maintaining a respectful tone .
  • The  closing statements  are the final opportunity for participants to leave a lasting impression. In this phase, debaters summarize their main points, reiterate their strongest arguments, and emphasize why their position is superior.
  • Closing statements should leave the audience with a c ompelling reason to support the debater’s position. You must also reinforce the key points and provide a sense of closure to the debate.

What Are The Five Basic Debating Skills?

  • Researching and gathering relevant information is a fundamental debating skill. It involves conducting thorough investigations, analyzing sources critically, and understanding different perspectives to develop well-informed arguments supported by evidence.
  • Critical thinking is crucial for effective debating. It encompasses evaluating arguments objectively, identifying logical fallacies, spotting inconsistencies, and constructing well-reasoned counterarguments. Developing necessary thinking skills enables debaters to approach complex topics with analytical precision and form persuasive responses.
  •  Debating necessitates clear and articulate communication skills. Debaters should be able to express their ideas coherently, use appropriate language and tone, and engage the audience. Active listening and responding thoughtfully to the points raised by opponents are also key components of effective communication in debates.
  • Persuasive speaking is the art of influencing the audience and convincing them of the validity of one’s arguments. Debaters should employ rhetorical devices, such as ethos, pathos, and logos, to appeal to their listeners’ emotions, credibility, and logic.
  •  Time management is critical in debates with limited time constraints. Debaters must learn to structure their arguments effectively within the given timeframe, allocate appropriate time for each point, and deliver concise and impactful speeches.
  • Skillful time management ensures that debaters make their strongest case while leaving sufficient time for rebuttals and closing statements.

How To Debate Step By Step?

  • Understand the topic:  Familiarize yourself with the subject matter, including key terms, concepts, and relevant arguments.
  •   Research and gather evidence:  Conduct comprehensive research to support your position. Collect data, facts, examples, and expert opinions that strengthen your arguments.
  •   Structure your arguments:  Organize your thoughts by outlining your main points and supporting evidence. Ensure a logical flow and coherence in presenting your ideas.
  •   Engage respectfully:  Maintain a respectful and professional demeanor throughout the debate. Listen actively to your opponents, address their points directly, and avoid personal attacks.
  •   Deliver compelling speeches:  Use clear and persuasive language to present your arguments confidently. Employ rhetorical devices, such as ethos, pathos, and logos, to appeal to the audience’s emotions, credibility, and logic.
  •   Rebut opposing arguments:  During rebuttal, deconstruct and challenge your opponents’ arguments. Offer counterarguments supported by evidence and logical reasoning.
  •   Stay focused and concise:  Remember time constraints and prioritize your strongest points. Keep to the topic at hand and avoid digressions.
  •   Adapt to feedback:  Pay attention to comments from the audience, judges, or moderators. Adjust your approach, if necessary, and address any weaknesses or gaps in your arguments.
  •   Conclude with impact:  Summarize your main points and reiterate the strength of your position in the closing statement. Leave a lasting impression on the audience and reinforce the key takeaways from your arguments.
  •   Reflect and improve:  After the debate, analyze areas for improvement, learn from your experiences, and continue to develop your debating skills.

Step to debate

How Do You Begin A Debate?

To begin a debate, start with a compelling opening statement that captures the audience’s attention. Clearly state your position or proposition and briefly summarize your main arguments.

Hook the audience by using a thought-provoking question, a powerful statistic, or a relevant anecdote to establish the importance and relevance of the topic.

How Do You Structure A Debate?

When structuring a debate, begin with an introduction that clearly defines the topic and provides context for the discussion. Next, present your main arguments logically, ensuring each point builds upon the previous one.

Different Roles

High school students often find themselves as debate team members, taking on different roles such as the first affirmative, second speaker, or third affirmative.

In a parliamentary debate, the first speaker, often the prime minister, sets the tone by introducing the debate topic and outlining the team’s case. This crucial role requires thorough research, brainstorming new arguments, and presenting them coherently.

Roles of debate team members

Affirmative And Negative Teams

Once the affirmative team presents its arguments, it’s time for the negative team to respond. The negative speaker must listen attentively, analyze their opponent’s arguments, and provide strong refutations.

Avoid constructing  straw man arguments  and instead engage with the core of the affirmative team’s points. To strengthen their position, the opposing team uses analogies or points of information to challenge the other side effectively.

Speakers use transition phrases to smoothly guide the audience from one point to another, concluding the debate by summarizing key points and reiterating their position.

How Does Teamwork Function In A Debate?

Teamwork plays a vital role in public speaking.

The affirmative speaker should work seamlessly with their team, ensuring a well-structured, logical debate. Each team member contributes to the overall coherence and success of the discussion, taking turns to present their viewpoints and fill any gaps in the team’s arguments.

Collaboration and effective time management, facilitated by the timekeeper, are key elements in achieving a strong performance.

What Should Be Your Goal In A Debate?

Ultimately, the goal of a debate is to persuade the adjudicator and the audience. Debaters should adopt a clear and confident point of view while presenting the team’s case.

They can build a solid foundation by analyzing the opponent’s argument and offering well-reasoned refutations. Avoiding filler and staying focused on the main points ensure a persuasive and impactful performance.

Mastering the art of persuasive discourse in debates requires dedication and practice . Aspiring debaters should embrace teamwork, understand the debate structure, and hone their research, refutation, and public speaking skills.

Persuade in debate

How Do You Debate Successfully?

Thorough preparation is the key to defeating your opposing team! Conduct research and gather evidence to support your arguments. Develop strong critical thinking skills to evaluate and respond to opposing viewpoints effectively.

Communicate confidently and respectfully, utilizing persuasive speaking techniques and positive body language (make eye contact!) to engage the audience and convey the strength of your position.

Adam Howarth

Adam covers the topic of Public Speaking for Digital Authority. From his first experience of oratory with his school debating society to his more recent experiences of promoting the local business scene in Wrexham, Wales, he has always been involved in public speaking.

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Literacy Ideas

How to write an Argumentative Essay

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In this article, we will explore the process of constructing a high-quality argumentative essay. The ability to craft a coherent argument and to express those arguments with others in a discussion are essential skills to encourage in our students. This skill helps our students engage with the world, process their thoughts, and discover their opinions.

Table of Contents

argumentative essay | WHAT IS A DISCUSSION ESSAY 1 | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

In this article, we will use the terms ‘discussion’ and ‘argument’ interchangeably. But, it is worth noting that the real purpose of a discussion is to explore a variety of arguments to arrive at the truth, where possible.

Teaching our students the basics of argument and discussion is not about tooling them up to ‘win’. The discussion processes are as much about the student discovering what they think as they are about persuading others to agree. As students mature and get more practised in their discussions, they will discover that often discussion is a necessary precursor to having an opinion on a given topic, no matter how basic or advanced that topic may be.

For students, the discussion often bridges the gap between speaking and listening learning areas and reading and writing. It is for this reason that we will look at some oral discussion activities before examining how to approach the writing of discussion pieces in the classroom. These oral activities can serve as excellent pre-writing exercises for the students to prepare their thoughts and ideas before writing. They also work well as standalone oral activities that allow students to practice their persuasive speaking skills and all that entails.


argumentative essay | opinion writing unit 1 | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

Teach your students to produce writing that  PERSUADES  and  INFLUENCES  thinking with this  HUGE  writing guide bundle covering: ⭐ Persuasive Texts / Essays ⭐ Expository Essays⭐ Argumentative Essays⭐ Discussions.

A complete 140 PAGE unit of work on persuasive texts for teachers and students. No preparation is required.

what is an argumentative essay

An argumentative essay, also known as a discussion, presents both sides of the argument on a specific topic so the audience can form their own opinion.


CLARITY Choose a clear, firm and debatable topic, and stress its importance. There should be no confusion about what or what you are writing about or why.

PROVIDE CONTEXT A bit of background information is often needed early in the essay to understand the argument. Bring your audience up to speed on the topic.

ORDER Use sequential paragraphs or statements. Keep things in order by creating paragraphs that lead us from opinion A to opinion B through well-crafted segways and transitions.

RESEARCH Nothing will sink your essay faster than a poorly researched paper full of questionable “facts” and ill-informed opinions . Get your evidence straight.

LOGICAL & RATIONAL You are not a “shock jock” or a biased blogger. You are presenting both sides of an argument to let your readers make a decision.


IMPERSONAL VOICE Keep your own opinions out and let your audience form their own.

TENSE Discussions are usually written in present tense.

LOGICAL CONNECTIVES Use terms such as therefore and however to connect concepts and points of contention.

RESPECTED SOURCES Valued information comes from respected sources. Ensure you use reputable evidence.


These styles of writing are often confused, and whilst they do share common elements, they are two separate genres with different purposes. If you are looking for a complete guide to writing a persuasive essay, please view ours here.

  • A PERSUASIVE ESSAY presents EMOTION, and the author’s purpose is to try and CONVINCE YOU to think as they do. It is about the sales pitch more so than an emphasis on the specifications and details of the subject area.
  • An ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY presents EVIDENCE and LOGIC at its core. Whilst you are still trying to influence your readers’ thinking on a given topic, you shouldn’t pull on your reader’s heartstrings nearly as much as presenting a mountain of facts, data and specifics that cannot be ignored.


Pick your poison wisely: choosing discussion topics.

The beauty of incorporating discussion and argument into the classroom is that you can quickly build your lessons around the student’s interests. From the youngest students in elementary to those wizened old owls in high school, a quick class brainstorm will reveal a wealth of juicy topics for them to get their mental teeth into. In this day and age of political correctness, however, be sensitive to the selection of a topic for discussion appropriate to the demographics of your class. While controversial topics can lead to the most lively of discussions, it is best to avoid subjects too close to the bone that may cause deep rifts in the class dynamic. If in doubt, rather than take suggestions from the class, have some exciting topics pre-prepared for the students to choose from or to vote on.

You can find numerous topics on the web, but here are some to get you started…

  • All zoos should be shut down, and the animals should be returned to the wild. – Discuss
  • Mobile phones should be embraced as learning tools in the classroom. – Discuss
  • Parents have different expectations for their sons and daughters. – Discuss
  • Do we give children too many trophies? – Discuss
  • Is it ethical to eat meat? – Discuss
  • School canteens promote poor diets. – Discuss
  • Can money buy happiness? – Discuss
  • Is animal testing justified? – Discuss
  • Are we too dependent on computers? Discuss
  • Do violent video games and films create social problems? – Discuss


argumentative essay | debating writing | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

The challenge in writing a good discussion or argumentative essay is to be open-minded, even if you know which side you want to support.

Factual research and evidence are your number one tool.  It gives you credibility by sourcing knowledge from experts but more importantly, it gives your own opinions and ideas greater weight as you have demonstrated a broad and accurate understanding of the topic you are writing about.

be sure to spend some time researching your topic before writing about it, and make sure you reference where you have sourced this knowledge.

Most students will head straight for the internet to find their evidence, so ensure you understand how to use it correctly.  This poster demonstrates how to get the most out of the three major search platforms on the web.   You can download the free poster version of it here.

An Argumentative Essay Outline

The aim of a well-written discussion text is to present information and opinions that express more than one viewpoint. This will often take the form of a newspaper report or a leaflet.  Regardless of the genre of the writing undertaken, however, some common factors apply to most discussion texts. Most often, they are written in the present tense and are commonly structured in the following way:


No better place to begin than at the start. The title should typically be a general statement or even a question that draws attention to a specific issue. For example, Should cell phones be banned in schools?

  The introduction section itself should usually be relatively brief and open with a brief statement on the issue and provide some background to the issue to be discussed. It will outline the arguments to be reviewed ahead, but the introduction itself does not usually contain any of the student’s opinions or views on the topic in question. There are, however, several things to consider when writing the introduction.

argumentative essay | the writing hook | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

As with any genre of writing, it is essential to grab the reader’s attention from the outset, and discussion texts are no different. Fortunately, there are several tried and tested methods of achieving this. Here are a few that may be suitable openers for your students’ discussion writing:

●     open with a quotation relevant to the topic being addressed. A well-chosen quotation can grab the attention of even the most distracted of readers and compel them to read more!

●     a surprising fact is another excellent way to grab the reader’s attention and illuminate the topic to be discussed. Not only is it engaging, but informative too!

●     a joke. Everyone loves a laugh, and a joke can provide an excellent in to the student’s writing. But, encourage your students to be careful here; the suitability of a humorous opening will largely depend on the topic being discussed. As jokes may not always be appropriate to the material, they must be used wisely.


In writing a balanced argument, students must consider the positives and negatives of the issue. The body of the text should be focused on presenting the pros and cons, the for and against arguments, relating to the central issue. This is why oral starter activities can be so valuable as prewriting exercises.

After the student has laid out the topic in their introduction by providing the necessary background information, it is time for the student to consider laying out the case for the argument.

Using time connectives is an excellent way for students to organize their information. Adverbs of time, such as firstly, secondly, next, then etc. and phrases such as, in addition to, therefore etc., can help students structure their information chronologically and coherently.

Depending on the length of the text, it is typically recommended that each paragraph consists of a single point. It is important to remind students that in the presentation of a balanced argument, they should not express their own bias or even their own point of view , instead, they are laying out both sides of the argument for the reader and should give equal weight to each point of view. When exploring each point, whether for or against, the PEE method can be a helpful way to aid students in structuring their paragraphs and give the direction of their argument:

Be sure to check out our own complete guide to writing perfect paragraphs here .

P = Point (Student makes their point at the beginning of the paragraph)

E = Evidence (Student provides evidence that underpins this point)

E =Explain (Student explores point further and ties back to the central issue)

When the student has considered each of their points for the argument, for example, three separate paragraphs each making three points for the argument, it is now time to consider and do the same for the argument against . The purpose here is to set up an opposition to the previously made points, to offer the other side of the story.

Encourage students here to use words and phrases that set up this contrast, for example, however , contrastingly , on the other hand , etc. Displaying these words and phrases in a word bank can also be a great way to help weaker students to organize their writing.

argumentative essay | 4a53f2b3fe2261b79950d0256f855062 conclusion20clipart conclusion clipart 584 350 1 | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

In the conclusion, the student reviews the information, summarises the arguments made and weighs up the issue in light of the available evidence. At this point, students can offer their own opinion in favor or against the issue at hand, but only if it is appropriate to the genre of the discussion text. 

Students often find it difficult to know how to end their writing. One excellent way to finish their discussion is to end it with a question, a challenge to the readers to form their own opinion on the issue in light of the evidence that has been presented.


  • Make sure you clearly explain the topic to the audience before you get into taking sides.
  • When you have selected a topic, ensure that you research both sides of the argument thoroughly before writing.
  • In your conclusion, make it clear which side of the argument you side on, even make a recommendation but allow the reader to keep an open mind.
  • Keep everything in order.
  • List all the items that will be required to complete the task.
  • Use paragraphs effectively. Each new argument should start with a new paragraph.
  • Keep your arguments short, sharp and to the point.
  • Use the correct language and terms.


argumentative essay | classroom discussion | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com


This great warm-up exercise allows students to explore a topic, weigh up the different possible opinions, and even offers a chance for the student to discover what they think about a topic. This exercise can also serve as a fantastic prep exercise for a piece of extended writing and involves minimal prep.

Pros and Cons involve students making a list of a given topic’s pro and con arguments. This is often best done in small groups where the students can brainstorm together and bounce ideas off one another. The process of comparing the for and against of an issue gives them an awareness of the range of opinions on the matter, helping them on their way to forming their own opinion.

The list created during this activity can also provide a helpful outline that can work as a springboard for later writing. It is a great way to organize ideas coherently that can seamlessly feed into the writing process described later below.



argumentative essay | think pair share 1 | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

This activity requires almost zero prep, other than giving the class a topic to get their teeth into!

First, have the students think silently about the topic for a minute or two. They may scratch down doodles or brief notes of their ideas on a piece of paper to use in the discussion portion of this exercise, but this is not a writing activity!

Then, partner them up with another student. At this stage, you may consider differentiation; you may wish to match students with other students of equal ability or with a stronger one as support. Either way, students discuss the topic with their partners for a predetermined number of minutes. The length of time will be dictated by the students’ ages and abilities. Experiment to find the most suitable length of time for your class.

After the time is up, students can share their opinions with the class. You can also scribe the ideas generated by each group onto a master list displayed on the whiteboard as part of a pre-writing exercise. This can also be an excellent exercise to begin the preparation for a formal debate, as it affords the students opportunities to think on their feet, engage with differing opinions, and to work on public speaking skills such as body language.


argumentative essay | classroom speed dating activity 1 | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

This is a pacy, fun activity to get a lively conversation going in a manner that apes the popular speed dating format – but with a more virtuous intent! You can organize the desks in rows facing each other or in concentric circles in the middle of the classroom.

Choose one row or circle to be mobile. Give students a list of topics to discuss and start the clock. After three minutes or so, signal the time is up and instruct students to move to the following table. At the next station, they can either discuss the same topic or move on to the next topic on their list.

Of course, you may shorten or lengthen the allotted time based on the student’s abilities or the complexities of the topics. However, as this exercise works best in fun and fast-paced, and the aim is for each student to have the opportunity to speak with every other student, it is often best to keep the topics fairly straightforward. Questions like Is it better to live in the town than the country? or Do dogs make better pets than cats? work well here.


The discrete teaching of discussion and argument in the classroom is essential. It offers students invaluable opportunities to test their opinions and ideas with their peers in a safe environment. Students learn that disagreement is inevitable and not fatal! They learn, too, that it is okay to revise an opinion in the light of compelling evidence they had not previously considered.

Discussion is a proving ground for ideas. Ideas tested in the arena of classroom discussion will likely be expressed much more coherently in written form. Often, students are not fully aware of exactly how they think on an issue until they have had a chance to try out their embryonic ideas with each other in a public discussion. It also helps students avoid the dangers of the echo chamber of their minds where frequently their ideas existed without challenge.

Encouraging our students to engage in respectful and productive disagreement is perhaps one of the most important skills we can help them develop.


Discussion activities offer tremendous opportunities for some informal assessment that helps with planning to best meet the needs of your students in future lessons. The fact that they are not teacher-led gives the teacher a chance to take a backseat and give full attention to the students’ conversations. This allows you to spot areas of difficulty and gaps in learning – all valuable information that will be priceless for effective future lesson planning.

argumentative essay | LITERACY IDEAS FRONT PAGE 1 | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

The first task in writing an excellent argumentative essay is finding a suitable topic with solid and valid opinions for both sides of the argument.  You will find some engaging writing prompts below.

structure of argumentative essay

argumentative essay | argumentative essay graphic organizer 1 | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com

sample argumentative essay

Below are a collection of student writing samples of discussions.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to read them in detail, and the teacher and student guide highlight some of the critical elements of discussions to consider before writing.

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of writing a discussion.

We would recommend reading the example either a year above or below, as well as the grade you are currently working with to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.

argumentative essay | discussion student writing sample year 4 2 | How to write an Argumentative Essay | literacyideas.com


writing checklists


argumentative essay | how to write an essay 1 | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers | literacyideas.com

Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers

argumentative essay | LEarn how to write a perfect persuasive essay | How to Write Perfect Persuasive Essays in 5 Simple Steps | literacyideas.com

How to Write Perfect Persuasive Essays in 5 Simple Steps

argumentative essay | essay topics | Top 25 Essay Topics for 2024 | literacyideas.com

Top 25 Essay Topics for 2024

argumentative essay | how to write a winning speech | How to Write a Winning Debate Speech | literacyideas.com

How to Write a Winning Debate Speech

argumentative essay | persuasiveWriting | 5 Top Persuasive Writing Lesson Plans for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

5 Top Persuasive Writing Lesson Plans for Students and Teachers

Difference Wiki

Argument vs. Debate: What's the Difference?

essay vs debate

Key Differences

Comparison chart, emotional content, argument and debate definitions, can arguments be part of a debate, do arguments require evidence, what defines a debate, are debates always public, do debates follow specific rules, what is the main purpose of an argument, can an argument be a simple disagreement, how do arguments start, are emotions helpful in arguments, are arguments always confrontational, can debates change public opinion, is it necessary to have a winner in a debate, do debates require preparation, can anyone participate in a debate, is it possible to argue without being aggressive, do debates always involve two sides, can debates be informal, can an argument lead to a solution, is the goal of a debate to reach an agreement, are arguments more common than debates.

essay vs debate

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The Difference between an Essay and a Debate

Presidential debates would fare a lot worse in television ratings if the candidates simply read essays to the crowd. On the other hand, the crowd would come away from an essay reading with clear, concise ideas that the politicians supported. The crowd would be less entertained, but they would have a full picture of a candidate's supporting arguments.

Features of an Essay

Essay vs. Debate

Essays have a clear structure. A good essay includes an introduction that makes one specific thesis statement clear, body paragraphs with topic sentences that flesh out the ideas from the thesis statement, and a closing in which the arguments are summed up and conclusions are drawn.

While some essays are persuasive, and the arguments in a persuasive essay can be structured in a similar way as one would for a debate, an advocate for the opposing view won't present their side in the middle of an essay. A well-written persuasive essay always considers the opposing views, but those views are still being analyzed by the writer of the essay.

Not all essays, however, are written with the intention to persuade. Essays can be expository, narrative, and descriptive, as well.

Features of A Debate

Debates usually also feature an introduction, supporting arguments, and a conclusion. The difference is that the supporting arguments do not go uninterrupted and the opposing side is presented by another person. An essay's purpose is to inform, while the purpose of a good debate is to persuade others that you're right and your opponents are wrong.

A good debater already knows the opposing arguments and is prepared to answer counterarguments that mention them. Since those arguments cannot be fully anticipated ahead of time, debates often require more broad research and knowledge than the focused topic of an essay does. The purpose of a debate is always to persuade, and a good debater does so with reasoned arguments, a clearly defined viewpoint, and preparation to counter an opposing view knowledgeably.

Why You Should Know Both

Writing an essay can help to form and structure an argument, and it's definitely a clear way to make a point or tell a story. In order to learn to defend your arguments and your ideas, practice debating them with others. Research and writing can inform you on a subject, but no topic is fully understood unless many views of that topic are considered. Sometimes the best way to understand all the different views is to try debating them.

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Organizing Your Argument

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This page summarizes three historical methods for argumentation, providing structural templates for each.

How can I effectively present my argument?

In order for your argument to be persuasive, it must use an organizational structure that the audience perceives as both logical and easy to parse. Three argumentative methods —the  Toulmin Method , Classical Method , and Rogerian Method — give guidance for how to organize the points in an argument.

Note that these are only three of the most popular models for organizing an argument. Alternatives exist. Be sure to consult your instructor and/or defer to your assignment’s directions if you’re unsure which to use (if any).

Toulmin Method

The  Toulmin Method  is a formula that allows writers to build a sturdy logical foundation for their arguments. First proposed by author Stephen Toulmin in  The Uses of Argument (1958), the Toulmin Method emphasizes building a thorough support structure for each of an argument's key claims.

The basic format for the Toulmin Method  is as follows:

Claim:  In this section, you explain your overall thesis on the subject. In other words, you make your main argument.

Data (Grounds):  You should use evidence to support the claim. In other words, provide the reader with facts that prove your argument is strong.

Warrant (Bridge):  In this section, you explain why or how your data supports the claim. As a result, the underlying assumption that you build your argument on is grounded in reason.

Backing (Foundation):  Here, you provide any additional logic or reasoning that may be necessary to support the warrant.

Counterclaim:  You should anticipate a counterclaim that negates the main points in your argument. Don't avoid arguments that oppose your own. Instead, become familiar with the opposing perspective.   If you respond to counterclaims, you appear unbiased (and, therefore, you earn the respect of your readers). You may even want to include several counterclaims to show that you have thoroughly researched the topic.

Rebuttal:  In this section, you incorporate your own evidence that disagrees with the counterclaim. It is essential to include a thorough warrant or bridge to strengthen your essay’s argument. If you present data to your audience without explaining how it supports your thesis, your readers may not make a connection between the two, or they may draw different conclusions.

Example of the Toulmin Method:

Claim:  Hybrid cars are an effective strategy to fight pollution.

Data1:  Driving a private car is a typical citizen's most air-polluting activity.

Warrant 1:  Due to the fact that cars are the largest source of private (as opposed to industrial) air pollution, switching to hybrid cars should have an impact on fighting pollution.

Data 2:  Each vehicle produced is going to stay on the road for roughly 12 to 15 years.

Warrant 2:  Cars generally have a long lifespan, meaning that the decision to switch to a hybrid car will make a long-term impact on pollution levels.

Data 3:  Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine with a battery-powered electric motor.

Warrant 3:  The combination of these technologies produces less pollution.

Counterclaim:  Instead of focusing on cars, which still encourages an inefficient culture of driving even as it cuts down on pollution, the nation should focus on building and encouraging the use of mass transit systems.

Rebuttal:  While mass transit is an idea that should be encouraged, it is not feasible in many rural and suburban areas, or for people who must commute to work. Thus, hybrid cars are a better solution for much of the nation's population.

Rogerian Method

The Rogerian Method  (named for, but not developed by, influential American psychotherapist Carl R. Rogers) is a popular method for controversial issues. This strategy seeks to find a common ground between parties by making the audience understand perspectives that stretch beyond (or even run counter to) the writer’s position. Moreso than other methods, it places an emphasis on reiterating an opponent's argument to his or her satisfaction. The persuasive power of the Rogerian Method lies in its ability to define the terms of the argument in such a way that:

  • your position seems like a reasonable compromise.
  • you seem compassionate and empathetic.

The basic format of the Rogerian Method  is as follows:

Introduction:  Introduce the issue to the audience, striving to remain as objective as possible.

Opposing View : Explain the other side’s position in an unbiased way. When you discuss the counterargument without judgement, the opposing side can see how you do not directly dismiss perspectives which conflict with your stance.

Statement of Validity (Understanding):  This section discusses how you acknowledge how the other side’s points can be valid under certain circumstances. You identify how and why their perspective makes sense in a specific context, but still present your own argument.

Statement of Your Position:  By this point, you have demonstrated that you understand the other side’s viewpoint. In this section, you explain your own stance.

Statement of Contexts : Explore scenarios in which your position has merit. When you explain how your argument is most appropriate for certain contexts, the reader can recognize that you acknowledge the multiple ways to view the complex issue.

Statement of Benefits:  You should conclude by explaining to the opposing side why they would benefit from accepting your position. By explaining the advantages of your argument, you close on a positive note without completely dismissing the other side’s perspective.

Example of the Rogerian Method:

Introduction:  The issue of whether children should wear school uniforms is subject to some debate.

Opposing View:  Some parents think that requiring children to wear uniforms is best.

Statement of Validity (Understanding):  Those parents who support uniforms argue that, when all students wear the same uniform, the students can develop a unified sense of school pride and inclusiveness.

Statement of Your Position : Students should not be required to wear school uniforms. Mandatory uniforms would forbid choices that allow students to be creative and express themselves through clothing.

Statement of Contexts:  However, even if uniforms might hypothetically promote inclusivity, in most real-life contexts, administrators can use uniform policies to enforce conformity. Students should have the option to explore their identity through clothing without the fear of being ostracized.

Statement of Benefits:  Though both sides seek to promote students' best interests, students should not be required to wear school uniforms. By giving students freedom over their choice, students can explore their self-identity by choosing how to present themselves to their peers.

Classical Method

The Classical Method of structuring an argument is another common way to organize your points. Originally devised by the Greek philosopher Aristotle (and then later developed by Roman thinkers like Cicero and Quintilian), classical arguments tend to focus on issues of definition and the careful application of evidence. Thus, the underlying assumption of classical argumentation is that, when all parties understand the issue perfectly, the correct course of action will be clear.

The basic format of the Classical Method  is as follows:

Introduction (Exordium): Introduce the issue and explain its significance. You should also establish your credibility and the topic’s legitimacy.

Statement of Background (Narratio): Present vital contextual or historical information to the audience to further their understanding of the issue. By doing so, you provide the reader with a working knowledge about the topic independent of your own stance.

Proposition (Propositio): After you provide the reader with contextual knowledge, you are ready to state your claims which relate to the information you have provided previously. This section outlines your major points for the reader.

Proof (Confirmatio): You should explain your reasons and evidence to the reader. Be sure to thoroughly justify your reasons. In this section, if necessary, you can provide supplementary evidence and subpoints.

Refutation (Refuatio): In this section, you address anticipated counterarguments that disagree with your thesis. Though you acknowledge the other side’s perspective, it is important to prove why your stance is more logical.  

Conclusion (Peroratio): You should summarize your main points. The conclusion also caters to the reader’s emotions and values. The use of pathos here makes the reader more inclined to consider your argument.  

Example of the Classical Method:  

Introduction (Exordium): Millions of workers are paid a set hourly wage nationwide. The federal minimum wage is standardized to protect workers from being paid too little. Research points to many viewpoints on how much to pay these workers. Some families cannot afford to support their households on the current wages provided for performing a minimum wage job .

Statement of Background (Narratio): Currently, millions of American workers struggle to make ends meet on a minimum wage. This puts a strain on workers’ personal and professional lives. Some work multiple jobs to provide for their families.

Proposition (Propositio): The current federal minimum wage should be increased to better accommodate millions of overworked Americans. By raising the minimum wage, workers can spend more time cultivating their livelihoods.

Proof (Confirmatio): According to the United States Department of Labor, 80.4 million Americans work for an hourly wage, but nearly 1.3 million receive wages less than the federal minimum. The pay raise will alleviate the stress of these workers. Their lives would benefit from this raise because it affects multiple areas of their lives.

Refutation (Refuatio): There is some evidence that raising the federal wage might increase the cost of living. However, other evidence contradicts this or suggests that the increase would not be great. Additionally,   worries about a cost of living increase must be balanced with the benefits of providing necessary funds to millions of hardworking Americans.

Conclusion (Peroratio): If the federal minimum wage was raised, many workers could alleviate some of their financial burdens. As a result, their emotional wellbeing would improve overall. Though some argue that the cost of living could increase, the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Propositions in Debate Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In an argument or debate , a proposition is a statement that affirms or denies something.

As explained below, a proposition may function as a premise or a conclusion in a syllogism or enthymeme .

In formal debates, a proposition may also be called a topic, motion , or resolution .

Etymology From the Latin, "to set forth"

Examples and Observations

"An argument is any group of propositions where one proposition is claimed to follow from the others, and where the others are treated as furnishing grounds or support for the truth of the one. An argument is not a mere collection of propositions, but a group with a particular, rather formal, structure. . . .

"The conclusion of an argument is the one proposition that is arrived at and affirmed on the basis of the other propositions of the argument.

"The premises of an argument are the other propositions which are assumed or otherwise accepted as providing support or justification for accepting the one proposition which is the conclusion. Thus, in the three propositions that follow in the universal deductive categorical syllogism, the first two are premises and the third the conclusion :

All men are mortal.​ Socrates is a man. Socrates is mortal.

. . . Premises and conclusions require each other. A proposition standing alone is neither a premise nor a conclusion." (Ruggero J. Aldisert, "Logic in Forensic Science." Forensic Science and Law , ed. by Cyril H. Wecht and John T. Rago. Taylor & Francis, 2006)

Effective Argumentative Essays

"The first step in arguing successfully is to state your position clearly. This means that a good thesis is crucial to your essay. For argumentative or persuasive essays, the thesis is sometimes called a major proposition , or a claim. Through your major proposition, you take a definite position in a debate, and by taking a strong position, you give your essay its argumentative edge. Your readers must know what your position is and must see that you have supported your main idea with convincing minor points." (Gilbert H. Muller and Harvey S. Wiener, The Short Prose Reader , 12th ed. McGraw-Hill, 2009)

Propositions in Debates

"Debate is the process of presenting arguments for or against a proposition. Propositions for which people argue are controversial and have one or more individuals presenting the case for the proposition while others present the case against it. Every debater is an advocate; the purpose of each speaker is to gain the belief of the audience for his side. Argument is the core of the debate speech—the superior debater must be superior in the use of argument. The chief means of persuasion in debate is the logical mode." (Robert B. Huber and Alfred Snider, Influencing Through Argument , rev. ed. International Debate Education Association, 2006)

Clarifying Propositions

"[It often requires] some work to extract a clear representation of an argument from any given prose passage. First of all, it is possible to express a proposition using any kind of grammatical construction. Interrogative, optative, or exclamatory sentences, for example, can, with appropriate contextual stage setting, be used to express propositions. In the interests of clarity, therefore, it will often be helpful to paraphrase an author's words, in expressing a premise or conclusion, into the form of a declarative sentence that transparently expresses a proposition. Second, not every proposition expressed in an argumentative prose passage occurs within that passage as either a premise or a conclusion, or as (a proper) part of a premise or conclusion. We'll refer to these propositions, which are neither identical with nor embedded in any premise or conclusion, and to the sentences by which they are expressed, as noise . A noisy proposition makes a claim that is extraneous to the content of the argument in question." (Mark Vorobej, A Theory of Argument . Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Pronunciation: PROP-eh-ZISH-en

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  • Enthymeme - Definition and Examples
  • Definition and Examples of Syllogisms
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essay vs debate

Difference Between Debate and Argument

People have been learning how to talk and communicate since the beginning of time. They developed plenty of skills such as discussing, sharing their point of view, debating, etc. Negotiations have always had an important role in world existence. Yet, the difference between debate and argument wasn’t clarified for a long time. Nowadays, both are used for the same purpose, describing the same things and situations. Still, an essential question comes to mind when considering this topic: is it correct to use them interchangeably? Many kinds of research have been done, and today enough evidence has been gathered to confirm that the meaning of those words is completely different. Let’s find out the dividing line between them and learn the proper word usage.

  • 1 Why Argue?
  • 2 What is an argument?
  • 3 What is a debate?
  • 4 Main Differences Between Argument and Debate
  • 5 Bottom line

Arguing takes a special place in people’s life. The reasons why adults prefer to argue are different. Four main causes can be seen with the bare eye.

Most men defend or explain their way of thinking or beliefs. Everyone has reasons for the things they have done. It means those explanations might be unclear or misunderstood by the opposing sides. At this rate, the argument is necessary — it brings up the original purpose of the action and helps to reveal evidence of something.

Another cause is clarifying the way of thinking. This reason applies to individuals as well as to groups of people. In this case, arguing opens more perspectives on different beliefs and things, which helps individuals and groups to dive into a particular field and choose for themselves what is worth sticking to.

While solving issues, people also tend to start an argument. The same happens with judgments. The world is gigantic and includes a variety of diverse interests. But, nobody knows the better way and the right direction. Arguments help to put everything back to place and facilitate conflicts.

Lastly, the fun factor can’t be excluded. In fact, arguing activates the brain and helps it to generate more ideas. Moreover, adults don’t always have to disagree; the argument can be pleasurable and joyful in the form of stimulating discussion.

What is an argument?

Sometimes people find it hard to give a proper definition to an argument. Yet, it is a claim that is made solidly with the purpose of clarifying situations, behaviors, etc. Arguments are usually supported by particular evidence. Also, it refers to words like justification and comes both in written and verbal form.

The argument can be presented as an informal conversation between two or more people. Commonly, they talk about a specific topic, and one of the opponents tries to convince the other to agree with his way of thinking. It’s also appropriate to state that the argument is a kind of dispute.

To make it easier to understand and less formal, arguments can be described as passionate or blistering disagreements. Two or more participants of the conversation have their perspectives on certain issues that they try to explain and negotiate.

Arguments usually have no consensus — they reveal consented questions. From the opposite sides, the argument works as a pressure engine, meaning it can be used for adherence purposes. At this rate, people use this form of communication to receive resolutions for their opinions.

Difference Between Debate and Argument

What is a debate?

Previously we have discussed arguments and found out that they have various meanings, causes, and clarifications. Unlike the definition of the argument, the debate has only one explanation — in other words, it’s a formal discussion.

While debating, people don’t try to persist or persuade the opponent to believe and follow their point of view. Besides, it’s allowed to share all the necessary comments, including affirmative and negative ones. Needless to say that everything said must be strictly on topic, and personal boundaries should not be violated.

The debate also requires a winner’s side. So, how to define a better team? A lot depends on the issues discussed and the options each team offers. In addition to factual accuracy and logical consistency, participants have to provide more precise context or a superior solution to the problem.

Main Differences Between Argument and Debate

To use both words correctly according to their meanings, adults should distinguish their specifics. Researchers emphasize three main differences:

  • Debates are formal all the time. In comparison to the argument, it’s an unaltered fact. They are held in the form of a verbal contest between two or more individuals.
  • Arguments are not regulated by any rules and have no consensus, while debates have strict requirements — both sides must be heard and try their best to provide the best evidence.
  • The character of these words is also different. Arguments are more persuasive; the speaker wants to make his opponent follow his opinions and make him adhere. Debate, on the other hand, is used as a formal discussion, as a verb, and only for the scope.

If the distinction between these two notions is still a bit vague, a good idea is to pay attention to special websites that help to understand the difference between Debate and Argument via essay writing. Some of them are more theoretical, others — practical. Luckily, professional writers from these resources can also write an argumentative essay for you if needed. The main advantage of such services is speedy and high-quality work.

Difference Between Debate and Argument

Bottom line

The question of the difference between debate and discussion, or argument, is essential. Many people don’t know how to distinguish them, so they use those words interchangeably. Many researchers confirm that the meanings differ and have to be used accordingly to the situation. While debates are formal discussions and can’t violate any personal boundaries, an argument has no rules to follow. Also, it has many purposes — expressing beliefs or defending one’s point of view, etc. On the other hand, debates are used to provide particular evidence and come up with a consensus.

Difference Between Argumentative And Persuasive Essays


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General Education


A debate is a formal discussion about a topic where two sides present opposing viewpoints. Debates follow a specific structure: each side is given time to speak either for or against the topic at hand.

Many students study debate in high school to improve their speaking skills. As a debater, you learn how to clearly structure and present an argument. The skills you develop as a debater will help you on everything from a college admissions interview to a job presentation.

Selecting debate topics is one of the most important parts of debating. In this article, we’ll explain how to select a good debate topic and give suggestions for debate topics you can use.

How to Select Good Debate Topics

A good debate topic is one that lets the participants and the audience learn about both sides of an issue. Consider the following factors when selecting a debate topic:

Interest: Are you interested in the topic? Would the topic be interesting to your fellow classmates, as well as to the audience listening to the debate? Selecting a topic that you’re interested in makes the preparation part of the debate more exciting , as well as the debate more lively.

Argument Potential: You want to choose a debate topic that has solid argument potential. If one side is clearly right, or if there isn’t a lot of available information, you’ll have a hard time crafting a solid debate.

Availability of Data: Data points make an argument more robust. You’ll want to select a topic with lots of empirical data that you can pull from to bolster your argument.

Now that we know how to select a debate topic, let’s look at a list of good debate topics.

Debate Topics Master List

If you’re searching for your next debate topic, here are some suggestions.

Social and Political Issues Debate Topics

  • All people should have the right to own guns.
  • The death penalty should be abolished.
  • Human cloning should be legalized.
  • All drugs should be legalized.
  • Animal testing should be banned.
  • Juveniles should be tried and treated as adults.
  • Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity today.
  • Violent video games should be banned.
  • The minimum wage should be $15 per hour.
  • All people should have Universal Basic Income.
  • Sex work should be legal.
  • Countries should be isolationist.
  • Abortion should be banned.
  • Every citizen should be mandated to perform national public service.
  • Bottled water should be banned.
  • Plastic bags should be banned.

Education Debate Topics

  • Homework should be banned.
  • Public prayer should not be allowed in schools.
  • Schools should block sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram on their computers.
  • School uniforms should be required.
  • Standardized testing should be abolished.
  • All students should have an after-school job or internship.
  • School should be in session year-round.
  • All high school athletes should be drug tested.
  • Detention should be abolished.
  • All student loan debt should be eliminated.
  • Homeschooling is better than traditional schooling.
  • All schools should have armed security guards.
  • Religion should be taught in schools.
  • All schools should be private schools.
  • All students should go to boarding schools.
  • Sexual education should be mandatory in schools.
  • Public college should be tuition free.
  • All teachers should get tenure.
  • All school districts should offer school vouchers.


Health Debate Topics

  • Healthcare should be universal.
  • Cosmetic procedures should be covered by health insurance.
  • All people should be vegetarians.
  • Euthanasia should be banned.
  • The drinking age should be 18.
  • Vaping should be banned.
  • Smoking should be banned in all public places.
  • People should be legally required to get vaccines.
  • Obesity should be labeled a disease.
  • Sexual orientation is determined at birth.
  • The sale of human organs should be legalized.
  • Birth control should be for sale over the counter.

Technology Debate Topics

  • Social media has improved human communication.
  • The development of artificial intelligence will help humanity.
  • Individuals should own their own DNA.
  • Humans should invest in technology to explore and colonize other planets.
  • Governments should invest in alternative energy sources.
  • Net neutrality should be restored.
  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies should be encouraged or banned.
  • Alternative energy can effectively replace fossil fuels.
  • Cell phone radiation is dangerous and should be limited.

How to Prepare for a Debate

Once you’ve selected your debate topic, the next step is to prepare for your debate. Follow these steps as you get ready to take the podium.

Read Your Evidence

The most important step to building your debate confidence is to familiarize yourself with the evidence available. You’ll want to select reputable sources and use empirical data effectively.

The more well read on your topic you are, the better you’ll be able to defend your position and anticipate the other side’s arguments.

Anticipate the Other Side’s Arguments

As part of your debate, you’ll need to rebut the other side’s arguments. It’s important to prepare ahead of time to guess what they’ll be talking about. You’ll bolster your own side’s argument if you’re able to effectively dismantle what the other side is saying.

Plan to Fill Your Speech Time

Each speaker at a debate is limited to a certain amount of time. You should plan to use every second of the time that you’re allotted. Make sure you practice your talking points so that you know you’re within the time frame. If you’re short, add in more evidence.

Practice to Build Confidence

It can be scary to take the stage for a debate! Practicing ahead of time will help you build confidence. Remember to speak slowly and clearly. Even if your argument is great, it won’t matter if no one can understand it.

Final Thoughts

Debate is a great way to hone your public speaking skills and get practice crafting and defending an argument. Use these debate topics if you're searching for a focus for your next debate.

What's Next?

Looking for ways to keep the debate going in non-academic life? Then you'll love our list of 101 "this or that" questions to argue over with your friends.

Thinking about how you can use your argumentative skills in a future career? Read up on the five steps to becoming a lawyer to see if that's a path you want to pursue.

Getting ready to take an AP test? Here’s a list of practice tests for every AP exam, including the AP literature exam .

It can be hard to schedule time to study for an AP test on top of your extracurriculars and normal classwork. Check out this article on when you need to start studying for your AP tests to make sure you’re staying on track.

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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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Nature vs. Nurture Debate In Psychology

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

The nature vs. nurture debate in psychology concerns the relative importance of an individual’s innate qualities (nature) versus personal experiences (nurture) in determining or causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits. While early theories favored one factor over the other, contemporary views recognize a complex interplay between genes and environment in shaping behavior and development.

Key Takeaways

  • Nature is what we think of as pre-wiring and is influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors.
  • Nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception, e.g., the product of exposure, life experiences, and learning on an individual.
  • Behavioral genetics has enabled psychology to quantify the relative contribution of nature and nurture concerning specific psychological traits.
  • Instead of defending extreme nativist or nurturist views, most psychological researchers are now interested in investigating how nature and nurture interact in a host of qualitatively different ways.
  • For example, epigenetics is an emerging area of research that shows how environmental influences affect the expression of genes.
The nature-nurture debate is concerned with the relative contribution that both influences make to human behavior, such as personality, cognitive traits, temperament and psychopathology.

Examples of Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. nurture in child development.

In child development, the nature vs. nurture debate is evident in the study of language acquisition . Researchers like Chomsky (1957) argue that humans are born with an innate capacity for language (nature), known as universal grammar, suggesting that genetics play a significant role in language development.

Conversely, the behaviorist perspective, exemplified by Skinner (1957), emphasizes the role of environmental reinforcement and learning (nurture) in language acquisition.

Twin studies have provided valuable insights into this debate, demonstrating that identical twins raised apart may share linguistic similarities despite different environments, suggesting a strong genetic influence (Bouchard, 1979)

However, environmental factors, such as exposure to language-rich environments, also play a crucial role in language development, highlighting the intricate interplay between nature and nurture in child development.

Nature vs. Nurture in Personality Development

The nature vs. nurture debate in personality psychology centers on the origins of personality traits. Twin studies have shown that identical twins reared apart tend to have more similar personalities than fraternal twins, indicating a genetic component to personality (Bouchard, 1994).

However, environmental factors, such as parenting styles, cultural influences, and life experiences, also shape personality.

For example, research by Caspi et al. (2003) demonstrated that a particular gene (MAOA) can interact with childhood maltreatment to increase the risk of aggressive behavior in adulthood.

This highlights that genetic predispositions and environmental factors contribute to personality development, and their interaction is complex and multifaceted.

Nature vs. Nurture in Mental Illness Development

The nature vs. nurture debate in mental health explores the etiology of depression. Genetic studies have identified specific genes associated with an increased vulnerability to depression, indicating a genetic component (Sullivan et al., 2000).

However, environmental factors, such as adverse life events and chronic stress during childhood, also play a significant role in the development of depressive disorders (Dube et al.., 2002; Keller et al., 2007)

The diathesis-stress model posits that individuals inherit a genetic predisposition (diathesis) to a disorder, which is then activated or exacerbated by environmental stressors (Monroe & Simons, 1991).

This model illustrates how nature and nurture interact to influence mental health outcomes.

Nature vs. Nurture of Intelligence

The nature vs. nurture debate in intelligence examines the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors to cognitive abilities.

Intelligence is highly heritable, with about 50% of variance in IQ attributed to genetic factors, based on studies of twins, adoptees, and families (Plomin & Spinath, 2004).

Heritability of intelligence increases with age, from about 20% in infancy to as high as 80% in adulthood, suggesting amplifying effects of genes over time.

However, environmental influences, such as access to quality education and stimulating environments, also significantly impact intelligence.

Shared environmental influences like family background are more influential in childhood, whereas non-shared experiences are more important later in life.

Research by Flynn (1987) showed that average IQ scores have increased over generations, suggesting that environmental improvements, known as the Flynn effect , can lead to substantial gains in cognitive abilities.

Molecular genetics provides tools to identify specific genes and understand their pathways and interactions. However, progress has been slow for complex traits like intelligence. Identified genes have small effect sizes (Plomin & Spinath, 2004).

Overall, intelligence results from complex interplay between genes and environment over development. Molecular genetics offers promise to clarify these mechanisms. The nature vs nurture debate is outdated – both play key roles.

Nativism (Extreme Nature Position)

It has long been known that certain physical characteristics are biologically determined by genetic inheritance.

Color of eyes, straight or curly hair, pigmentation of the skin, and certain diseases (such as Huntingdon’s chorea) are all a function of the genes we inherit.

eye color genetics

These facts have led many to speculate as to whether psychological characteristics such as behavioral tendencies, personality attributes, and mental abilities are also “wired in” before we are even born.

Those who adopt an extreme hereditary position are known as nativists.  Their basic assumption is that the characteristics of the human species as a whole are a product of evolution and that individual differences are due to each person’s unique genetic code.

In general, the earlier a particular ability appears, the more likely it is to be under the influence of genetic factors. Estimates of genetic influence are called heritability.

Examples of extreme nature positions in psychology include Chomsky (1965), who proposed language is gained through the use of an innate language acquisition device. Another example of nature is Freud’s theory of aggression as being an innate drive (called Thanatos).

Characteristics and differences that are not observable at birth, but which emerge later in life, are regarded as the product of maturation. That is to say, we all have an inner “biological clock” which switches on (or off) types of behavior in a pre-programmed way.

The classic example of the way this affects our physical development are the bodily changes that occur in early adolescence at puberty.

However, nativists also argue that maturation governs the emergence of attachment in infancy , language acquisition , and even cognitive development .

Empiricism (Extreme Nurture Position)

At the other end of the spectrum are the environmentalists – also known as empiricists (not to be confused with the other empirical/scientific  approach ).

Their basic assumption is that at birth, the human mind is a tabula rasa (a blank slate) and that this is gradually “filled” as a result of experience (e.g., behaviorism ).

From this point of view, psychological characteristics and behavioral differences that emerge through infancy and childhood are the results of learning.  It is how you are brought up (nurture) that governs the psychologically significant aspects of child development and the concept of maturation applies only to the biological.

For example, Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory states that aggression is learned from the environment through observation and imitation. This is seen in his famous bobo doll experiment (Bandura, 1961).

bobo doll experiment

Also, Skinner (1957) believed that language is learned from other people via behavior-shaping techniques.

Evidence for Nature

  • Biological Approach
  • Biology of Gender
  • Medical Model

Freud (1905) stated that events in our childhood have a great influence on our adult lives, shaping our personality.

He thought that parenting is of primary importance to a child’s development , and the family as the most important feature of nurture was a common theme throughout twentieth-century psychology (which was dominated by environmentalists’ theories).

Behavioral Genetics

Researchers in the field of behavioral genetics study variation in behavior as it is affected by genes, which are the units of heredity passed down from parents to offspring.

“We now know that DNA differences are the major systematic source of psychological differences between us. Environmental effects are important but what we have learned in recent years is that they are mostly random – unsystematic and unstable – which means that we cannot do much about them.” Plomin (2018, xii)

Behavioral genetics has enabled psychology to quantify the relative contribution of nature and nurture with regard to specific psychological traits. One way to do this is to study relatives who share the same genes (nature) but a different environment (nurture). Adoption acts as a natural experiment which allows researchers to do this.

Empirical studies have consistently shown that adoptive children show greater resemblance to their biological parents, rather than their adoptive, or environmental parents (Plomin & DeFries, 1983; 1985).

Another way of studying heredity is by comparing the behavior of twins, who can either be identical (sharing the same genes) or non-identical (sharing 50% of genes). Like adoption studies, twin studies support the first rule of behavior genetics; that psychological traits are extremely heritable, about 50% on average.

The Twins in Early Development Study (TEDS) revealed correlations between twins on a range of behavioral traits, such as personality (empathy and hyperactivity) and components of reading such as phonetics (Haworth, Davis, Plomin, 2013; Oliver & Plomin, 2007; Trouton, Spinath, & Plomin, 2002).


Jenson (1969) found that the average I.Q. scores of black Americans were significantly lower than whites he went on to argue that genetic factors were mainly responsible – even going so far as to suggest that intelligence is 80% inherited.

The storm of controversy that developed around Jenson’s claims was not mainly due to logical and empirical weaknesses in his argument. It was more to do with the social and political implications that are often drawn from research that claims to demonstrate natural inequalities between social groups.

For many environmentalists, there is a barely disguised right-wing agenda behind the work of the behavioral geneticists.  In their view, part of the difference in the I.Q. scores of different ethnic groups are due to inbuilt biases in the methods of testing.

More fundamentally, they believe that differences in intellectual ability are a product of social inequalities in access to material resources and opportunities.  To put it simply children brought up in the ghetto tend to score lower on tests because they are denied the same life chances as more privileged members of society.

Now we can see why the nature-nurture debate has become such a hotly contested issue.  What begins as an attempt to understand the causes of behavioral differences often develops into a politically motivated dispute about distributive justice and power in society.

What’s more, this doesn’t only apply to the debate over I.Q.  It is equally relevant to the psychology of sex and gender , where the question of how much of the (alleged) differences in male and female behavior is due to biology and how much to culture is just as controversial.

Polygenic Inheritance

Rather than the presence or absence of single genes being the determining factor that accounts for psychological traits, behavioral genetics has demonstrated that multiple genes – often thousands, collectively contribute to specific behaviors.

Thus, psychological traits follow a polygenic mode of inheritance (as opposed to being determined by a single gene). Depression is a good example of a polygenic trait, which is thought to be influenced by around 1000 genes (Plomin, 2018).

This means a person with a lower number of these genes (under 500) would have a lower risk of experiencing depression than someone with a higher number.

The Nature of Nurture

Nurture assumes that correlations between environmental factors and psychological outcomes are caused environmentally. For example, how much parents read with their children and how well children learn to read appear to be related. Other examples include environmental stress and its effect on depression.

However, behavioral genetics argues that what look like environmental effects are to a large extent really a reflection of genetic differences (Plomin & Bergeman, 1991).

People select, modify and create environments correlated with their genetic disposition. This means that what sometimes appears to be an environmental influence (nurture) is a genetic influence (nature).

So, children that are genetically predisposed to be competent readers, will be happy to listen to their parents read them stories, and be more likely to encourage this interaction.

Interaction Effects

However, in recent years there has been a growing realization that the question of “how much” behavior is due to heredity and “how much” to the environment may itself be the wrong question.

Take intelligence as an example. Like almost all types of human behavior, it is a complex, many-sided phenomenon which reveals itself (or not!) in a great variety of ways.

The “how much” question assumes that psychological traits can all be expressed numerically and that the issue can be resolved in a quantitative manner.

Heritability statistics revealed by behavioral genetic studies have been criticized as meaningless, mainly because biologists have established that genes cannot influence development independently of environmental factors; genetic and nongenetic factors always cooperate to build traits. The reality is that nature and culture interact in a host of qualitatively different ways (Gottlieb, 2007; Johnston & Edwards, 2002).

Instead of defending extreme nativist or nurturist views, most psychological researchers are now interested in investigating how nature and nurture interact.

For example, in psychopathology , this means that both a genetic predisposition and an appropriate environmental trigger are required for a mental disorder to develop. For example, epigenetics state that environmental influences affect the expression of genes.


What is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the term used to describe inheritance by mechanisms other than through the DNA sequence of genes. For example, features of a person’s physical and social environment can effect which genes are switched-on, or “expressed”, rather than the DNA sequence of the genes themselves.

Stressors and memories can be passed through small RNA molecules to multiple generations of offspring in ways that meaningfully affect their behavior.

One such example is what is known as the Dutch Hunger Winter, during last year of the Second World War. What they found was that children who were in the womb during the famine experienced a life-long increase in their chances of developing various health problems compared to children conceived after the famine.

Epigenetic effects can sometimes be passed from one generation to the next, although the effects only seem to last for a few generations. There is some evidence that the effects of the Dutch Hunger Winter affected grandchildren of women who were pregnant during the famine.

Therefore, it makes more sense to say that the difference between two people’s behavior is mostly due to hereditary factors or mostly due to environmental factors.

This realization is especially important given the recent advances in genetics, such as polygenic testing.  The Human Genome Project, for example, has stimulated enormous interest in tracing types of behavior to particular strands of DNA located on specific chromosomes.

If these advances are not to be abused, then there will need to be a more general understanding of the fact that biology interacts with both the cultural context and the personal choices that people make about how they want to live their lives.

There is no neat and simple way of unraveling these qualitatively different and reciprocal influences on human behavior.

Epigenetics: Licking Rat Pups

Michael Meaney and his colleagues at McGill University in Montreal, Canada conducted the landmark epigenetic study on mother rats licking and grooming their pups.

This research found that the amount of licking and grooming received by rat pups during their early life could alter their epigenetic marks and influence their stress responses in adulthood.

Pups that received high levels of maternal care (i.e., more licking and grooming) had a reduced stress response compared to those that received low levels of maternal care.

Meaney’s work with rat maternal behavior and its epigenetic effects has provided significant insights into the understanding of early-life experiences, gene expression, and adult behavior.

It underscores the importance of the early-life environment and its long-term impacts on an individual’s mental health and stress resilience.

Epigenetics: The Agouti Mouse Study

Waterland and Jirtle’s 2003 study on the Agouti mouse is another foundational work in the field of epigenetics that demonstrated how nutritional factors during early development can result in epigenetic changes that have long-lasting effects on phenotype.

In this study, they focused on a specific gene in mice called the Agouti viable yellow (A^vy) gene. Mice with this gene can express a range of coat colors, from yellow to mottled to brown.

This variation in coat color is related to the methylation status of the A^vy gene: higher methylation is associated with the brown coat, and lower methylation with the yellow coat.

Importantly, the coat color is also associated with health outcomes, with yellow mice being more prone to obesity, diabetes, and tumorigenesis compared to brown mice.

Waterland and Jirtle set out to investigate whether maternal diet, specifically supplementation with methyl donors like folic acid, choline, betaine, and vitamin B12, during pregnancy could influence the methylation status of the A^vy gene in offspring.

Key findings from the study include:

Dietary Influence : When pregnant mice were fed a diet supplemented with methyl donors, their offspring had an increased likelihood of having the brown coat color. This indicated that the supplemented diet led to an increased methylation of the A^vy gene.

Health Outcomes : Along with the coat color change, these mice also had reduced risks of obesity and other health issues associated with the yellow phenotype.

Transgenerational Effects : The study showed that nutritional interventions could have effects that extend beyond the individual, affecting the phenotype of the offspring.

The implications of this research are profound. It highlights how maternal nutrition during critical developmental periods can have lasting effects on offspring through epigenetic modifications, potentially affecting health outcomes much later in life.

The study also offers insights into how dietary and environmental factors might contribute to disease susceptibility in humans.

Bandura, A. Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through the imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology , 63, 575-582

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bouchard, T. J. (1994). Genes, Environment, and Personality. Science, 264 (5166), 1700-1701.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss . New York: Basic Books.

Caspi, A., Sugden, K., Moffitt, T. E., Taylor, A., Craig, I. W., Harrington, H., … & Poulton, R. (2003). Influence of life stress on depression: moderation by a polymorphism in the 5-HTT gene.  Science ,  301 (5631), 386-389.

Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic structures. Mouton de Gruyter.

Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax . MIT Press.

Dube, S. R., Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Edwards, V. J., & Croft, J. B. (2002). Adverse childhood experiences and personal alcohol abuse as an adult.  Addictive Behaviors ,  27 (5), 713-725.

Flynn, J. R. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations: What IQ tests really measure.  Psychological Bulletin ,  101 (2), 171.

Freud, S. (1905). Three essays on the theory of sexuality . Se, 7.

Galton, F. (1883). Inquiries into human faculty and its development . London: J.M. Dent & Co.

Gottlieb, G. (2007). Probabilistic epigenesis.   Developmental Science, 10 , 1–11.

Haworth, C. M., Davis, O. S., & Plomin, R. (2013). Twins Early Development Study (TEDS): a genetically sensitive investigation of cognitive and behavioral development from childhood to young adulthood . Twin Research and Human Genetics, 16(1) , 117-125.

Jensen, A. R. (1969). How much can we boost I.Q. and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 33 , 1-123.

Johnston, T. D., & Edwards, L. (2002). Genes, interactions, and the development of behavior . Psychological Review , 109, 26–34.

Keller, M. C., Neale, M. C., & Kendler, K. S. (2007). Association of different adverse life events with distinct patterns of depressive symptoms.  American Journal of Psychiatry ,  164 (10), 1521-1529.

Monroe, S. M., & Simons, A. D. (1991). Diathesis-stress theories in the context of life stress research: implications for the depressive disorders.  Psychological Bulletin ,  110 (3), 406.

Oliver, B. R., & Plomin, R. (2007). Twins” Early Development Study (TEDS): A multivariate, longitudinal genetic investigation of language, cognition and behavior problems from childhood through adolescence . Twin Research and Human Genetics, 10(1) , 96-105.

Petrill, S. A., Plomin, R., Berg, S., Johansson, B., Pedersen, N. L., Ahern, F., & McClearn, G. E. (1998). The genetic and environmental relationship between general and specific cognitive abilities in twins age 80 and older.  Psychological Science ,  9 (3), 183-189.

Plomin, R., & Petrill, S. A. (1997). Genetics and intelligence: What’s new?.  Intelligence ,  24 (1), 53-77.

Plomin, R. (2018). Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are . MIT Press.

Plomin, R., & Bergeman, C. S. (1991). The nature of nurture: Genetic influence on “environmental” measures. behavioral and Brain Sciences, 14(3) , 373-386.

Plomin, R., & DeFries, J. C. (1983). The Colorado adoption project. Child Development , 276-289.

Plomin, R., & DeFries, J. C. (1985). The origins of individual differences in infancy; the Colorado adoption project. Science, 230 , 1369-1371.

Plomin, R., & Spinath, F. M. (2004). Intelligence: genetics, genes, and genomics.  Journal of personality and social psychology ,  86 (1), 112.

Plomin, R., & Von Stumm, S. (2018). The new genetics of intelligence.  Nature Reviews Genetics ,  19 (3), 148-159.

Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior . Acton, MA: Copley Publishing Group.

Sullivan, P. F., Neale, M. C., & Kendler, K. S. (2000). Genetic epidemiology of major depression: review and meta-analysis.  American Journal of Psychiatry ,  157 (10), 1552-1562.

Szyf, M., Weaver, I. C., Champagne, F. A., Diorio, J., & Meaney, M. J. (2005). Maternal programming of steroid receptor expression and phenotype through DNA methylation in the rat .  Frontiers in neuroendocrinology ,  26 (3-4), 139-162.

Trouton, A., Spinath, F. M., & Plomin, R. (2002). Twins early development study (TEDS): a multivariate, longitudinal genetic investigation of language, cognition and behavior problems in childhood . Twin Research and Human Genetics, 5(5) , 444-448.

Waterland, R. A., & Jirtle, R. L. (2003). Transposable elements: targets for early nutritional effects on epigenetic gene regulation . Molecular and cellular biology, 23 (15), 5293-5300.

Further Information

  • Genetic & Environmental Influences on Human Psychological Differences

Evidence for Nurture

  • Classical Conditioning
  • Little Albert Experiment
  • Operant Conditioning
  • Behaviorism
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory
  • Social Roles
  • Attachment Styles
  • The Hidden Links Between Mental Disorders
  • Visual Cliff Experiment
  • Behavioral Genetics, Genetics, and Epigenetics
  • Epigenetics
  • Is Epigenetics Inherited?
  • Physiological Psychology
  • Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis
  • So is it nature not nurture after all?

Evidence for an Interaction

  • Genes, Interactions, and the Development of Behavior
  • Agouti Mouse Study
  • Biological Psychology

What does nature refer to in the nature vs. nurture debate?

In the nature vs. nurture debate, “nature” refers to the influence of genetics, innate qualities, and biological factors on human development, behavior, and traits. It emphasizes the role of hereditary factors in shaping who we are.

What does nurture refer to in the nature vs. nurture debate?

In the nature vs. nurture debate, “nurture” refers to the influence of the environment, upbringing, experiences, and social factors on human development, behavior, and traits. It emphasizes the role of external factors in shaping who we are.

Why is it important to determine the contribution of heredity (nature) and environment (nurture) in human development?

Determining the contribution of heredity and environment in human development is crucial for understanding the complex interplay between genetic factors and environmental influences. It helps identify the relative significance of each factor, informing interventions, policies, and strategies to optimize human potential and address developmental challenges.

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  • Nature vs Nurture Essays

Nature vs nurture: Debate Essay

The debate over what determines who we are, whether it is Nature (heredity) or Nurture (our surroundings) is taking a new shape. Is nature or nurture responsible for our actions? Have we remained creatures of nature? Can we resist natural influences with the power of our critical thinking? During the past decades, psychologists have created different theories to make clear the characteristics of human-beings. Usually, these theories were one directional in the nature / nurture question. In fact, the more we comprehend about development and behaviour, the more apparent it becomes that nature and nurture are parallel influences rather than determinants.

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Animal behaviours are either innate or learned. Much is random and therefore isn’t really “behavior”: a flagellating protozoa isn’t “looking for” food. When social scientists explain human behaviour they imply purposeful and consequential activities. It is understood that humans are aware of their own acts and those of others. In other words, human behaviours are acquired rather than natural. Instincts, which are activities that are made without learning, altered as adaptations to exact circumstances. But success in adaptation comes at a cost: instincts make organisms “puppets” of their surroundings. Anticipating a rain a frog croaks, just as the rooster crows with the beginning of dawn. Neither the frog nor the rooster had any choice in the matter; their behaviours were simply determined by the environment. Humans have the smallest number of instincts; as an alternative, we have contradictory genetic abilities and capacities to react our environment. For us, consequently, surroundings remain a strong determinant of behaviours.

Social scientists are ever more realizing the discourse of the interactions that take place between nature and nurture. The existence of genes does not by itself make sure that a particular feature will be obvious. Genes need the proper upbringing for inborn propensities to be entirely expressed. These “proper surroundings” contain not only natural environment but also of individuals’ common and symbolic milieus.

According to Richard Dawkins, the final purpose of the game of life is the immortality of one’s information. This information is of two types: the genetic, the programming of one’s DNA, and the memetic, the elements of intellectual information individuals pass on in their society. “We are survival machines,” he writes in The Selfish Gene, “robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” And “just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.”(Dawkins, 1976, p.147)

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Support of probable genetic factors determining the direction of individuals’ lifelong interests and behaviours increases. For instance, Alexander Graham Bell, who unintentionally invented the telephone whilst working on ways to help the hearing impaired, came from a family that was involved in working with problems of speech and sound. Both his mother and his wife were hard of hearing. His paternal grandfather wrote a book on phonetics and created a treatment for those who are loosing hearing, which was supported by his father and uncle.

It is worth noting the gloomy history of efforts to connect cultural differences and social deviance to genetic “defects.” In the early physiognomic literature on deviance, for example, Cesare Lombroso (Deam, 1989) wrote in the 1870s how deviants had extremely long legs in comparison with rest of their bodies, weird head shapes, absence of a appropriate chin, ingrown ear flaps or large ears. They were, he states, throwbacks to earlier phases of human development. In early 1900th was published The Blood of the Nation: A Study of the Decay of Races Through the Survival of the Unfit, an evil work by David Starr Jordon, the first President of Stanford University. Certainly, the American Eugenics Movement was to cause the Nazi’s “racial purity” political movement, which was the cause of the Holocaust. For the duration of the Nixon presidency, Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker suggested to the Health, Education and Welfare Department that all American children be psychologically tested after reaching six years old with ink spots to identify criminal predispositions (Deam, 1989; Gelman, 1992) . The main part of these “future delinquents” would be sent off to appropriate places where they would learn more conventional behaviour models.

Culture is a set of ideas about the environment and the world, and how people should act in it that is shared–and shared unfairly–by members of a neighbourhood. It contains the logic-meaningful area of social life: the cognitive-knowing, the normative-acting, and the expressive-feeling extents of life. On the one hand, culture is a structure of canned recipes–cognitive and behavioural sets or algorithms of habits, –for socializing with others, allowing individuals to perform their social roles without having to make intended decisions. Through the times of significant cultural transformation these recipes don’t work any longer, causing the appearance of subcultures whose recipes do.

Identifying nature vs. nurture in terms of determinism vs. free will is most likely mistaken when one believes the discourse to which enculturation patterns minds, selves and behaviour. Current facts specify that culture really shapes the hard wiring of the human primate, a human being mainly born bereft of instinct and known for its great plasticity.

Nowadays media concentrates mostly on a number of recent efforts by researchers to relate homosexual, lesbian and queer behaviour to specific brain structures, hormones or genes. Such biological descriptions may be connected to one another, since brain structures may extend under the control of hormones, which in turn work under commands from the genetic code. The investigation is only beginning, and the early theories that have acquired much media attention have not so far withstood the fundamental test of replication by other researchers. For instance, the research team of L S. Allen and R. A. Gorski suggested that a group of nerve fibres between the hemispheres of the brain, the anterior commissure, was normally larger in 34 homosexual men and in nineteen bisexual men. Even though this fraction of the brain has no known relation to sexual behaviour, some scientists believe in a association with the fact that homosexual men are expected to be left-handed, dyslexic and stutterers — all factors associated with the development of the brain hemispheres.

Recent studies of current hormone levels in homosexuals were unsuccessful to turn up any dissimilarity between heterosexuals and homosexuals. “Prenatal hormonal secretions have been found to influence later sexual postures among rodents, but they do not have the same influence in primates, and they are much more difficult to apply to the complexity and diversity of human sexuality”(Deam, 1992, p.91).

Sigmund Freud notably considered humans to be obviously “polymorphously perverse,” implying either that almost any object can be a cause of erotic fulfillment, or that babies are comparatively indifferent to the object of sexual fulfilment (Allen, 1992). Freud stated that, as the child grows up, the items of erotic fulfillment become more evidently defined and limited (whether this is the consequence of a natural or a social procedure is a issue of debate). Anthropologists have discovered that around the world many people, including people from the same culture, may be directed towards a range of objects. Yet, most scholars guess that in any given society what is known as an proper object of desire is greatly regulated and restricted. Furthermore, some cultural customs (in particular religious) declare that people should have only one group of objects of wish.

According to two controversial concepts, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953) by Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, when asked to rate themselves on a range from totally heterosexual to utterly homosexual, and when the individuals’ behaviour as well as their individuality are analysed, the majority of people appear to be at least rather bisexual, i.e., most people have some appeal to either sex, though as a rule one sex is preferred. According to Kinsey, only a minority (5-10%) can be considered entirely heterosexual or homosexual. On the other hand, only an even smaller group of people can be considered completely bisexual. This made Kinsey suggest what has from that time become famous as the Kinsey scale . Kinsey claimed that there are not “two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual…. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into pigeonholes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects…” (Kinsey, 1976, p.167)

In addition, it is important to mention the influence of moral environment. Moral ‘atmosphere’ deserves recognition as a powerful factor in the development of individual sexuality. The human ethics is no less real for being rather uncertain. To some people conscience is nothing more than a little voice in the back of the head speaking softly the rules of childhood teaching — the last voice heard, probably, before one comes in the forgetfulness of passion. To others it is the creation of intentional and mature ethical reflection.

One of the most significant help of contemporary neuroscience has been to show that the nature/nurture debate deals with a wrong dichotomy: the statement that biology, on one hand, and lived experience, on the other, influence us in basically different ways. Research has shown that not only do nature and nurture each contribute (in uncertain proportions) to who we are, but also that they speak the same language. Both reach their effects by changing the synaptic organization of the brain. “Synapses are responsible for much of the brain’s activity. The particular patterns of synapses in a person’s brain, and the information that those connections encode, are the keys to who that person is” (Gelman, 1992). This way, ‘synaptic plasticity’ is the process by which experience create proper synapses. ‘Synaptic plasticity’ may occur either in child or in adult, and childhood experiences somehow influence out adult lives.

As one might assume, the nature vs. nurture debate is ongoing, is spite of the fact that scientists have already discovered that both of them are not determinants, but parallel influences. Brain activity, determined by the nature, however is greatly influenced by the whole social ‘ethos’, which is consists of the rules, expectations and moral obligations. Thus, the problems with gender identity might be either inborn or arisen during the life course. For instance, change in gender i9dentity might occur even in adults, who are seen as ‘mature’ personalities as well as in children, who have genetic predisposition. Whereas evolutionary psychology highlights considerable influences of nature, it is possible to say that humans, being the creatures, who are capable of abstractive thinking and logical analysis, are also able to eliminate, at least partially, those crucial influences.


  • Allen L , 1992, Freudist perspective. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America 89, no. 15
  • Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press, Oxford Deam D.1989., Phenotypes shape our behavior, Pathology #21
  • Gelman D.,1992. Born or Bred? Newsweek, 24 February 1992
  • Kinsey A.,1976. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2nd ed. LeVay S., 1991, A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure Between heterosexual and Homosexual Men, Science #253

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Topic Nature vs Nurture

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Home — Essay Samples — Psychology — Nature Versus Nurture — The Nature vs Nurture Debate


The Nature Vs Nurture Debate

  • Categories: Nature Versus Nurture

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Published: Jan 29, 2024

Words: 603 | Page: 1 | 4 min read

Table of contents

Nature argument, nurture argument, interactionist perspective, criticisms and limitations of the debate.

  • One of the most compelling examples of genetic influences on behavior is the study of identical twins. Identical twins share the same genes and were commonly separated at birth, yet they often display remarkable similarities in personality traits, interests, and even medical conditions.
  • Genetic factors can lead to the onset of psychological disorders such as Autism and Schizophrenia.
  • Evolution and natural selection have created inherited traits such as physical characteristics that enable humans to adapt to their environments.
  • Early childhood experiences can heavily influence an individual’s cognitive development. Studies have shown that a nurturing environment positively contributes to intellectual development and conversely, poverty and violence negatively impact cognitive development.
  • Socialization is a critical environmental factor that shapes one's personality. Cultural norms also deeply influence one's way of thinking, behavior, and personal identity.
  • Environmental factors can heavily impact behavior, such as peer pressure and negative societal influences leading to adverse outcomes.
  • Genetic factors and environmental factors have both been shown to interact to influence behavior, gene-environment interaction being critical scientific evidence of this.
  • Epigenetics, the study of how environmental factors can activate or suppress certain genes, can have impacts on both personality and physical health.
  • Plomin, R. (2018). Genetics and life events: The importance of childhood environments for recruitment into ‘nature’s experiments’. Psychological Review, 125(5), 778-791.
  • Reiss, D., Neiderhiser, J. M., Hetherington, E. M., & Plomin, R. (2000). The relationship code: Deciphering genetic and social influences on adolescent development. Harvard University Press.
  • Jablonka, E., & Raz, G. (2009). Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance: Prevalence , Mechanisms, and Implications for the Study of Heredity and Evolution. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 84(2), 131–176.

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essay vs debate

Nature vs. Nurture Essay

Nature is the influence of genetics or hereditary factors in determining the individual’s behavior. In other words, it is how natural factors shape the behavior or personality of an individual. In most cases, nature determines the physical characteristics which in effect influence the behavior of an individual. Physical characteristics such as physical appearance, type of voice and sex which are determined by hereditary factors influences the way people behave.

Nurture on the other is the upbringing of an individual according to the environmental conditions. That is, the way individuals are socialized. Basically, nurture is the influence of environmental factors on an individual’s behavior.

According to this paradigm, an individual’s behavior can be conditioned depending on the way one would like it to be. Often, individuals’ behaviors are conditioned by the socio-cultural environmental factors. It is because of socio-cultural environmental conditions that the differences in the behavior of individuals occur.

Nature determines individual traits that are hereditary. In other words, human characteristics are determined by genetic predispositions which are largely natural. Hereditary traits are normally being passed from the parents to the offspring. They include characteristics that determine sex and physical make up. According to natural behaviorists, it is the genes that will determine the physical trait an individual will have. These are encoded on the individuals DNA.

Therefore, behavioral traits such as sexual orientation, aggression, personality and intelligence are also encoded in the DNA. However, scientists believe that these characteristics are evolutionary. That is, they change over time depending on the physical environment adaptability. Evolutionary scientists argue that changes in genes are as a result of mutations which are caused by environmental factors. Thus, natural environment determines individual characteristics which are genetically encoded in the DNA.

Conversely, individuals possess traits that are not naturally determined. These are characteristics that are learnt rather than being born with. These are traits which largely determined by the socio-cultural environmental factors or the way the individuals are socialized within the society depending on the societal values.

These traits are learnt as an individual develops and can easily be changed by the socio-cultural environment where the individual is currently staying. These characteristics include temperament, ability to master a language and sense of humor. Behavioral theorists believe that these traits can be conditioned and altered much like the way animal behavior can be conditioned.

From the discussion it can be deduced that individuals’ traits are determined by hereditary genes and at the same time can be natured. There are those traits that cannot be changed in an individual no matter what condition the person is exposed to. These traits are inborn and embed within the individual hereditary factors.

In most cases, they constitute the physical characteristics of an individual. They also determine the physical behaviors such as walking style, physical appearance and eating habits. At the same time there are learned characteristics which are normally being conditioned by the socio-cultural values. Individuals learn these traits from the way they are socialized within the immediate social or cultural environment. In other words, such behaviors are conditioned by the cultural values encouraged by the immediate society.

In conclusion, nature vs. nurture debate still remains controversial. However, all agree that nature and nurture play a crucial role in determining an individual’s behavior. Nature is associated with heredity roles in determining the individuals characteristics where as nurture is associated with the role of socio-cultural environment in determining the individuals behavior.

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IvyPanda. (2024, February 28). Nature vs. Nurture. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nature-vs-nurture/

"Nature vs. Nurture." IvyPanda , 28 Feb. 2024, ivypanda.com/essays/nature-vs-nurture/.

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NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust

David Folkenflik 2018 square

David Folkenflik

essay vs debate

NPR is defending its journalism and integrity after a senior editor wrote an essay accusing it of losing the public's trust. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

NPR is defending its journalism and integrity after a senior editor wrote an essay accusing it of losing the public's trust.

NPR's top news executive defended its journalism and its commitment to reflecting a diverse array of views on Tuesday after a senior NPR editor wrote a broad critique of how the network has covered some of the most important stories of the age.

"An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR, and now, predictably, we don't have an audience that reflects America," writes Uri Berliner.

A strategic emphasis on diversity and inclusion on the basis of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, promoted by NPR's former CEO, John Lansing, has fed "the absence of viewpoint diversity," Berliner writes.

NPR's chief news executive, Edith Chapin, wrote in a memo to staff Tuesday afternoon that she and the news leadership team strongly reject Berliner's assessment.

"We're proud to stand behind the exceptional work that our desks and shows do to cover a wide range of challenging stories," she wrote. "We believe that inclusion — among our staff, with our sourcing, and in our overall coverage — is critical to telling the nuanced stories of this country and our world."

NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era

NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era

She added, "None of our work is above scrutiny or critique. We must have vigorous discussions in the newsroom about how we serve the public as a whole."

A spokesperson for NPR said Chapin, who also serves as the network's chief content officer, would have no further comment.

Praised by NPR's critics

Berliner is a senior editor on NPR's Business Desk. (Disclosure: I, too, am part of the Business Desk, and Berliner has edited many of my past stories. He did not see any version of this article or participate in its preparation before it was posted publicly.)

Berliner's essay , titled "I've Been at NPR for 25 years. Here's How We Lost America's Trust," was published by The Free Press, a website that has welcomed journalists who have concluded that mainstream news outlets have become reflexively liberal.

Berliner writes that as a Subaru-driving, Sarah Lawrence College graduate who "was raised by a lesbian peace activist mother ," he fits the mold of a loyal NPR fan.

Yet Berliner says NPR's news coverage has fallen short on some of the most controversial stories of recent years, from the question of whether former President Donald Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 election, to the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, to the significance and provenance of emails leaked from a laptop owned by Hunter Biden weeks before the 2020 election. In addition, he blasted NPR's coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

On each of these stories, Berliner asserts, NPR has suffered from groupthink due to too little diversity of viewpoints in the newsroom.

The essay ricocheted Tuesday around conservative media , with some labeling Berliner a whistleblower . Others picked it up on social media, including Elon Musk, who has lambasted NPR for leaving his social media site, X. (Musk emailed another NPR reporter a link to Berliner's article with a gibe that the reporter was a "quisling" — a World War II reference to someone who collaborates with the enemy.)

When asked for further comment late Tuesday, Berliner declined, saying the essay spoke for itself.

The arguments he raises — and counters — have percolated across U.S. newsrooms in recent years. The #MeToo sexual harassment scandals of 2016 and 2017 forced newsrooms to listen to and heed more junior colleagues. The social justice movement prompted by the killing of George Floyd in 2020 inspired a reckoning in many places. Newsroom leaders often appeared to stand on shaky ground.

Leaders at many newsrooms, including top editors at The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times , lost their jobs. Legendary Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron wrote in his memoir that he feared his bonds with the staff were "frayed beyond repair," especially over the degree of self-expression his journalists expected to exert on social media, before he decided to step down in early 2021.

Since then, Baron and others — including leaders of some of these newsrooms — have suggested that the pendulum has swung too far.

Legendary editor Marty Baron describes his 'Collision of Power' with Trump and Bezos

Author Interviews

Legendary editor marty baron describes his 'collision of power' with trump and bezos.

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger warned last year against journalists embracing a stance of what he calls "one-side-ism": "where journalists are demonstrating that they're on the side of the righteous."

"I really think that that can create blind spots and echo chambers," he said.

Internal arguments at The Times over the strength of its reporting on accusations that Hamas engaged in sexual assaults as part of a strategy for its Oct. 7 attack on Israel erupted publicly . The paper conducted an investigation to determine the source of a leak over a planned episode of the paper's podcast The Daily on the subject, which months later has not been released. The newsroom guild accused the paper of "targeted interrogation" of journalists of Middle Eastern descent.

Heated pushback in NPR's newsroom

Given Berliner's account of private conversations, several NPR journalists question whether they can now trust him with unguarded assessments about stories in real time. Others express frustration that he had not sought out comment in advance of publication. Berliner acknowledged to me that for this story, he did not seek NPR's approval to publish the piece, nor did he give the network advance notice.

Some of Berliner's NPR colleagues are responding heatedly. Fernando Alfonso, a senior supervising editor for digital news, wrote that he wholeheartedly rejected Berliner's critique of the coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, for which NPR's journalists, like their peers, periodically put themselves at risk.

Alfonso also took issue with Berliner's concern over the focus on diversity at NPR.

"As a person of color who has often worked in newsrooms with little to no people who look like me, the efforts NPR has made to diversify its workforce and its sources are unique and appropriate given the news industry's long-standing lack of diversity," Alfonso says. "These efforts should be celebrated and not denigrated as Uri has done."

After this story was first published, Berliner contested Alfonso's characterization, saying his criticism of NPR is about the lack of diversity of viewpoints, not its diversity itself.

"I never criticized NPR's priority of achieving a more diverse workforce in terms of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. I have not 'denigrated' NPR's newsroom diversity goals," Berliner said. "That's wrong."

Questions of diversity

Under former CEO John Lansing, NPR made increasing diversity, both of its staff and its audience, its "North Star" mission. Berliner says in the essay that NPR failed to consider broader diversity of viewpoint, noting, "In D.C., where NPR is headquartered and many of us live, I found 87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans."

Berliner cited audience estimates that suggested a concurrent falloff in listening by Republicans. (The number of people listening to NPR broadcasts and terrestrial radio broadly has declined since the start of the pandemic.)

Former NPR vice president for news and ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin tweeted , "I know Uri. He's not wrong."

Others questioned Berliner's logic. "This probably gets causality somewhat backward," tweeted Semafor Washington editor Jordan Weissmann . "I'd guess that a lot of NPR listeners who voted for [Mitt] Romney have changed how they identify politically."

Similarly, Nieman Lab founder Joshua Benton suggested the rise of Trump alienated many NPR-appreciating Republicans from the GOP.

In recent years, NPR has greatly enhanced the percentage of people of color in its workforce and its executive ranks. Four out of 10 staffers are people of color; nearly half of NPR's leadership team identifies as Black, Asian or Latino.

"The philosophy is: Do you want to serve all of America and make sure it sounds like all of America, or not?" Lansing, who stepped down last month, says in response to Berliner's piece. "I'd welcome the argument against that."

"On radio, we were really lagging in our representation of an audience that makes us look like what America looks like today," Lansing says. The U.S. looks and sounds a lot different than it did in 1971, when NPR's first show was broadcast, Lansing says.

A network spokesperson says new NPR CEO Katherine Maher supports Chapin and her response to Berliner's critique.

The spokesperson says that Maher "believes that it's a healthy thing for a public service newsroom to engage in rigorous consideration of the needs of our audiences, including where we serve our mission well and where we can serve it better."

Disclosure: This story was reported and written by NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by Deputy Business Editor Emily Kopp and Managing Editor Gerry Holmes. Under NPR's protocol for reporting on itself, no NPR corporate official or news executive reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.

essay vs debate

NPR Editor's Critical Op-Ed Ignites Debate Over Political Bias in Journalism: 'This Essay Has It Backwards'

A scathing op-ed from NPR veteran and current senior business editor Uri Berliner published in The Free Press on Tuesday has intensified debates over whether the publicly funded news organization has adopted a partisan lean in recent years. 

In the piece , Berliner details a culture shift at the organization, in which "An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR, and now, predictably, we don't have an audience that reflects America."

Berliner argued that NPR is plagued with an "absence of viewpoint diversity," which he considers to be a result of leadership's emphasis on promoting diversity and inclusion on the basis of race and sexual orientation. He also claims that he found "87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans."

NPR editor-in-chief Edith Chapin defended the organization in response to the piece, saying she the leadership team "strongly disagree with Uri's assessment of the quality of our journalism."

While Chapin backed the "exceptional work that our desks and shows do to cover a wide range of challenging stories," she added that "None of our work is above scrutiny or critique. We must have vigorous discussions in the newsroom about how we serve the public as a whole."

According to NPR media reporter David Folkenflik , several journalists inside the organization question how they can proceed with Berliner as a colleague, with concerns about whether he can be a trusted member of NPR in the aftermath of the op-ed. Additionally, Berliner did not seek NPR's approval to publish the piece, nor did he seek comment from the organization ahead of time; though he does say in his piece that he sought to raise his concerns with leadership on several occasions.

Meanwhile, outside of the organization, debates regarding the content of Berliner's piece have sprouted up across social media, with many coming to the defense of the storied NPR institution. 

Some argued that the shift that occurred in political coverage across the media industry was forced on institutions due to the changing nature of the Republican Party since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. 

Some came to Berliner's defense, including former NPR vice president for news Jeffrey Dvorkin who vouched for the changes to the organization. 

The post NPR Editor's Critical Op-Ed Ignites Debate Over Political Bias in Journalism: 'This Essay Has It Backwards' appeared first on TheWrap .

NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Greatness Unveiled: LeBron Vs. Jordan Debate

This essay about the enduring debate between LeBron James and Michael Jordan in the realm of basketball. It explores their contrasting eras, playing styles, and legacies, emphasizing the broader impact they’ve had on the game and society. While delving into their statistical achievements and championship records, it highlights the nuances of their respective career trajectories and off-court influences. Through a lens that goes beyond mere numbers, the essay unveils the complex narratives of these basketball icons, revealing their significance not only as athletes but also as cultural symbols and agents of change.

How it works

In the powerful arena of conversation of basket-ball, a few themes catch fire how passionate debates how comparison between Lebron James and Michael Jordan. Both titans of game, they present different eras, different playing styles, and different stories. However, they divide general ni? of grandeur that binds by their time in collective consciousness of supporters of basket-ball in the whole world. As fans and analysts bring over to eternal debates above who dominations the greatest, substantially dug on external statistics and championship to the truly grasping their maintenance of operating on a game and more wide cultural landscape.

Michael Jordan, compendium of advantage of basket-ball in late 20 – to the ? century, took imagination of millions with his unprecedented athleticism chwytliwym, and absolutely will be for victory. He six championship of Nba, bound to the array of individual honours, hardened his status how his indisputable king of era. Jordan a competitive fire burned brighter, than lights of arena, moving him to legendary status and forming very the ideal of basket-ball in 1990 – ?. Lebron James, from other side, appeared how strange talent on 21 – ? of beginning of century, declaring the new era of basket-ball certain scalene, by an athleticism, and by the index of intellect of basket-ball. With combination of size, habits, and vision, what is rarely seen in history of sport, Lebron revolutionized concept of “bezpozycyjnego” player, wiping lines between traditional roles on a court. His ability to prevail above games to the frequent aspects, from winning to playmaking to defence, stepped over conditioned that concept, what able to be basketball-player. Comparison between Lebron and Jordan is often concentrated round championship, with Jordan, what is retained by an easy country in this attention. However, abbreviating their competition to the mere tally rings examines their messes to the corresponding trajectory of career. Dear Jordan to the grandeur was marked an early fight and remains, by the way defeats of the decision meeting in hand Detroit of Pistons eventually before breaking through and Chicago conducts Bulls to glory of championship. Lebron, meantime, ran into an intensive attentive review from young age clumsy with weight of high expectations how “Elite One”. His trip took him from Cleveland to Miami and back again, with every division, what adds layers to his resilient story and redemption. After the court of basket-ball, how Lebron, so and Jordan owned their influence, to influence on social problems and cross sport distances. Jordan a global brand converted him into a cultural icon, with him Jordan slippers of Air of signature, what becomes the symbol of aspiration and style. Lebron, going on Jordan feet, fixed the platform, to protect, because reasons close to his heart, from educational initiatives to the pedigree campaigns of justice, cementing his inheritance not only how a basketball-player but and forces for a positive change in society.


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Amanda Hoover

Students Are Likely Writing Millions of Papers With AI

Illustration of four hands holding pencils that are connected to a central brain

Students have submitted more than 22 million papers that may have used generative AI in the past year, new data released by plagiarism detection company Turnitin shows.

A year ago, Turnitin rolled out an AI writing detection tool that was trained on its trove of papers written by students as well as other AI-generated texts. Since then, more than 200 million papers have been reviewed by the detector, predominantly written by high school and college students. Turnitin found that 11 percent may contain AI-written language in 20 percent of its content, with 3 percent of the total papers reviewed getting flagged for having 80 percent or more AI writing. (Turnitin is owned by Advance, which also owns Condé Nast, publisher of WIRED.) Turnitin says its detector has a false positive rate of less than 1 percent when analyzing full documents.

ChatGPT’s launch was met with knee-jerk fears that the English class essay would die . The chatbot can synthesize information and distill it near-instantly—but that doesn’t mean it always gets it right. Generative AI has been known to hallucinate , creating its own facts and citing academic references that don’t actually exist. Generative AI chatbots have also been caught spitting out biased text on gender and race . Despite those flaws, students have used chatbots for research, organizing ideas, and as a ghostwriter . Traces of chatbots have even been found in peer-reviewed, published academic writing .

Teachers understandably want to hold students accountable for using generative AI without permission or disclosure. But that requires a reliable way to prove AI was used in a given assignment. Instructors have tried at times to find their own solutions to detecting AI in writing, using messy, untested methods to enforce rules , and distressing students. Further complicating the issue, some teachers are even using generative AI in their grading processes.

Detecting the use of gen AI is tricky. It’s not as easy as flagging plagiarism, because generated text is still original text. Plus, there’s nuance to how students use gen AI; some may ask chatbots to write their papers for them in large chunks or in full, while others may use the tools as an aid or a brainstorm partner.

Students also aren't tempted by only ChatGPT and similar large language models. So-called word spinners are another type of AI software that rewrites text, and may make it less obvious to a teacher that work was plagiarized or generated by AI. Turnitin’s AI detector has also been updated to detect word spinners, says Annie Chechitelli, the company’s chief product officer. It can also flag work that was rewritten by services like spell checker Grammarly, which now has its own generative AI tool . As familiar software increasingly adds generative AI components, what students can and can’t use becomes more muddled.

Detection tools themselves have a risk of bias. English language learners may be more likely to set them off; a 2023 study found a 61.3 percent false positive rate when evaluating Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams with seven different AI detectors. The study did not examine Turnitin’s version. The company says it has trained its detector on writing from English language learners as well as native English speakers. A study published in October found that Turnitin was among the most accurate of 16 AI language detectors in a test that had the tool examine undergraduate papers and AI-generated papers.

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Schools that use Turnitin had access to the AI detection software for a free pilot period, which ended at the start of this year. Chechitelli says a majority of the service’s clients have opted to purchase the AI detection. But the risks of false positives and bias against English learners have led some universities to ditch the tools for now. Montclair State University in New Jersey announced in November that it would pause use of Turnitin’s AI detector. Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University did the same last summer.

“This is hard. I understand why people want a tool,” says Emily Isaacs, executive director of the Office of Faculty Excellence at Montclair State. But Isaacs says the university is concerned about potentially biased results from AI detectors, as well as the fact that the tools can’t provide confirmation the way they can with plagiarism. Plus, Montclair State doesn’t want to put a blanket ban on AI, which will have some place in academia. With time and more trust in the tools, the policies could change. “It’s not a forever decision, it’s a now decision,” Isaacs says.

Chechitelli says the Turnitin tool shouldn’t be the only consideration in passing or failing a student. Instead, it’s a chance for teachers to start conversations with students that touch on all of the nuance in using generative AI. “People don’t really know where that line should be,” she says.

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Guest Essay

The Problem With Saying ‘Sex Assigned at Birth’

A black and white photo of newborns in bassinets in the hospital.

By Alex Byrne and Carole K. Hooven

Mr. Byrne is a philosopher and the author of “Trouble With Gender: Sex Facts, Gender Fictions.” Ms. Hooven is an evolutionary biologist and the author of “T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone That Dominates and Divides Us.”

As you may have noticed, “sex” is out, and “sex assigned at birth” is in. Instead of asking for a person’s sex, some medical and camp forms these days ask for “sex assigned at birth” or “assigned sex” (often in addition to gender identity). The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association endorse this terminology; its use has also exploded in academic articles. The Cleveland Clinic’s online glossary of diseases and conditions tells us that the “inability to achieve or maintain an erection” is a symptom of sexual dysfunction, not in “males,” but in “people assigned male at birth.”

This trend began around a decade ago, part of an increasing emphasis in society on emotional comfort and insulation from offense — what some have called “ safetyism .” “Sex” is now often seen as a biased or insensitive word because it may fail to reflect how people identify themselves. One reason for the adoption of “assigned sex,” therefore, is that it supplies respectful euphemisms, softening what to some nonbinary and transgender people, among others, can feel like a harsh biological reality. Saying that someone was “assigned female at birth” is taken to be an indirect and more polite way of communicating that the person is biologically female. The terminology can also function to signal solidarity with trans and nonbinary people, as well as convey the radical idea that our traditional understanding of sex is outdated.

The shift to “sex assigned at birth” may be well intentioned, but it is not progress. We are not against politeness or expressions of solidarity, but “sex assigned at birth” can confuse people and creates doubt about a biological fact when there shouldn’t be any. Nor is the phrase called for because our traditional understanding of sex needs correcting — it doesn’t.

This matters because sex matters. Sex is a fundamental biological feature with significant consequences for our species, so there are costs to encouraging misconceptions about it.

Sex matters for health, safety and social policy and interacts in complicated ways with culture. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to experience harmful side effects from drugs, a problem that may be ameliorated by reducing drug doses for females. Males, meanwhile, are more likely to die from Covid-19 and cancer, and commit the vast majority of homicides and sexual assaults . We aren’t suggesting that “assigned sex” will increase the death toll. However, terminology about important matters should be as clear as possible.

More generally, the interaction between sex and human culture is crucial to understanding psychological and physical differences between boys and girls, men and women. We cannot have such understanding unless we know what sex is, which means having the linguistic tools necessary to discuss it. The Associated Press cautions journalists that describing women as “female” may be objectionable because “it can be seen as emphasizing biology,” but sometimes biology is highly relevant. The heated debate about transgender women participating in female sports is an example ; whatever view one takes on the matter, biologically driven athletic differences between the sexes are real.

When influential organizations and individuals promote “sex assigned at birth,” they are encouraging a culture in which citizens can be shamed for using words like “sex,” “male” and “female” that are familiar to everyone in society, as well as necessary to discuss the implications of sex. This is not the usual kind of censoriousness, which discourages the public endorsement of certain opinions. It is more subtle, repressing the very vocabulary needed to discuss the opinions in the first place.

A proponent of the new language may object, arguing that sex is not being avoided, but merely addressed and described with greater empathy. The introduction of euphemisms to ease uncomfortable associations with old words happens all the time — for instance “plus sized” as a replacement for “overweight.” Admittedly, the effects may be short-lived , because euphemisms themselves often become offensive, and indeed “larger-bodied” is now often preferred to “plus sized.” But what’s the harm? No one gets confused, and the euphemisms allow us to express extra sensitivity. Some see “sex assigned at birth” in the same positive light: It’s a way of talking about sex that is gender-affirming and inclusive .

The problem is that “sex assigned at birth”— unlike “larger-bodied”— is very misleading. Saying that someone was “assigned female at birth” suggests that the person’s sex is at best a matter of educated guesswork. “Assigned” can connote arbitrariness — as in “assigned classroom seating” — and so “sex assigned at birth” can also suggest that there is no objective reality behind “male” and “female,” no biological categories to which the words refer.

Contrary to what we might assume, avoiding “sex” doesn’t serve the cause of inclusivity: not speaking plainly about males and females is patronizing. We sometimes sugarcoat the biological facts for children, but competent adults deserve straight talk. Nor are circumlocutions needed to secure personal protections and rights, including transgender rights. In the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County decision in 2020, which outlawed workplace discrimination against gay and transgender people, Justice Neil Gorsuch used “sex,” not “sex assigned at birth.”

A more radical proponent of “assigned sex” will object that the very idea of sex as a biological fact is suspect. According to this view — associated with the French philosopher Michel Foucault and, more recently, the American philosopher Judith Butler — sex is somehow a cultural production, the result of labeling babies male or female. “Sex assigned at birth” should therefore be preferred over “sex,” not because it is more polite, but because it is more accurate.

This position tacitly assumes that humans are exempt from the natural order. If only! Alas, we are animals. Sexed organisms were present on Earth at least a billion years ago, and males and females would have been around even if humans had never evolved. Sex is not in any sense the result of linguistic ceremonies in the delivery room or other cultural practices. Lonesome George, the long-lived Galápagos giant tortoise , was male. He was not assigned male at birth — or rather, in George’s case, at hatching. A baby abandoned at birth may not have been assigned male or female by anyone, yet the baby still has a sex. Despite the confusion sown by some scholars, we can be confident that the sex binary is not a human invention.

Another downside of “assigned sex” is that it biases the conversation away from established biological facts and infuses it with a sociopolitical agenda, which only serves to intensify social and political divisions. We need shared language that can help us clearly state opinions and develop the best policies on medical, social and legal issues. That shared language is the starting point for mutual understanding and democratic deliberation, even if strong disagreement remains.

What can be done? The ascendance of “sex assigned at birth” is not an example of unhurried and organic linguistic change. As recently as 2012 The New York Times reported on the new fashion for gender-reveal parties, “during which expectant parents share the moment they discover their baby’s sex.” In the intervening decade, sex has gone from being “discovered” to “assigned” because so many authorities insisted on the new usage. In the face of organic change, resistance is usually futile. Fortunately, a trend that is imposed top-down is often easier to reverse.

Admittedly, no one individual, or even a small group, can turn the lumbering ship of English around. But if professional organizations change their style guides and glossaries, we can expect that their members will largely follow suit. And organizations in turn respond to lobbying from their members. Journalists, medical professionals, academics and others have the collective power to restore language that more faithfully reflects reality. We will have to wait for them to do that.

Meanwhile, we can each apply Strunk and White’s famous advice in “The Elements of Style” to “sex assigned at birth”: omit needless words.

Alex Byrne is a professor of philosophy at M.I.T. and the author of “Trouble With Gender: Sex Facts, Gender Fictions.” Carole K. Hooven is an evolutionary biologist, a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, an associate in the Harvard psychology department, and the author of “T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone That Dominates and Divides Us.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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Trump calls for more and earlier presidential debates with Biden

Donald Trump and Joe Biden talk to the moderator

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s campaign is calling for more presidential debates to be held between him and President Joe Biden, and for the proposed face-offs to begin as early as possible to ensure that more Americans “have a full chance” to see the candidates in action before they cast their ballot. 

“While the Commission on Presidential Debates has already announced three presidential debates and a vice-presidential debate to occur later this year, we are in favor of these debates beginning much earlier,” Trump’s co-campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in a letter Thursday.

By the time of the first scheduled debate, on Sept. 16, more than 1 million Americans will likely have already voted, Wiles and LaCivita said. By the third debate, on Oct. 9, the campaign projected that the number would have surged to approximately 8.7 million. A second debate is penciled in for Oct. 1. 

Trump's advisers said that, with more Americans voting early, the proposed calendar “simply comes too late.” 

Moving up the commission's timetable will “ensure more Americans have a full chance to see the candidates before they start voting, and we would argue for adding more debates in addition to those on the currently proposed schedule,” Wiles and LaCivita added. 

They said the country “deserves” as many as seven presidential debates, citing the record number that Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas held in their 1858 battle for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. 

Trump, who declined to participate in any of the Republican primary debates, has said he is willing to go head-to-head with Biden “anytime, anyplace and anywhere,” starting “now.” 

The letter comes amid speculation over whether the candidates will take part in a traditional debate at all. Biden has not yet publicly committed to debating Trump in the general election, saying in March that it “depends on his behavior.”

Trump and Biden debated only twice in 2020 after Trump backed out of one when the commission changed it from an in-person debate to a virtual one (Trump had Covid at the time). It was not rescheduled. The Republican National Committee then voted in 2022 to withdraw from commission-sanctioned debates, requiring candidates to pledge not to participate in them.

Trump's campaign attacked the nonpartisan commission, which was founded by former RNC Chair Frank Fahrenkopf and former Democratic National Committee Chair Paul Kirk, for adding "additional structure" to the debates. The campaign criticized the commission for “cutting off” Trump’s microphone while on stage — which the commission said it would do for both candidates after their first chaotic debate — and accused them of “selecting a demonstrably anti-Trump moderator.” 

“Americans were robbed of a true and robust debate in 2020,” Wiles and LaCivita said.

Trump has called for speeding up the start of the debate cycle against Biden before, prompting the president to push back.

“If I were him, I’d want him to debate me, too,” Biden recently quipped to reporters in Nevada. “He’s got nothing else to do.” 

Katherine Doyle is a White House reporter for NBC News.

essay vs debate

Garrett Haake is NBC News' Senior Capitol Hill Correspondent. He also covers the Trump campaign.


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