If you’ve been following Counterbout lately, you may have noticed that we have chosen to communicate important news and opinion using the Oxford-Style debate format. We bring together alternative viewpoints on a particular topical issue and present the arguments for you to vote on the most convincing one. We don’t just tell you what we think, we let you decide. So what prompted us to make this decision?

The Problem with Daily Mail Headlines

Today, there are literally hundreds of news sources available at our fingertips. On Facebook, you can like your favorite newspaper or magazine (and add them to your feed). However, most people still gravitate towards one newspaper in particular – The Daily Mail. As discussed by Paul Carr in his latest piece for PandoDaily, The Daily Mail has a special talent for luring readers into clickbait stories using big headlines and manipulative writing techniques. These articles focus on fearmongering to convince us that small problems are actually big ones. For example: A single student stealing a laptop from a college library sparks fears of widespread thefts. But as Carr points out: That’s not even close to being true.

The Power of Persuasive Writing

There are plenty of opportunities in life where you have to argue your point of view, whether it’s in a professional setting or just with friends. The art of persuasive writing allows you to convince others that your position is right, simply because your argument can be logically articulated. You will begin thinking about what separates a well-reasoned argument from mere conjecture or opinion. Because persuasion plays a role in every type of communication – from email messages and tweets to heartfelt speeches – mastering how best to write persuasively is a great way for young people as well as adults looking for career advancement, to improve their communication skills. Additionally, because persuasive writing involves developing strong claims based on evidence, it’s also an important foundation for all types of writing.

Counterbout uses a debate-style format to present opposing points of views on topical issues so you can vote for the most convincing argument

A History of the Debate

The Oxford-style debate was started by two groups at Oxford University in 1949, who pioneered its use in debates. Since then, it has been adopted by various schools and universities around the world including Princeton, UCL, UCLA and Harvard. You can find a full list of them here. The structure has also grown from 2 teams with 2 debaters each to include 4 teams of 3 debaters with each team having 1 opening speech (for their side), 1 reply speech (on their opponents’ arguments) and 1 closing speech (summing up). This allows for more considered presentations on both sides of an argument while still allowing a rebuttal before closure. It’s also worth noting that despite all these changes some colleges still debate in exactly the same way they did in 1949.

The Pros of an Oxford-Style Debate

An Oxford debate presents facts in a logical, unbiased manner. The two sides offer their arguments and counterarguments on an issue; your job as a reader or listener is simply to choose whose side you agree with most. There are some drawbacks—namely that it doesn’t allow for lengthy opinion pieces—but a well-structured debate brings out both sides of an argument and lets you judge them objectively. Not only does that help you decide where you stand on any given issue, but it also helps highlight flaws in arguments. Even if an argument is personally appealing, there’s usually merit in hearing at least one opposing view; helping people think more critically about issues means they’re better equipped to make decisions for themselves.

The Cons of an Oxford-Style Debate

First off, there’s no guarantee that an opinion will change. Often times in a regular debate format, you’ll hear someone make a comment you agree with, which leads you to having a new outlook on an issue. In an Oxford-style debate, however, it can be more difficult for people to understand one another given that they are presenting opinions from different angles. This means that someone may truly win without changing anyone’s minds on any important issues.

Conclusion – Why Use an Oxford Style Debate

The decision by many news sites to present their opinion articles as an opinion or an article has two main issues: firstly, it tells people that if they disagree, they are wrong; secondly, it puts those who want a clear presentation of both sides of an argument at a disadvantage. The use of an Oxford Style debate allows readers to see different views clearly presented in order for them to make up their own minds. It helps avoid presenting one side as truth and discrediting all others.

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