How to research a disadvantage: Part four – Impact

In preparation for our January tournament, here’s a brief post a series of four posts on the basics of researching and debating a disadvantage.

Part one: Intro to disadvantages

Part two: Uniqueness research

Part three: Link research

Part four: Impact research

Finally, impacts.

Now that we’ve proven that we’re driving along a cliff now, and the affirmative will swerve us off that cliff, we have to do the part that seems most unnecessary: why is driving off a cliff bad?

Seriously, though, impact research can be really tough. Not only are you trying to find evidence to support arguments that are (sometimes) totally intuitive, you also want them to quantify how bad the problem is. How fast will we drive off the cliff, how deep is the chasm, and what else will be affected by the crash?

There’s a few ways to research impacts, and you should probably use a mixture of all of them. Key steps:

1) Have a good idea of what you want your story to be. In this case we need to prove two things. We’ve proven that the plan will create a lot of debt, so we should prove that A) debt would cause a new economic recession and B) that an economic recession would be bad for lots of reasons.

2) Search out the correct terms on Google Scholar, LexisNexis, or any other database you have available. It takes an incredible amount of practice to be able to find these things out of the blue. Use some of the above tips on searching for the correct words and synonyms.

3) Get good citations from caselists and wikis – we’ll do this for the terminal impact, and it’ll save you a lot of time and frustration when you’re trying to produce an impact card.

So let’s get to it. First is the internal link, which in this case is how we get from spending a ton of money to an economic downturn.

On Google I searched ‘ US “Fiscal Discipline” ‘ . Notice that I put fiscal discipline in quotes so that my hits would be only pages that have those words side by side. This will omit articles that discuss child discipline and fiscal responsibility in child care, for example. Unfortunately my search yielded few results. There were a few blog posts by right-wing authors talking about how the government needs to reduce its debt in order to prevent economic disaster, but these sources aren’t reputable enough to be useful.

Next, I tried ‘ US Economy “Fiscal discipline” ‘ – this yielded a few good results. I was sorely disappointed when I clicked on an article titled “U.S. financial health dependent on fiscal discipline” to find that it only very briefly argued what its headline suggested, and then went on to say that we should redouble our investments in school and technology to cut costs smartly. On the second page of results, though, I found this:

Poor fiscal discipline in the US slows economic growth and causes a world-wide depression

Sullivan 11 (Paul J., Professor of Economics at Georgetown University, “Frightening profligacy, poor fiscal discipline, disputatious democracy and uncertain leadership in the United States,”

Much of the fiscal indiscipline in many countries is due to the political invertebracy of many in the political leadership. The profligacy of the past is catching up with the present and could have deep repercussions in the future. The time for leadership, fiscal courage, and some hard thinking and choices is now. Otherwise, the financial crisis of the 2000s could seem quite mild compared to the brewing economic troubles out there. The effects of not getting things in order could spread far beyond the gates of Athens or the beltway of Washington. It is, however, not too late to get moving on the solutions and the tough decisions.I have an odd sense of foreboding mixed with cautious optimism about the US. In the past the US has worked its way out of very difficult times. One can think of the Great Depression and other deep recessions in its past going back even to the start of the country. One can also see a lot of strength in the inventiveness and entrepreneurial nature of the US. It is a powerful economy and society with many very hard working people. However, this situation seems fundamentally different than in difficult times in the past because the culture of discipline, and especially fiscal discipline, and the society’s and governments views toward debts have changed – even since the 1980s – considerably.  If anyone is struggling to figure out why the US unemployment rate will likely remain high for some time to come, and it could take many years to get back down to 5 to 6 percent unemployment rates, then look to the government, household and other debts that are drags on the economy.  Also, debt is what got the US economy and a good part of the rest of the world economy into the difficult positions they have been in recent years. Let’s hope our leaders in business, government, thought leaders in society, and others can do the right things on time, and the US economy, and by implication much of the rest of the world economy, can get back on track before the next economic storms hammer so many lives once again.

Now, we’ve gotten all the way to what is called the “terminal” impact – what happens at the end of the road? Why is an economic downturn bad? This sort of question is difficult to research because, predictably, entering “economic collapse bad” into a search engine yields few results. For this argument we’ll walk through how to properly take a citation from an existing case.

In addition to the great evidence resources available on the internet like the Open Evidence Project and Debate Central, which provide lots of free evidence for analysis and leads on articles/authors to read, the internet abounds with information on what teams use as impacts to their arguments. In the college circuit it is especially encouraged to post the citations for much of your evidence on the internet so other teams can search, re-cut, or criticize your sources.

Let’s go to to the openCaselist for college policy, which you can find by searching open case list in google. You will find a list of college teams on the left, with lots of citations for the evidence listened under individual names and tournaments. Forget for now that college teams debate a different topic than high schoolers (this year they’re talking about democracy assistance to the Middle East while we talk about space) – the topics, such as the effect on the economy, have tons of overlap.

Use the search function to avoid having to guess who has cards about what. If you search “economy” for example, many teams come up. I picked one off the list, GWU Alex Tan and Blake Andrews Affirmative – and look for an impact to economic downturn. It takes a while to learn how to read these posts, but I stumbled across this:

Economic recovery key to prevent nuclear World War III

O’Donnell 9 (Sean, writer and Marine Corps Reserve squad leader, Feb 26, 3108-Baltimore-Republican- Examinery2009m2d26-Will-this- recession-lead-to-World-War- III)

Could the current economic crisis AND sometimes history repeats itself.

The first line is the tagline, the second is the citation for the evidence, and the third is where the evidence begins and ends in the evidence (useful if the evidence is from a book or long article). Noting that the link isn’t functional, I go to and type in “will this recession lead to world war III”. Lo and behold, there’s the article ready to cut and tag.

Economic recession leads to World War III

O’Donnell 9 (Sean, writer and Marine Corps Reserve squad leader, Feb 26,

Could the current economic crisis affecting this country and the world lead to another world war? The answer may be found by looking back in history. One of the causes of World War I was the economic rivalry that existed between the nations of Europe. In the 19th century France and Great Britain became wealthy through colonialism and the control of foreign resources. This forced other up-and-coming nations (such as Germany) to be more competitive in world trade which led to rivalries and ultimately, to war. After the Great Depression ruined the economies of Europe in the 1930s, fascist movements arose to seek economic and social control. From there fanatics like Hitler and Mussolini took over Germany and Italy and led them both into World War II. With most of North America and Western Europe currently experiencing a recession, will competition for resources and economic rivalries with the Middle East, Asia, or South American cause another world war? Add in nuclear weapons and Islamic fundamentalism and things look even worse. Hopefully the economy gets better before it gets worse and the terrifying possibility of World War III is averted. However sometimes history repeats itself.

Put all of our cards together, we have a full disad shell! Research is so difficult when you first get started, but don’t get discouraged. The ability to find evidence to support your argument is crucial to so many things in life besides debate, so it’s a skill well worth learning.


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