Direct Questioning was conceived in June 2009 by the National Speech
& Debate Association's Congress Rules & Recommendations
Committee. Since, it has been implemented at interregional tournaments,
as well as by state and local leagues, including the Illinois
Congressional Debate Association.
The same speaking and questioning times used in earlier rounds are in
place for designated semifinal and final rounds, except that all
periods are broken into 30-second segments, with one questioner per
segment, who may ask multiple questions of the speaker. Additionally:
- The PO must keep a separate questioning precedence/recency (to
ensure equal opportunity for legislators to ask questions), and should
promptly adjudicate the end of each 30-second period.
- If a questioner does not use her/his full 30 seconds, the presiding
officer has the discretion to call on another speaker, or absorb the
- No suspensions of the rules to extend questioning are permitted.
- Questioners may not prefer questions with information external to the speaker’s remarks.
- Questioners may interrupt a speaker during his/her response, but
the manner in which they do so is subject to critique by judges –
remember, this is Congress – there is a standard of decorum and courtesy
that members should be held to!
Questioners should strive to expose flaws in the speaker’s arguments
by asking a series of questions about the speaker’s remarks. These
questions should subject the speaker’s arguments to intensive and
focused scrutiny. There should be no “softball questions.” The segment
is for asking questions; not for making new arguments or rehash old
arguments. Questions and answers should be concise and to the point. To
that end, questioners may politely interrupt speakers during their
responses when, for instance, they ramble or do not directly answer the
Direct Questioning Judging Considerations
Speakers always should be evaluated on how well they answer
questions, and this should factor into the score for each speech. There
also is a space on the evaluation sheet for judges to comment on the
quality of questions asked, which should factor into the holistic
ranking of legislators at the end of the session.
Evaluation of Speakers:
- Brevity of responses (short and clear, to the point)
- Non-evasiveness (is the speaker answering the question being asked?)
- Quality of argument defense (does the speaker successfully defend his/her argument?)
Evaluation of Questioners:
- Coherence and relevance of questioning line (are questions connected? Do they expose flaws in arguments?)
- Brevity of questions (short and clear, to the point)
- Quality of follow-up questions (is the questioner responsive to the speaker’s initial responses in the CX segment?)
- Quality of argument scrutiny (does the questioner successfully probe or poke holes in the speaker’s arguments?)
- Degree of courtesy and decorum in necessary interruptions
Evaluation of the PO:
- Adherence to time guidelines (does the PO enforce the 30 second limit?)
- Fairness in calling on questioners (fairly distribute opportunities among those who want to ask questions?)