Debates allow different perspectives on issues to be discussed in a public setting. They can take a variety of different forms, including:
- formal debates with an audience or judge present.
- informal debates for groups to air opinions on topical issues.
Formal debates are common in school settings and used to engage young people with an issue.
Less formal debates are often used to invite the public to comment on a particular issue. For example, a series of debates may be staged to gather a wide range of views. Some people have started using the internet as a means of allowing people to present their views on a topic.
Arguments are presented by each side, one in support of the motion and one in opposition to the motion. Each team is then allowed to provide a counter argument to refute the points made during the initial presentations. The outcome of a formal debate is normally decided by a judge or a vote by the audience.
A wide variety of less formal approaches are possible. For example, groups of people likely to represent a range of views on the topic may be brought together to work through a guided discussion designed to elicit their views.
Opportunities for participants to provide written feedback are usually provided during the debate. Depending on the issues, groups with opposing views may discuss the topic together or separately. The range of views is collated into a report and made available to all participants at the conclusion of the debate or series of debates.