Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Randall Capps, Willson Wood, William McMahon

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Since its inception, intercollegiate debate has not only survived storms of controversy and periods of great change but has grown and matured into a vital part of almost every speech department across the country. Today, tournaments are more numerous than ever; the debaters are more plentiful and just as enthusiastic (even if spectators are not). Even though intercollegiate debate has withstood the struggles of its beginning and the ensuing growing pains, maturity has not brought an end to the problems and controversies. Many present day controversies--such as the value of debate, the value of the tournaments, and the type of decision have raged since the early years; other problems such as debating on both sides of the topic have developed and been temporarily solved only to reappear later. In short, intercollegiate debate is still being debated after more than seventy years. In the face of this realization, has intercollegiate debate made any real progress? that has happened in those seventy years-- what have been the major disagreements and problems of the past? Are they the same today? A survey of this past might suggest realistic and pragmatic solutions of some of the present problems. Some predictions on the direction of debate in the future should be evident concomitant with possible changes that will be necessary for debate to grow as an educational tool. In this study, only the history of intercollegiate debate in America will be dealt with; only the major changes and additions to the tournament1 the topic, the form, and the style will be examined from around 1892 until 1968. In almost every instance, this survey is traced through debate as it existed in the four year college.2 This is, presumably, the place where the most important and significant debating was (and is) done in terms of viewing trends and patterns.

1. Both the contest and tournament will be dealt with, therefore, it is necessary to distinguish between them--a contest debate is a single meeting between two teams whereas a tournament is a predetermined number of contests between several teams from different schools ;:ho meet at one commonly agreed place to carry on a tournament until a champion is determined.

2. Every attempt has been made to limit information to four-year colleges except when a form or change involving a prep school or junior college, or some other context, has been significant to the overview of intercollegiate debate.


Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Influence and Political Communication | Speech and Rhetorical Studies