The Basics 

A Resource for the Novice Competitor, Looking to Understand what this activity is. 


The Three Genres

Speech and Debate has 3 main genres, with a lot of subcategories mixed into them. Some of the subcategories can even technically be under two different genres, so get ready for the crash course. 

INTERP - Interpretation of Literature, or 'Interp' as it is commonly referred in the wonderful world of forensics is that aspect of Speech and Debate which most commonly resembles acting. In this genre students become a character, either alone or with a partner, from prose, poetry, or drama. 

PUBLIC ADDRESS - Public Address is that genre which most people think of when they hear the word 'speech.' These are messages that are either informative or persuasive in nature, and are often written by the student performing them. 

LIMITED PREP - Limited Preparation is that genre of Speech and Debate which most requires students to think on their feet. In limited Prep students need to react quickly to a topic given to them, with anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes of preparation time. Hence the name. 

What Time Signals are, and What to Think About Them.  

Time Signals are often one of the most intimidating parts of competition - mostly because asking for them from your judge can feel a little daunting - what if they say 'no?' Well, good news: They won't. All judges are told the same thing: time signals are ok, and that any student asking for them should not be penalized, nor ignored because they are pivotal to one of the actual rules we must follow. 

Time signals vary by region, and even by judge. The most standard time signals given are '5 down,' which stands for 'starting when there are 5 minutes left until time's up.' The judge puts up 5 fingers when there are 5 minutes left, 4 fingers indicate 4 minutes left, 3 fingers for 3, 2 fingers for 2 minutes, 1 finger means you're on the last minute, a 'C' indicates 30 seconds left, and then your judge repeats the 5 fingers counting down for the last 5 seconds, ending with a fist indicating that time is up. 

Time Signals Handout  

The Ballot

Competitors have a love/hate relationship with the ballot, as it is a source of both happiness and woe. The best ballots are those that offer constructive criticism, but learning to accept and not internalize ballots that are unhelpful or harsh is an excellent life lesson for Forensics competitor. 

Here are some links to what most ballots look like, so that you have an understanding of what the judges see: 

Oral Interpretation of Literature (called OI)

Original Oratory (called OO)

Declamation (called Dec) 

Extemporaneous (Extemp for Short)

Dramatic DUO (called DUO)

Dramatic Performance (called DP)

Lincoln-Douglas Debate (called LD)

Public Forum Debate (called PF)

Policy Debate

Student Congress 

***These links are external and take you to a webpage not monitored or edited by Forensics University. 

The Dress Code

While Forensics doesn't have a uniform in the strictest sense, there is a uniform that we in the community abide by: suits. 

Students are expected to dress professionally and modestly. Bright or clunky ties or jewelry, outfits that are too revealing, and shoes that scream 'look at me' are distracting, and thus detract from your message. Remember: forensics is all about message, so it's your job to make that message heard. If your judge is trying to read the message on your tie, they aren't listening to the message you're advocating.


Here's a list of Do's and Dont's

  • Don't fall asleep in round.
  • Don't play on your phone/tablet/laptop during a speech.
  • Do be polite.
  • Do ask to be excused. 
  • Do wait for your judge to dismiss you before leaving the room.
  • Don't open the classroom door while someone is speaking.
  • Don't be loud in the hallways. 
  • Do be a good audience member. 
  • Do be happy for your teammates that do well, even when you don't.