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Revision as of 16:26, 10 September 2007
Debatepedia contributors are expected to abide by and enforce the Debatepedia Guiding Principles. If a content conflict emerges in which two users disagree regarding an enforcement of these policies, an attempt should first be made to resolve the issue on the Discussion Page. If that does not occur, one of the parties should issue a complaint to Debatepedia Administrators, who will then arbitrate with finality based on their interpretation of the principles as they apply to the case.
Debatepedia is a debate encyclopedia:
This means that Debatepedia is a place to:
- Present articles that are debates, arguments, or debate-related.
- Present substantive public debates. Debatepedia is a forum for the presentation of serious debate topics, not cartoon or comedy debates. Part of this is a rule that guards against the creation of "strawman debates", in which there is hardly any debate, and one side could be viewed as clearly, and without a doubt, overwhelming its opposing case.
- Attempt to document existing a possible lines of pro and con logic in topics.
- Generally present information that is based-on, supported-by, and/or cited to reliable published sources. Although this does not apply to certain pages, such as debate team pages, for example, where debaters can be creative in developing functional uses of pages.
Arguments on Debatepedia must follow the basic rules of argument structure and logical consistency:
Sound argument structure: There are some simple rules for constructing a sound argument on Debatepedia. There are various components to an argument. An argument is a statement (premise) or group of statements (premises) offered in support of another statement (conclusion/claim - which should be bolded at the beginning of the argument on Debatepedia). A logically sound argument does contains only premises that directly support the claim or conclusion. An argument should not ramble tangentially to the point, and diverge from the purpose of justifying the central conclusion or claim of the argument. Each particular argument on Debatepedia, therefore, has a uniqueness, and can be separated into individual paragraphs. These argument paragraphs start with the claim/conclusion/summary-of-the-argument "bolded" in the first short sentence. The rest of an argument paragraph is reserved for providing support, warrants, justifications, or evidence for that unique claim/conclusion.
No invalid arguments nor clear fallacies: Debatepedia bans explicitly Invalid arguments. In Formal Logic, an invalid argument is one in which, even if all the premises are true, the argument's conclusion cannot be true. Because there is no value in invalid arguments, they have no place on Debatepedia. In informal logic, an argument may be seen as strong or weak due to certain problems in its structure. These problems are commonly called fallacies. Debatepedia generally encourages editors to improve and strengthen arguments, and eliminate certain basic logical fallacies within them. It is not, however, a policy of Debatepedia that an argument be deleted simply on the basis that it is inherently weak. Debatepedia deems it important that weak and strong arguments alike be visible to the public. Determinations of the eligibility of content on Debatepedia should be made by other Debatepedia policies, such as basic logical soundness and structure, evidence being cited to reliable sources, and anti-repetition policies demanding that unique arguments be separated-out from one another.
Some fallacies are not allowed on Debatepedia:
- Ad Hominem attacks on individuals.
Arguments and their premises must be based on reliable published sources:
While their is no requirement or assurances on Debatepedia that an argument's conclusions are "true", it is required that arguments and their supporting evidence and warrants be based-on and cited to reliable published sources. This ensures that the information provided on Debatepedia is reasonably credible. It also ensures that we can agree by consensus (necessary on a wiki) on what information belongs on the site, as well as what does not. Since we cannot agree on what is necessarily "true" in debates, the next best thing is reliable sources, which we can more easily agree on. In general, most would agree that an argument that cannot muster any supporting evidence from reliable sources is unlikely to be a good or credible argument.
- Indeed, arguments that are unable to muster support from reliable published sources (with citations) are subject to removal from Debatepedia.
Criteria for reliable published sources: The basic criteria for determining whether a published source is a reliable published source is the credibility of the editorial process involved in the publishing of materials (guidelines below). Debatepedia uses the same criteria for reliability as Wikipedia: "Reliable sources are credible published materials with a reliable publication process; their authors are generally regarded as trustworthy, or are authoritative in relation to the subject at hand. How reliable a source is depends on context; what is reliable in one topic may not be in another. In general, the most reliable sources are books and journals published by universities, mainstream newspapers, and magazines and journals that are published by known publishing houses. What these have in common is process and approval between document creation and publication. As a rule of thumb, the more people engaged in checking facts, analyzing legal issues, and scrutinizing the writing, the more reliable the publication. Material that is self-published is generally not regarded as reliable, but see below for exceptions. Any unsourced material may be removed, and in biographies of living persons, unsourced or poorly sourced contentious material must be removed immediately."See Wikipedia's "Reliable sources" and Attribution pages.
Debatepedia's reasons for having a Reliable Sources policy are the same as Wikipedia:
- To provide assertions with support.
- To help readers verify or assess the truth or reliability of certain facts or premises.
- To help editors pick out weaknesses of content. As Wikipedia points out, "If all the sources for a given statement or topic are of low reliability, this suggests to the reader that the content be treated with a degree of skepticism, and to the editor that the material may not be suitable for inclusion in Wikipedia."
- To give appropriate credit to a source of an argument and avoid the appearance of plagiarism.
Policies on citing primary and secondary sources:
- Citing primary sources Debatepedia is no different than Wikipedia in this regard. Wikipedia policy: "Edits that rely on primary sources should only make descriptive claims that can be checked by anyone without specialist knowledge. Primary sources are documents or people close to the situation you are writing about. An eyewitness account of a traffic accident, and the White House's summary of a president's speech are primary sources. Primary source material that has been published by a reliable source may be used for the purposes of attribution in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it's easy to misuse primary sources. The Bible cannot be used as a source for the claim that Jesus advocated eye removal (Matthew 18:9, Mark 9:47) for his followers, because theologians differ as to how these passages should be interpreted. Edits that rely on primary sources should only make descriptive claims that can be checked by anyone without specialist knowledge."
- Citing secondary sources: Again, Debatepedia is no different than Wikipedia in this regard. "Wikipedia articles should rely on reliable, published secondary sources wherever possible. Secondary sources are documents or people that summarize, analyze and/or interpret other material, usually primary source material. These are academics, journalists, and other researchers, and the papers and books they produce. A journalist's description of a traffic accident he did not witness, or the analysis and commentary of a president's speech, are secondary sources. Wikipedia articles should rely on reliable, published secondary sources wherever possible. This means that we only publish the opinions of reliable authors, and not the opinions of Wikipedians who have read and interpreted primary source material for themselves."
- Citing questionable or self-published sources (same as Wikipedia): "A questionable source is one with no editorial oversight or fact-checking process or with a poor reputation for fact-checking. Such sources include websites and publications that express views that are widely acknowledged as fringe or extremist, are promotional in nature, or rely heavily on rumors and personal opinions. Questionable sources may only be used in articles about themselves."
Arguments can be presented with descriptive and/or assertive and "partial" language, although there are limits on the later:
Arguments can be presented in two general ways on Debatepedia: descriptively and assertively.
A descriptive presentation of an argument involves the documentation of an argument by saying that "some groups argue that..." or "Liberal minds typically contend that..." This method for presenting an argument is less likely to arouse concerns of appropriateness, and so may be preferable in some circumstances.
An assertive presentation of an argument involves the author simply writing an argument as if they were doing the arguing, although the use of "I" can never be used. This method is acceptable, but with limitations. Wikipedia demands that its content maintain neutral language (NPOV). Debatepedia has a more flexible policy. The purpose is to allow arguments to be presented in their natural, partial, assertive form. But this does not mean that extreme, passionate language is allowed. As a principle, dramatic appeals to emotions jeopardize reasoning faculties, and are not allowed on Debatepedia. Only assertive arguments that are Sober, thoughtful, and well-reasoned are allowed on Debatepedia. The following is a list of some of the things that might violate the rule of maintaining a dispassionate, sober, and civil discourse:
- It is so clear that x position is right, that anyone opposing this view must be insane. (This also violates a number of basic logical fallacies).
The ultimate goal of any given debate article is to achieve a fair and balanced presentation of arguments and view points
Debatepedia aims to be an encyclopedia of arguments and debates. As such, articles should be seen as fair and balanced in their presentation of information. An article that gives complete attention and favor to a "pro" case, for example, could be seen as violating this principle. This assumes that the debates on Debatepedia are not "strawmen" debates, in which the a case clearly overwhelms its opposing case, in which case there is little "debate" ("no strawmen debates" is a rule on Debatepedia)
Argument page rules and guidelines
Argument pages are pages you can create for a specific argument within a debate, and where a mass of supporting evidence in the form of facts, quotes, links to supporting articles and studies, among other things relevant to a particular argument (counter-arguments, related information and internal and external links...).
There are some rules and guidelines surrounding argument pages that are important to understand.
- The title of argument pages: Argument page titles should start with "Argument:" followed by the claim, "A Carbon Tax is simpler than a Cap-and-Trade system" (for example - this claim is what should be bolded in the argument summary on the debate page). So this page title would look like: "Argument:A Carbon Tax is simpler than a Cap-and-trade system".
- Argument page content: Argument pages are primarily for you to document the masses of evidence that can be accumulated in support of an argument such as facts, quotes, and links to supporting articles and studies. These can all be organized using basic subsection wiki-markup on the page (a subsection can be created by placing two equal sides on either side of a subquestion title, possibly "Supporting Quotes" in the case of argument pages). See Debatepedia:Feature argument article.
- Balancing supporting evidence on the argument pages and on the main debate page: In general, Argument pages are a place to provide extensive supporting evidence without limitation. This allows users to avoid cluttering the main debate pages with extensive supporting evidence. Condensed argument summaries, therefore, can be easily provided on the main debate page. A reader will be able to read that summary, and then if they desire to see supporting evidence, they will be able to click on the highlighted claim of the argument summary (at the beginning or top of the argument summary - this would be bolded prior to the argument being made into its own page), which would take the reader to that argument's own page with the supporting evidence. This does not mean, however, that you should not provide a taste of the supporting evidence for an argument on the debate page. The key is to provide a balance. Sometimes, if the pro case in a debate has fewer arguments and less supporting evidence in general (leaving some empty space in the pro boxes), it may make more sense to shift more supporting evidence to the main debate page. Just use your judgment in balancing these considerations.
Also see: Debatepedia:Making Argument Pages
Rules and guidelines for writing debate questions and subquestions:
The main questions and subquestions of debates are important starting points for pro/con analysis. They must abide by the following rules:
- Yes/No questions only: Debatepedia, and pro/con debates in general, are driven by Yes/No questions. Main debate questions as well as subquestions must be "yes/no" questions, opposed to, for example, open-ended "how" questions.
- "Is x policy justified?"
- "Is x policy economical?"...
- Neutral language in questions: Debate questions and subquestions "sit on the fence", and must be presented neutrally, and without any language that could be interpreted as "loaded" or giving an advantage to either the pro or con side of a debate.
- Subquestions should correspond to and go toward ANSWERING the main question. The purpose of subquestions is to "break-down" main questions into chewable parts. Subquestions should not diverge from the task of addressing the main question and debate. This may mean that the main question itself needs to be asked or framed in fairly general terms. If you find, though, that there is a subquestion that diverges from the main debate, consider making that subquestion into its own main question and debate.
- Frequently, there are different independent debates that fall under the rubric of a larger issue heading, such as "gun control". Yet, there are many independent, "main-question" debates under the "gun control" rubric that can't be treated within one debate article. These independent debates need to be separated out, so that the rule of mainquestion sub-question correlation is upheld. For example, in the "gun control" issue, the "gun ownership" and "trigger-lock" debates would need to be independent debates, because scholars and experts are treating them as independent debates, with their own independent line-up of subquestions and sub-debates. Because this can get confusing, you are welcome to contact us if you need help in sorting a particular issue out into its appropriate independent debates. The most important thing to remember is that you are framing debates as they exist in the public sphere between the various players involved.
- Similarly, arguments must be placed on the appropriate "side" of the debate: All of the "yes's/pros" for subquestions must support the "yes" case for the main question. Conversely, all of the "no" arguments for each subquestion must be a point that goes toward supporting the "no" case.
Consensus must be formed around the acceptability of content on Debatepedia:
As a wiki, all content must be arrived at by consensus. While we may not be able to agree on the "truth" or validity of certain arguments, we can agree on the abidance of content on Debatepedia with Debatepedia's policies.
A variety of sources is valuable:
Ideally, referencing a number of relevant sources is helpful in bolstering the quality of an article. Utilizing a mix of traditional print resources, documented through a "Works Cited" or Bibliography section, and other online resource, documented through internal links (links to other articles on this encyclopedia) and through hyperlinks (links to external sources) makes very effective use of the dynamic possibilities of an online encyclopedia, such as this one.
Civility and respecting other contributors:
Civility must be maintained between editors on Debatepedia. Any heated issues should be resolved on Debatepedia's talk pages with civility and respect for legitimate differences of opinion. Violations of Debatepedia editing policies should be resolved with a level head, and a sound analysis of why certain edits may have breached these policies.
- Being critical versus critical thinking
- Core elements of debate
- Discovering the World through Debate
- Educational debate
- Logical fallacy
- Principle of charity
- Standard of evaluation
- Structure of an argument
- The principle of cooperation