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Debatepedia User Guide

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This tutorial will help you register and get started in helping Debatepedia "clarify public debates globally".

Log in / create account

Click on the "log in / create account" button in the upper-right of your screen and enter your basic information. We encourage you to use your real name as your "user name". You will be able to use your user page as a profile and bio page, so it may be worthwhile for you to provide a real name and build your actual profile. User talk pages is where you can communicate directly with other users, and they can communicate with you.

Editing / jumping in

Once you're registered and signed in, click the "edit" tab or the "edit/pencil" buttons on any page and go for it. The important thing is that you just start editing and giving it a whirl. You'll make mistakes. But, that's completely fine. You'll learn by doing, and other editors will see your edits on recent changes and be able to help you out.

Editing with the mission in mind

Debatepedia's mission is to "clarify public debates globally" and act as an encyclopedia of pro and con arguments and quotations. This means that, in any given article you are editing, your primary objective is to document or outline every single pro and con argument and all supporting quotations from leaders, authors, experts, columnists, op-ed writers, etc. You can also "make" original arguments and counter-arguments. We encourage this. But, remember, the idea is to "document" or "outline" lines of argumentation, not to "express" your "personal opinion" or personal anecdotal stories or research. Abortion, Health care, universal, Animal testing are all pretty good models of this mission-focused editing.

Below is the full guide to engaging and editing on Debatepedia. Welcome to the community!


Creating debate pages

Create new debate, argument, and other pages. You can create both debate and argument pages on Debatepedia. There are different processes for doing both of these things (see the link), but you should keep in mind that you are free and encouraged to create new pages. If there is a notable public debate in the world that doesn't already exist on Debatepedia, you should create it. The same applies to argument pages.

Writing pro and con arguments

Arguments are the basic units of a debate. You must know how to write good arguments and in Debatepedia's simple format. Here is what a good argument looks like on Debatepedia:

  • Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US With millions of illegal immigrants lacking drivers licenses, there are millions of drivers on the road who have not taken a driver's license test and who probably do not know the traffic safety laws. Issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens and requiring that they take a driving test would help resolve this safety hazard.

Or, you could use a supporting quotation to summarize the argument, making it look like this:

Some of the key features of this model argument include: 1. A bullet point should start arguments for visual reasons. 2. Argument title is essentially a one sentence summary of the argument's conclusion. It is basically a header for an argument. It should be as concise and to-the-core-point-of-the-argument as is possible. The rule of thumb is that it take up no more than a single line on the pro or con side of a debate, which requires that it be very concise. In addition, "argument titles" are what are made into the titles of argument pages (below). 3. Argument summaries come after the "title". This is where a more detailed, generally three to five sentence, description of the argument is presented. 4. Or, a summarizing quotation after the argument title. It is good to have a balance of argument summaries and summarizing quotations on a debate article. 5. A link to an argument page The above arguments have a link to their own argument pages. Argument pages are whole pages dedicated to a single argument, with the "argument title" becoming the title of the argument page (click on the above argument). On these pages, supporting evidence (quotes, studies, facts) can be presented in mass in support of an argument. The example provided above demonstrates that the "title" is made into the title of the argument page. The next section shows you how to create these pages.

Creating argument pages

You can create argument pages very easily simply by putting "[[ ]]" around the argument title you've created on the debate page. Once you do this, and click save, you'll see that your argument title is red. Click on it and you will be taken to a the argument page, where you can expand the argument and document quotations that make the argument. See the above argument-page examples to get a sense of what this looks like.

BUT, we like to preface the title on these argument pages with "Argument:". So, actually, it is best to write your argument title in the debate page as '''[[Argument: Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US| Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US]]''' But, if you don't do this, you can also "move" (a tab at the top) to, for example, "Argument: Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US"

See main article on this: Debatepedia:Argument pages

Debatepedia standards and feature quality debates

You and other editors are tasked with moving the articles that you engage on to feature article status. These are exemplary articles on Debatepedia, that abide by Debatepedia's editing policies, and uphold a variety of Debatepedia's highest quality standards. For debates, it's where all the core arguments are clearly and fairly presented, and the core supporting evidence, quotes, studies, and articles are presented as well on argument pages linked out from Debate pages. Feature articles should also have the positions of the all the key, relevant politicians, organizations and activist groups, country governments, and other stakeholders.

Editors that create feature articles are rewarded with awards on their users pages and possible being given administrator editorial privileges as well as having their article "featured" on the main page of Debatepedia and in the hall of feature articles. See Debatepedia Steward

Taking an article from start to "feature quality"

Here's how to take a debate article from start to "featured status".

Compiling a pro/con resources section

Because the objective in each article is to document public debates and all the primary pro and con arguments and quotations in them, the first place to start is in creating a "the pro/con resources" section. Here's a good example of what this looks like. This section is a split-screen section that should appear at the bottom of the pro/con section of a debate article. In this section, you will document the primary pro and con articles, essays, and cases in the public debate. These will be the resources that you will draw from and quote from in compiling pro/con arguments in your debates. You should search for these cases through Google, Google Scholar,, Lexus Nexus (if you have access), and other search engines. Key word selection is fairly important. Some recommended search key words include:

    1. The topic: "Capital Punishment", "The Death Penalty", and iterations of the topic name.
    2. "The case for/against..."
    3. "Arguments for/against..."
    4. "Pro/cons of..."
    5. "Why ban assault weapons"
Once you've found an article, use MLA referencing style to compile the list of pro and cons resources. Here's a good example:

Draw arguments and quotations from pro/con resources

Search for and isolate specific arguments made in these cases. Let's say you find an argument along the lines that US roads would be made safer by offering driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. The first thing you'll want to do is isolate and widdle down this "claim". So, "Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US". Then, you would want to create a basic argument summary: "With millions of illegal immigrants lacking drivers licenses, there are millions of drivers on the road who have not taken a driver's license test and who probably do not know the traffic safety laws. Issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens and requiring that they take a driving test would help resolve this safety hazard." Now, imagining that you want to quote a specific argument made in the article you're reading as "a supporting quotation" on Debatepedia, you will have to create an argument page (see section below). Once you've done this, you should create a "supporting evidence" section by writing "==Supporting Evidence==" into the editing window of your new argument page. Now, you can cut-and-paste a quote from one of your sources under this "supporting evidence" section. Next, you will have to make an external link to the resource that you are quoting.

  1. [ "Illegal Immigrants, Driver's License Crash Into American Consensus". Wired Magazine. October 04, 2007] - "New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer loves a fight. But his policy to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, announced just weeks ago, has even his closest loyalists in a sweat. His reasoning is that denying immigrants the legal right to drive hasn't stopped them from driving. After all, they're already breaking the law just by being here. By driving illegally, they don't have insurance, which has contributed to more hit-and-run accidents as well as higher insurance premiums for everyone else." Read through all the articles you've compiled and draw from them in documenting arguments and quoting and gathering supporting evidence.

Keep referring back to high-level feature debates and emulate them.

These are pretty good model debate articles to refer to in creating others.

Quoting and referencing styles - MLA

Referencing and quoting are very common and important on Debatepedia. We are generally using MLA style for this, but Debatepedia is flexible to other ways of introducing a supporting quotation when it is more natural and useful to the readers. Generally, when quoting from an article published in a newspaper or journal, the style is:

Sam Gomez. "Should illegal immigrants be granted Driver Licenses in New York State?" Clarkson Integrator. 12 Dec. 2007 - "The last real benefit of the policy change is the most obvious; safer streets. We all remember taking driver ed, the signs, parallel parking, three point turns, the works. Obviously, people who do not have to pass that rigorous rite of passage known as 'the driving test' aren't going to be well equipped to handle driving on congested roads. Not knowing the rules of the road aside, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than validly licensed drivers. Clearly, safer roads would also be good for everybody."

But, there are many instances in which a more flexible approach is appropriate. If a famous person said a quote, you could do the following:

Albert Schweitzer - "It is the fate of every truth to be an object of ridicule when it is first acclaimed."[1]

It's also OK, if you really just don't want to be formal about it all, to just do whatever system works for you in quoting and referencing. As long as you are being productive on Debatepedia and adding valuable content, people will appreciate your work.

Best tab research/writing practices

The best logistical approach to researching and writing on Debatepedia is to utilize three primary tabs on your web browse. Use the first as your primary Debatepedia editing screen. Use the second as your pro/con resources tab, from which you can go through a list (that you or others have created) of pro and con articles to draw arguments and quotations from. Use your third and subsequent fourth and fifth tabs for reading actual articles. It's useful to keep your second tab on the pro/con resources section, and actually in the editing window of the section so that you can copy and paste article information (url, author, title...) to introduce quotes.

Editing policies

You must abide by Debatepedia's editing policies. If your edits break these policies, other users have the right to delete or change what you have done into compliance with these policies. These policies include:

  • Debatepedia is an encyclopedia of debates, arguments, and debate-related materials. Debatepedia is an encyclopedia for the documentation of existing, notable public debates and the primary pro/con arguments and evidence within them. Debatepedia does allow arguments to be presented in an assertive, biased form so that they read as if the author is making them. But, this is mainly for posterity, so that arguments are read in their more "natural" form (how you might hear them or make them).
  • Sober language. While assertive language can be used, passionate language is not allowed.
  • Fair and balanced articles. As an encyclopedia, the ultimate goal is to achieve a fair and balanced presentation of a debate, its arguments, and the supporting evidence (quotes, articles, links) within.
  • Arguments must be based on and cited to reliable published sources: Arguments on Debatepedia must be backed-up by supporting evidence that is derived from and cited to reliable published sources.
  • Arguments must be logically consistent. Arguments must follow basic laws of logical consistency and validity, avoiding tangents, and staying focus on justifying the claim or conclusion that is being asserted (the "claim" should be a very short bolded sentence at the beginning of an argument that explains the jist of the argument).
  • Debate questions and subquestions must be neutral in orientation. Loaded questions and subquestions are not allowed on Debatepedia. A debate's main question should frame a public debate in a fair and balanced weigh. Subquestions should simply act as a way to break-down a debate into its more chewable subdebates (economic, social, legal pros and cons...).

See also Debatepedia:Editing policies

Manipulating debate pages

Debate pages on Debatepedia are based on a unique pro/con "logic tree" structure. Debates start with a main "yes"/"no" question. The pro/"yes" and con/"no" arguments are then divided into a split screen with pros on the left and cons on the right. Subquestions help organize the pros and cons of often large debates into more chewable parts (economic, social, legal...). Subquestions are simply there for the purpose of organizing pros/cons within the larger debate or "yes"/"no" question; they are not there for opening tangential debates to the main debate/question.

Manipulating the Debatepedia "logic tree" structure and software: In coordination with IDEA, Debatemedia Inc. developed with a great Indian software firm called QuadOne special software so that you can effectively manipulate Debatepedia's unique "logic tree" architecture on debate pages. With this software, editors can:

  • Shift up or down subquestion sections and their contents (arrow icons): This is important for structuring: moving around the subquestion, sub-debate sections so that the "logical" flow of a debate is maintained. Typically, the most important sub-debates within a larger debate should appear at the top.
  • Insert new subquestion sections (box icon): Because there are varying numbers of sub-debates within a debate, users must be able to add new subquestions sections. The box icon allows for this.
  • Delete old or unneeded subquestions (red icon): Users must also be able to delete old subquestion section shells that are no longer needed.

WARNING: Debate pages have table code that creates the pro/con structure of these pages. Do not delete or alter this code. Furthermore, if you click on the editing pencil for the "yes" box, for example, you will see the table code for the "no" box on that page. Make sure to write add content for the "yes" box above this table code. If you write content below this code, the content will actually appear in the "no" box.

Editing argument pages

On debate pages, arguments are presented that often have a vast array of supporting evidence in the form of quotes, links to articles making an argument, studies, or simply facts that can be reasonably brought together to support an argument. For this reason, we allow for argument pages to be created and linked-to from debate pages. Doing this is fairly simple. On debate pages, arguments are presented first by their "claim", which is a brief one sentence summary of an argument's main point. For example, "capital punishment deters crime" is a "claim", and this would be presented on a debate page at the beginning of a larger summary of that argument. This "claim" can be made into the title of its own argument page. Doing this is very simple. Once you have the "claim" on the debate page, all you have to do is click edit, place two brackets on both sides (two, not one on each side) of the argument "claim". Press save and click on the new red argument, whereupon you will be taken to the new argument page where you can document supporting evidence for the argument.

Creating new debate pages and regular pages (argument pages, organization pages...)

You can create new pages whenever you want on Debatepedia. Debate pages are pages with the pro/con "logic tree" structure. These pages also have the special QuadOne software that enables you to manipulate the Debatepedia structure effectively. Regular pages are ordinary blank pages. These are used for argument pages, administrative pages (like this one), regular encyclopedic articles (ones about a certain notable individual in the history of public debate and deliberation), and for a variety of other purposes.

Key editing tools and functionalities

  • The toolbar at the top of an editing window. When you're in an editing window, put your cursor over the toolbar that appears just at the top of the window. These tools are very useful, and include bolding, italics, internal linking, external linking, and many other functionalities.
  • Create internal links between pages on Debatepedia by placing "[[Title]]" around the title of a page you are trying to link to.
    • Make an internal link, but with hyper-link in blue as different wording (maybe shorter or without caps) than the title you're linking to [[Title| desired wording]]
  • Create external links by writing: "[url Wikipedia article on capital punishment]" (by creating a space between the end of the url and "Wikipedia article...", you will hyperlink "Wikipedia article..."). You'll often be hyperlinking an author, title of an article,... as an introduction to a quote.

Communicating with other members of the community

Debatepedia is a community of editors like you, and we encourage you to communicate with the rest of this community by going to the community forum, the talk pages of articles, or to the user pages of other members of this community (user pages are best accessed by going to the "history" tab at the top of the screen and seeing who has contributed what to an article of interest to you). You are welcome to write almost anything on these pages (questions, comments, suggestions), as long as it's appropriate and relevant to the other user and the Debatepedia project.

We also encourage you to communicate directly with Brooks Lindsay the founder and chief editor of Debatepedia. You can also contact us by email or phone with any of your questions. We're here to answer your questions and help integrate you into the Debatepedia community, so really feel free to send us a message, email, or give us a phone call.

Navigating Debatepedia

Everything on Debatepedia can be accessed through the main page or the "navigation" box in the upper left part of the screen as well as the toolbar on the upper right part of the screen.

Posting videos

See also

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