"Contemporary Issues/ Three Chair Debate" Research Paper and Project.

BACKGROUND: Students will be selecting a controversial topic to extensively research and analyze. After researching, students will not only write a THREE PAGE paper which outlines all of the facts of the issue, but also makes a logical appeal to advocate one side of the issue over the other. In addition, the student will create an INFORMATION STATION, a presentation of all of the facts and opinions of the issue, which will be reviewed and noted by classmates. Once all students have had a chance review the stations of the others in the class, each student will participate in a series of THREE CHAIR DEBATES, where they will argue the pros and cons of the stations that they have visited.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: The student will be selecting one of the topics below (or one of their own choosing, with the approval of the instructor). This will be "First come, first served." It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that students do not attempt to analyze laws or regulations regarding illegal drugs, as these may prove very difficult to research, given our network limitations.


  • Is capital punishment justified?
  • Does Affirmative Action advance racial equality?
  • Should the President be allowed to detain citizens indefinitely in wartime?
  • Is “Middle Eastern” profiling ever justified?
  • Should hate speech be punished?
  • Are tax cuts good for America?
  • Is America becoming more unequal?
  • Should abortion be illegal?
  • Should stem cell research be legal?
  • Should prayer be allowed in schools?
  • Should we ban animal testing on medical and health products?
  • What should be done about nuclear weapons in Iran?
  • Should America take away services like education and medical for illegal immigrants?
  • Should we build a wall on the Mexico border?
  • Should we have a national ID card?
  • Should Gay Marriage be legalized?
  • Should women serve in front-line combat positions?
  • Should the US end the embargo on Cuba?
  • Should the US have tougher gun control laws?
  • Should states ban junk food in schools?
  • Should the US end birthright citizenship?
  • Do we still need the post office?
  • Should assault weapons be banned?
  • Is torture ever justified?
  • Are illegal immigrants good for the US economy?
  • Others (Must be approved by the instructor.)

REQUESTED TOPICS (4th Period/6th Period):

  • Abortion:  Natasha/ Emily L.
  • Prayer in School:  /Emylee
  • Torture Issues: Lisa/Andy
  • Stem Cell Research: /Mariah
  • Women in combat: Coreen/
  • Iran and Nuclear Weapons: /Jeremy
  • Economic impact of illegal immigrants: Blake/
  • Animal testing:  Krystal/Dallas
  • Assault Weapons Ban: Lucius, Conner/Nancy
  • Gun Control:  Nathan/Jacob
  • Birthright citizenship: /Erin
  • Capital Punishment: /Joseph
  • Border Control: Isaac/
  • Death Penalty: /Tofer
  • Gay Rights:  Kayla/Emily A.
  • Gun Registration/Gun Show Loophole: CJ/Jared
  • Drug Testing: James/
  • Corporal Punishment for children: Arlene/
  • Farm Bill Work Issues: /Keaton



  1. START your paper:
    • Review the critical thinking questions (BELOW) and make sure that you address them on your topic .
    • Please include a TITLE PAGE for your paper, which has the title of your work, your name, class and the date submitted.
    • You will write a 3-5 page paper on your issue. DO NOT assume that reaching the 3 page minimum will get you anything higher than a minimally passing grade.
    • In the introductory paragraph, introduce the topic and your topic question.
    • In the next 1-5 paragraphs, outline the “yes” side of the topic. Be sure to bring in vital facts, the critical thinking questions and use your sources.
    • In the next 1-5 paragraphs, outline the “no” side of the topic. Be sure to bring in vital facts, the critical thinking questions and use your sources.
    • In the next 1-5 paragraphs, take a position on the issue—take a stand. Support your argument. WHY are you supporting that side? (use your sources!)
    • At the end of your paper, please include ALL sources used.  Please use APA format when citing your sources. Here are some online resources to assist you with your citations:
    • To Assist You with your Position Paper:  I have put together a couple of resources for you-
    Research your topic thoroughly. Your goal is to create an “Information Station” on your topic. You will present FACTS as well as common arguments for both sides of the issue.
      • DO have the information organized, clearly labeled and reproducable.
      • DO make sure the information is brief and readable. Do not simply print lengthy articles about the topic. Instead, create a fact sheet, and outlines for arguments on both sides of the issue.
      • DO think about dividing the research into three categories: FACTS; Arguments for______; Arguments against_______.
      • DO document your sources for the info you have collected
      • I also recommend that, for some initial information regarding your topic, you try our new NBC News website, which is packed with tons of video regarding almost any issue that you can think of. The website is:


        Our access code is: E5EFAR


VISIT the “Information Stations” created by your classmates.

    • Take notes—arm yourself with knowledge/info to use in the debates.
    • Create a “ticket in” to the debate. You should cover at least 4 topics that are not your own.
  1. Students will participate in our Three Chair Debates. Two chairs represent each side, the third chair represents undecideds. The undecideds can ONLY ask questions for clarity, etc. Students will be graded on participation, as well as following the rules for NOT TALKING when not in a chair.
  2. Turn in paper

RUBRIC: (250 points total)

  1. Information station (75 points)
    • Info/facts presented on both sides 20 points/20 points
    • “user friendly”/organized/complete 20 points
    • Sources included 15 points.
  2. Position paper (100 points)
    • Introduction is an outline, presents question (5 pts) ______
    • “Yes” is objective, complete with facts (10 pts) ______
    • “No” is objective, complete with facts (10 pts) ______
    • Critical Thinking questions addressed (10 pts)
    • Opinion is argued and well-supported (10 pts) ______
    • Grammar, spelling, neatness (5 pts) ______
    • Debate “ticket” (20 pts) ______
    • All four topics/issues are covered
  3. Three-chair Debate participation (75 pts) ______
    a. Individuals participate in the debating process.
    b. RESPECTFUL participation and NO talking out of turn.


THINK about the position you have taken. QUESTION yourself and your reasoning!

1. Depth:
a. What factors make this a difficult problem?
b. What are some of the complexities of this question?
c. What are some of the difficulties we need to deal with?

2. Breadth:
a. Do we need to look at this from another perspective?
b. Do we need to consider another point of view?
c. Do we need to look at this in other ways?

3. Logic:
a. Does all this make sense together?
b. Does your first paragraph fit in with your last?
c. Does what you say follow from the evidence?

4. Significance
a. Is this the most important problem to consider?
b. Is this the central idea to focus on?
c. Which of these facts are most important?

5. Fairness
a. Do I have any vested interest in this issue?
b. Am I sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others?

Issue Facts and Information:

Arguments for/Arguments against:
1./ 1.

2./ 2.

3./ 3.