I just received an awesome question on how to shell and extend from an advanced TP team that decided to switch from split neg to shelling and extending upon a NEG thesis this year. They had some practical implementation questions totally worth sharing.



I'm so glad you made this decision. It's the right call.

Q1. How does the 2AC get responded to? Does the 2NC respond to the 2AC by default by expanding on the 1NC's arguments? Or does the 1NR respond to the 2AC? Or does the 2AC just not get responded to at all?

The most critical part of doing shell and extend well is that you're always building up your thesis and negating AFF with the big picture, not just the small picture. So while on AFF, their victory terms are "here's how to decide, and here's what to decide on that basis," you're going to think of yourself as more than naysayers. In high school my partner and I adopted the mantra "we're the Affirmative Negative," meaning we think AFF with the SQ as our plan, even when we're NEG.

So let me ask you this question: if your 1NC was actually your AFF case, with the SQ as the plan and the Disadvantages you ran as the harms, and the other points as inherency challenges to the SQ, what would you do after the next speech? Think of your 2NC as the actual 2AC of the round. What would you tell yourself?

I suggest that you'd tell yourself this: absolutely be winning again by the end of the 2NC, on the issues you predicted. Which are your victory conditions: "here's how to decide, and here's what to decide on that basis." These two sections should organize every single speech in the round. While your 2NC may add to the "here's how to decide" chunk or the "here's what to decide on that basis" chunk, the 2NC will do that as a critical listener realizing that the audience heard things in the 2AC that take away from those two chunks. So you'll of course address the 2AC, while deepening these two major chunks of work. The 1NR does the same thing.
  • Could say "I'm going to focus on this key objection that the 2AC raised, and go really deep with three examples"
  • Could go surface-level 2-4 responses on everything, with 1NR adding much deeper examples.
  • Could say "I'm going to add even more on the 'what to decide on that basis' point – this whole new way of thinking – while my partner extends the last what to decide points."

In all cases the weighing mechanism ("how to decide" chunk) should be the core of your argument and be pulled through. Every speech.

So always be adding warrants. That's the real issue as NEG: how many varied and deep warrants can you get out their to support relatively few points? Each speech adds more so that you can conclude that both chunks point your direction by the end of each and every speech.

Q2. Critiquing the 1AC. Is it a good idea to critique the 1AC with the shell and extend strategy and if so what speech does this need to happen in?

It's a good idea to negate aspects of the 1AC. In my book I call this "micro-refutation." What big picture, shell-and-extending NEGs want to do is not ignore mitigation/micro-refutation; instead, you merely must focus that mitigation. Does this mitigation help your offense, your NEG thesis, be stronger? If it lowers the bar to victory in a way that's relevant to your overall position, then absolutely make the mitigating argument! Just keep it on-theme.

It is really frustrating for audiences to feel that a debater ignored the previous speaker. So you always want to give the feeling of "in total" addressing the case. You just don't have to do that line-by-line. Referring to the bubbles concept, you may end up excluding most of the AFF's case with your NEG "how to decide" weighing mechanism section. If that's the approach you took, then do the work to apply it: "So that's why Advantage 1 isn't applicable – financial costs just shouldn't be weighed against our influence in the third world. My opponents need to shake the weighing mechanism, that third world influence is essential, for this point to count. Now, if they can shake that... they should win."

Go ahead and be gutsy, as in the example above. Audiences love that. You're not saying you win everything – just if your thesis is right, you're able to see its implications clearly. And if your thesis is rejected, those implications are equally apparent.

Q3. Would it be a good idea to base one of your main arguments in the round off of lack of specifics from the affirmative team's plan? I understand that this point can many times be a winning point but a lot of the time, it doesn't fit under the thesis of the negative team.

Yes. Winning on plan-spec is one of my favorite things ever. And I usually leave it to the 2NC to think through every variation of their plan that makes it really tough to implement. It's not off-topic, however, though you can win with it as a solo solvency issue if needed (yay it's a sleeper voter where you can win even though you lost... in rare cases).

But it does fit under the thesis of the NEG team. Your thesis is that your view of what should be done is superior. Being clearer is one aspect of superiority. So even though your primary objection is based on content, it's still pretty relevant whose plan is clearer. Imagine a business meeting that goes like this:
  • AFF person: we should invest in artificial intelligence and will one day beat Google!
  • You: Uhh... we should make decisions based on what we're good at, which is medical devices (shell and extend this out: how to decide = what we're good at, not market opportunity; what to decide = medical devices, not artificial intelligence). That the actual steps to receiving benefit from artificial intelligence are so vague should be enough reason to decrease the huge promise of my opponent's position that swaying for the smaller promise of medical devices is even more clearly the better choice.