Extemp Content and Strategy

Advanced Substructure Part 2: Some Specific Formats

Hopefully by now, you’ve read Part 1 of this series (you should in order to better understand the ABC model that is discussed) and substructure is starting to make some sense. If not, don’t worry — in this next part, we’ll take a look at some specific substructure formats, which should make things clearer.

Format #1: Example-Example-Impact

This is probably my least favorite substructure format, just because it lack the sophistication that other formats bring to the table. That said, as this ExtempCentral article put it, “When done appropriately, the case study format can show that the speaker has a vast array of knowledge while also bringing depth to a speech.”

With an example-example-impact substructure, you should have a well-developed, broad “A” point and a well-developed, broad “B” point (these two points should be independent of each other; in other words, your “B” point doesn’t require your “A” point being true). This format is best-suited for sweeping, broad speeches, but beyond that, you should avoid this format given its anecdotal nature. Still confused? Let’s look at an example from Kevin Troy, the champion of the 2005 IX Final.

Is the UN mankind’s lone (and best) hope?

Point 1: International challenges demand global cooperation

A. Diplomatic Conflicts → “Entangling WW1 alliances engulfed nations in war; the UN brings nations together without those alliances.”

  • Analysis: In the the “A” subpoint, Kevin uses the example of diplomatic conflicts to illustrate how the United Nations can bring together all types of nations.

B. Humanitarian Arenas → “Darfur, AIDS, poverty, and other humanitarian crises all require global cooperation.”

  • Analysis: In the “B” subpoint, Kevin uses the example of humanitarian crises that the United Nations can resolve.

C. Terrorism → “There must be cooperation to stop transit of nuclear weapons.”

  • Analysis: In the “C” subpoint, Kevin ties in an unrelated and creative impact that goes beyond the question. This is a strategy most great extempers employ. Overall, Kevin uses two specific examples (the UN’s role in diplomatic conflicts & humanitarian ones) to illustrate their relevance in being mankind’s only & last hope. You should notice how these two examples are independent of each other and how Kevin then ties in an impact that relates to one of the three P’s (power in this case; if you forgot what the three P’s were, check Part 1).

Format #2: Cause-Effect-Impact

Perhaps the most versatile substructure format, this is great for status-quo centric questions that typically start with “Why” or “Has”. With a cause-effect-impact format, you need a really strong A point (the cause) for the judge to buy your subsequent analysis. Still confused? Let’s look at Gus Lanz’s 2020 Harvard Semifinal speech, courtesy of Daniel Kind.

Will Abiy Ahmed’s support be upheld in August elections?

Point 1: Abiy Ahmed appeals to vulnerable populations 

A. Ahmed has taken steps to promote Oromo and women in politics in Ethiopia

  • Analysis: In this “A” point, Gus is explaining the “why,” which sets up his future impacts. Sometimes it is easier to think of cause-effect-impact as because-effect-impact. In other words BECAUSE of this A point, B and C will happen.

B. Will lead to massive goodwill among these large voting blocs

  • Analysis: As we talked about, the A point sets up the cause for Ahmed’s popularity with Oromo and women in Ethiopia. In this B point, Gus walks over the effect of that, which is that these large voting groups will support him in the August election.

C. Ethiopia will be a more representative democracy & serve as a model for other countries

  • Analysis: Again, an independent, unique impact. Gus not only talks about how the empowerment of these groups will help Ahmed win his election, but will move forward Ethiopia as a democracy.

    With this substructure format, Gus’ analysis is super clear. Since Abiy Ahmed is empowering women and Oromo (cause) it will allow him to win the election because of their support (effect) which will not only advance Ahmed’s political career, but Ethiopia’s democracy (impact).

Format #3: Past-Present-Future

This is our last substructure format for this article (although we have three more to go for our next article), and it’s one of my favorites.

A past-present-future format is great for explaining complex situations–particularly international ones your judge may not know much about–simply. It’s a great way to help the audience know how we got to the current state of affairs and where we’ll go moving forward, which is super useful for “Will”, “Can”, and other prescriptive questions.

Now with this substructure format, you do have to take one extra step. The “future” part is answering the question, not creating an impact → you should make sure you still do that! Still confused? Let’s look at an example from Christopher Maximos in the 2019 NSDA final, courtesy of the NSDA.

How will the Green New Deal influence future environmental legislation?

Point 1: By forcing bipartisan cooperation on climate change

A. Republicans denied climate change & had no policy in 2012/2016

  • Analysis: In this “A” point, Maximos is examining the past: historically, Republicans didn’t have any sort of cogent climate policy. Understanding the past–especially if juxtaposed with the present/future–can make your analysis seem all-the-more impressive because it provides some necessary context.

B. Now, 64% of Republicans believe climate change is a “severe threat”

  • Analysis: Since we had that analysis in the “A” point which laid out how Republicans ignored the threat of climate change, the fact that 64% of Republicans believe climate change is now a “severe threat” becomes a lot more damning because it shows how attitudes have changed over time.

C. Public concern over Green New Deal leads to other forms of clean energy legislation

  • Analysis: This is the future, or the part which really answers the question. In this case, Maximos lays out how the GND is symptomatic of growing concern over climate change, but Republicans think the proposal is to extreme. This has forced Republicans to lay out other, albeit more moderate solutions to the problem.

Impact: Could lead to solutions like a carbon tax

  • Analysis: Maximos takes things one step further and while this impact isn’t needed to answer the question, it makes his analysis more unique. In it, he outlines specific steps we could see Republicans take to counteract the Green New Deal while still addressing climate change.

Overall, it is important to remember that substructure isn’t a perfect art and that these are some commonly-used substructure formats that hopefully you find helpful. We’ll talk about a couple more formats in our next article and feel free to shoot us a question if you’re still confused.

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