Policy Debate involves two teams, each with two students, generally focuses on a resolution that calls for a change in policy by the United States government. Sides are pre-determined by the tabulation room except in the occasional case of specifically designated 'flip for side' debates.
To defend the resolution, the affirmative team generally presents a plan that is an example of the type of policy change called for in the resolution. The affirmative defends its plan by satisfying three “stock” burdens. In particular, affirmative will generally argue (1) that there is a “harm” in the status quo that must be rectified, (2) that policies in the status quo are inherently inconsistent with the affirmative’s proposed plan, and (3) that the affirmative plan solves the harm.
To attack the affirmative, the negative can (1) challenge any of the three stock burdens, (2) argue that the affirmative plan incurs disadvantages that outweigh the harms solved by the affirmative plan, (3) that the affirmative plan is not an example of the resolution (i.e., that it is not “topical”). In addition, the negative may present a “counterplan”, which is an alternative policy proposal that is not an example of the resolution, mutually incompatible with the affirmative plan, and superior to the affirmative plan. Other theoretical arguments (e.g., “kritiks”) may also be presented by the negative.