Turn (policy debate)

In policy debate, a turn is an argument that proves an argument the other side has made is in fact support for one's own side. This is as opposed to a take-out which merely argues that the argument the other team has made is wrong. The turn can be used against virtually any argument that includes a link and impact (or something equivalent), including disadvantages, kritiks, and advantages to the affirmative case.

For example, if the negative said "The plan increases poverty," the affirmative could turn with "the plan decreases poverty" or take-out by proving the plan didn't increase poverty.

There are two types of turns:

  • Link Turn
  • Impact Turn

Link turns

Example: If the negative argued the plan would destroy the economy, the affirmative would link turn this argument by arguing that the plan would help the economy.

A link turn requires that the affirmative control the uniqueness, that is whether the disadvantage will occur in the status quo. In the above example, in order to link turn effectively, the affirmative would need to win a non-unique argument, i.e. that the economy will collapse now. Otherwise, the Negative can kick the disadvantage, arguing it is a moot issue, by saying that economic collapse will not occur in the status quo, so the prevention of a non-existent event carries no advantage.

Impact turns

Example: If the negative argued the plan would cause the economy to collapse, resulting in war the affirmative could impact turn by arguing that economic decline would actually dampen desire to go to war.

An impact turn requires impact calculus, that is: the reasons economic decline would make war less likely must outweigh the reasons it would spur war. For this reason, Impact Turns are usually run with No Impact arguments.

Very often, kritiks are subject to impact turns on account of their philosophical, rather nebulous impacts; a critique of the state declaring that the purported increase in state power that the plan creates is bad because it unduly exercises power and forces citizens into doing things that they would not choose to do otherwise might be impact turned by first mitigating the harm the state does and then saying that other things the state does — such as provide police and fire services — are good.


Note that the line between link turns and impact turns can be rather blurry. For instance, in the above disadvantage, the affirmative could also impact turn by arguing that nuclear war would be an on-face positive event (perhaps in preventing the development of even more deadly weapons in the future). In general, the phrase link turn is used to describe a turn applied directly to what the plan action does, and impact turn to a turn applied to what the negative has asserted is a good or bad thing. Where there is ambiguity, turns in the middle of this hierarchy of causation are often called internal link turns.

Straight turns

A disadvantage (or advantage) is said to be straight-turned when the responding team has answered an argument only with turns and with no defensive argument.

For example: If the affirmative link turned the economy disadvantage above but also argued that economic collapse did not lead to war, the negative could "kick" the disadvantage by granting the impact take-out to eliminate the risk of a turn.

A common negative mistake is to grant a non-uniqueness argument to kick a link turned disadvantage. Since non-uniqueness arguments are critical components of link turns, a disadvantage with only non-unique and link turn responses is actually straight turned.

Double turns

It is a classic debate mistake for an affirmative to read both link and impact turns. In the above example, the affirmative might argue that the plan was key to prevent the economy from collapsing, and that economic collapse would dampen the probability of war. While either of these arguments alone turns the disadvantage, the two arguments together double-turn. The negative can grant these two arguments, and the affirmative is stuck arguing that the plan would increase the probability of a war.

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