Forensics programs also exist in college, however, the college version is often more focused on debate then in high school. Parliamentary debate is the most popular form of debate, although Lincoln-Douglas debate and policy debate are also popular.

In high school forensics, the non-debate categories are divided into two groups. I'm unfamiliar with forensics outside of the state of Michigan and would welcome any information that could be added about other states.

Dramatic Interpretation-The categories in this group are probably best described as 'acting'.

  • Duo- Pretty much self-explanatory. Two people act together, usually performing a piece from a movie. This is not necessary and I have seen other things do well, like pieces from plays or books. The hardest part about this is that you can't look at your partner. You are expected to address the audience, as if they were your partner. You are also not allowed to touch your partner. This means things like 'fake' hugging/kissing in the direction of the audience to signify a hug/kiss.
  • Multiple- Same as duo, except these involve more than two people. Often times in multiples, you see singing and dancing, which is allowed in all categories. Also things like matching clothes(see Rules below for further comments) and boxes. The boxes are often times used like chairs but put together allow for 'tables', etc. Also when hit against the floor, they give out a pretty cool sound effect. These boxes are made out of wood and are often painted.
  • Prose- This is an individual category, along with all the rest listed below. In this category, you perform a piece of literature, often from books. The piece must be adult literature.
  • Poetry- The competitor performs a piece of poetry.
  • Storytelling- In Michigan, we have two topics which switch every year- children's stories and myth and legends. Unlike traditonal storytelling, exact memorization is still necessary (see Rules below).
  • Dramatic Interpretation(DI)- Yes, this is very confusing having a category and a group have the same name. Usually when you hear DI,they are referring to the category. In DI you perform a piece from usually a movie. You must have at least two different characters, and therefore changes in the voice, etc. are necessary. Also body posture or position on stage are used to indicate different characters.

Public Address

  • Extemporaneous- In this category you are given a question or topic to research in a given amount of time, something like an hour and a half. You also write your speech in this time and then perform it.
  • Impromptu- This category is similar to extemporaneous, except you have somewhere around seven minutes to prepare and deliver your speech. The subjects in impromptu therefore do not require research.
  • Oration- In this category, the performer writes and memorizes a speech. The speech is a persuasive speech and topics can be anything. I have seen just about all topics done. Some are very 'timely' like biological warfare and some are not so 'timely' like helping someone deal with a death or dissection in our nation's high school's.
  • Broadcasting- You are given a number of new stories and choose a few to present in a 'newscast'. You also must give an editorial. The articles are received at the tournament and you are given a set amount of time to prepare. You are allowed to bring the articles in to competition with you, if not encouraged. Most of the time you cut and paste them on construction paper so they are easier to handle and appear better.
  • Sales- This is, IMHO, the coolest category to watch. In this category you are trying to 'sell' a product. The competitor is allowed to choose the product. I have seen things like a stay at a resort to PEZ to cameras. You then try and sell the product to the audience. This is one of the few categories where props are allowed. You must have props to do well.
  • Informative- This is similar to Oration in many respects, except that the speech you perform is not persuasive, but rather informative. Props are also allowed, unlike oration.

Rules- This rules are not in any way complete or guaranteed in any fashion.

  • Props are not allowed, except in sales and informative. The only props allowed are chairs. You are at many meets encouraged to bring your own. Boxes, stools, etc. may also be used.
  • Costumes are also not allowed. The rules pretty much say you must wear something you would normally wear to school. In categories like duo and multiple the performers often wear matching clothes, color-wise. Also in categories like oration and informative you are expected to wear a suit. In categories like storytelling, especial in the years that it is children's stories, you will often see people in bibs, jeans, and other 'little kid' clothes. The rules are pretty flexible with this kind of thing. Often times judges encourage these kind of 'costumes.
  • You are allowed to not have your piece memorized. I would not encourage this though, especially at district, regional, and state competitions. If you don’t have your piece memorized, glue/tape it to pieces of construction paper. They’ll be easier to handle and look more professional. Also, you must have your piece memorized exactly as the original source was. Judges have been known to check this.
  • Docementation of sources is also required. If you are using something that wasn't your original work, you must have a copy of it with you along with a copy of the copyright information. If it is your original work, you must have proper documentation for any sources you used, think term paper with parenthetical references etc.

This and That

Districts, in Michigan are held in mid-March. Before these, there is about a month or so of tournaments. These are great practice for seeing what the judges like. Often times it is the same judges at tournaments and at districts, etc. You can get some pretty cool trophies at tournaments. The one tournament around here offers trophies shaped like moose.

At tournaments, there are three regular rounds. One judge per round, and a different judge each round. They write down their comments on ‘critique sheets’, which you get after the tournament. The judges also rate you compared to the other contestants. At the end of the three rounds, your totals are added up and the top seven or so(depends on the tournament) go on to the bonus round. This time you have two judges. These results are then added with your previous ones to calculate the over all winners.

Districts, Regionals, and State competitions are similar to this, but will vary depending on the size of your district, etc. The district I compete in is very small. In many categories all the competitors automatically make it to regionals.

Forensics is a pretty ethically, morally excepting group, IMHO. Even in the very rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan, no one is made fun of for being openly gay, etc. Also, you will see a lot of nontraditional clothing and piece choices. Both are often encouraged. Also, often times after a meet, people will sincerely congratulate other competitors who bet them. I have never seen anyone made fun of at a meet, although often times competitors will get in debates over topics, like in oration. But all is with good intentions, and no one is teased or anything like that.


If I left anything out, or if any one has any questions, feel free to /msg me.

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