Rules, Forms & Manuals
Essential Rules Manuals
High School Unified Manual
Middle School Unified Manual
USA World Schools Debate Invitational Manual
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Do you have a proposed change to one of the Unified Manuals? Submit suggestions for rule additions, deletions, or changes to the Rules Revision and Evaluation Committee by completing the Rule Change Submission Form.
National Speech & Debate Association District Tournaments are held each year to determine the qualifiers to the National Tournament in speech, debate, and congressional debate. Each district tournament is hosted by an Association District, which is made up of a set of schools in a given geographic region. This page is a simplified version of the District Tournament Operations Manual. For complete details on how to qualify, enter, and compete at a District Tournament, please refer to Section 3 of the High School Unified Manual.
District Tournament Forms
Use the following forms designed to assist you before, during, and after your district tournament:
With standardization of Congressional Debate procedures, we now have complete automation of results reporting for the district tournament series. All districts are required to use Joy of Tournaments software for collecting online registration, scheduling rounds, and tabulating results. A district must apply to the national office for an exception to using Joy of Tournaments. In those cases, tournament results will not be audited manually by national office staff. Coaches in the district have seven (7) days to protest any results; otherwise, they will be considered final.
The number of entries a school is permitted to enter is based upon the number of active members and degrees on record with the national office as of 4 p.m. CST a minimum of seven days prior to the district contest beginning. Current school strength can be found on the School Profile page of the Points Application website. Please refer to the Chapter Manual to determine how members and degrees are calculated.
Entry Limit per Event
Each school may enter up to four entries in each event. Congress uses a separate formula for entry limits. See the charts on the right for details.
Penalty for Excess Entry
The District Committee must not permit excess entry. If a school enters in excess of its allotment, it forfeits all coaching credit points and all sweepstakes points for the entire tournament as well as a penalty of ten trophy points. If the excess entries create additional qualifiers, the District may face penalties resulting in loss of qualifiers.
Any school that registers two entries in every category that actually compete (by participating in at least one round) in the district tournament will be permitted to register two additional entries in the tournament. However, not more than four entries are permitted in each event.
Speech/Debate Entry Allotment
|Members and Degrees||Speech, Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, and Public Forum Entries Allowed|
(The entry limits were revised in 2016-2017 to account for the additions of POI and INF as main events.)
Congressional Debate Entry Allotment
|Members & Degrees||Senate Entries Allowed||House Entries Allowed|
National Qualification Standards
The following standards replace the red, yellow, green status system previously in place. For additional information, please consult the current High School Unified Manual.
Minimum Schools Requirement: Any district that maintains at least 8 active charter chapters or 16 active chapters of any type is allowed to hold a district qualifying tournament series. If a district does not meet this minimum requirement, it may not hold a tournament series. However, schools in the district may petition to attend a qualifying tournament in a contiguous district. Schools must attend the entire district tournament series (inclusive of debate, speech and congress) in their own district.
Minimum Entries Requirement: If a particular speech or debate event has fewer than four entries, regardless of the district’s qualification level, no qualifiers are allowed in that event.
Minimum School Entry Requirement: In order to qualify entries in a speech or debate event to the National Tournament, a minimum of two schools must have entries that participate in the event. (See Congressional Debate Exception below.)
Congressional Debate Exception: Any district that meets minimum schools requirements may hold a District Congress, subject to the quotas for Congressional Debate: 8+ schools in the Senate = 2 qualifiers; see chart below for House quotas. The number of Senate and House qualifiers is independent of all other district tournament benchmark standards.
|Participating Representatives (House)||16-29||30-60||61-90||91+|
The number of national qualifiers allowed from each district depends on the district’s qualification level. For information on each level, see below.
Entries Required per Qualifier
|National Qualifying Level||1 Qualifier||2 Qualifiers||3 Qualifiers||4 Qualifiers|
|Level 1||At least 4 entries||16 team entries
20 solo entries
|32 team entries
46 solo entries
|56 team entries
66 solo entries
|Level 2||At least 4 entries||30 team entries
38 solo entries
|50 team entries
58 solo entries
|Level 3||At least 4 entries||10 team entries
12 solo entries
|50 team entries
58 solo entries
Level 1 Qualifications
1.1 – A district that meets the minimum schools and entries requirements above is allowed one entry to the National Tournament per speech and debate event, as long as the event meets the four-entry minimum. Also, for Level 1 districts:
1.1.1 – If there are at least 16 entries in a team event or 20 entries in a solo event, that event will be allowed two qualifiers.
1.1.2 – If there are at least 36 entries in a team event or 46 entries in a solo event, that event will be allowed three qualifiers.
1.1.3 – If there are at least 56 entries in a team event or 66 entries in a solo event, that event will be allowed four qualifiers.
Level 2 Qualifications
2.1 – A district that maintains any one of the following criteria is allowed two entries to the National Tournament per speech and debate event, as long as the event meets the four-entry minimum:
2.1.1 – Maintain 16 or more active charter chapters prior to the first district tournament date (note: districts receive one charter chapter credit for every two active provisional chapters).
2.1.2 – Maintain 24 or more active chapters of any type prior to the first district tournament date.
2.1.3 – Maintain 700 or more district tournament entries in the previous three years.
2.1.4 – Maintain 900 or more new members and degrees from active schools during the previous school year.
2.1.5 – Increase total district strength in members and degrees by 15% in the previous school year over the year prior.
2.1.6 – Enroll 300 new individual memberships as a district, by seven days prior to the first district tournament date.2.2 – If the district qualifies for Level 2 under one of the above criteria, that district may:
2.2.1 – Earn a third qualifier in any event with 30 team or 38 solo entries.
2.2.2 – Earn a fourth qualifier in any event with 50 team or 58 solo entries.
Level 3 Qualifications
3.1 – A district that maintains any one of the following criteria is allowed three entries to the National Tournament in every speech and debate event as long as 12 solo entries or 10 team entries in each event compete in at least one round; if that minimum is not met by a particular event, only two entries shall be granted in that event.
3.1.1 – Maintain 1,400 or more new members and degrees from active schools during the previous year.
3.1.2 – Earn 1,400 or more new members and degrees from active schools during the current year, prior to the first district tournament date.
3.1.3 – Maintain more than 45 active chapters prior to the first district tournament event.
3.1.4 – Enroll 400 new individual memberships as a district, by seven days prior to the first district tournament date.
3.2 – If the district qualifies for Level 3 under one of the above criteria, that district may earn a fourth qualifier in any event with 50 team or 58 solo entries.
Joy of Tournaments
Joy of Tournaments is absolutely free to use web registration and software for your district tournament. Plus, free support is provided to all districts using Joy of Tournaments. This is a value of well over $250! It is required that you use the website for registration for your National Speech & Debate Association District Tournament.
We are extremely committed to ensuring that your experience is a successful one, so please feel free to contact us at any time with questions, comments, or concerns about how we might improve this process for you.The Joy of Tournaments staff will be your initial contact for questions and support before, during, and after your district tournament. They are available Monday through Saturday at (806) 773-0162.
Joy of Tournaments Timeline
- About six weeks prior to your tournament – You should receive an introductory email from The Joy of Tournaments with a link to your first District Tournament. If you do not receive the email, it may have been caught up in SPAM, and you may check to see if the tournament has been posted. Log in on the main page of the Joy of Tournaments website and click on the “My Account” link at the top. If your tournament has been listed, you will see your tournament on the right side under “Admin Privileges.” Click on that link and you may begin editing your site from that link. For documents to help you set up your site, you may click on the red Administration link and on Help.
- Four weeks prior to your tournament – Sometime during this week (or sooner, if you wish), begin working on your website to update details about your event. Please remember to include in your posted information details about judge requirements, school/district fees, entry fees, deadlines, and drop fees if these apply to your tournament.
- Within a month prior to your tournament – We STRONGLY recommend that you practice using the software. You may download the trial version of the software and tabulate one debate, one IE, and Congress event from beginning to end so you’ll know what to anticipate on the day of the tournament.You will need an Association-specific license to access the district tournament features of the software. You should find instructions for licensing the software and obtaining the Association-specific serial number on your website via the Administration » Software Download link. If that link does not appear, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request that the link be added. On the Software Download page, you’ll find instructions for automatically licensing the software via the quick and simple Registration Wizard. NOTE: The National Speech & Debate Association cannot provide you with license information.In order to use the software, you will need sample entries. Click this link (http://www.joyoftournaments.com/trial/sample-data.htm) to find instructions for acquiring sample data for your practice tournament.
- Training Opportunities – We recommend you sign up for one of our FREE online training classes. Sign up to reserve your spot at http://www.joyoftournaments.com/training.asp. This is your chance work one-on-one with us to ask questions and learn more about how the software works for District Tournaments. If none of the time slots work for your district, you may request an alternate training date.
- Three weeks prior to your tournament – Sometime during this period, if you’ve not already done so, submit your site to us for the final review. Send an email request to email@example.com. This is critical for making sure your site works the way you need it to work. The review process may take up to 48 hours (possibly two business days), and sometimes longer if there is custom programming needed to make the website work according to your needs.
- Two week Registration Window – It’s recommended you give at least two weeks for the registration period…more if your schedule permits.
- One week prior – The National Speech & Debate Association recommends closing registration one week prior to your tournament.
- The week of your tournament. Download the LATEST version of Software. – From your website, visit the Administration » Software Download page to download the latest version of the software.
Thank you for providing feedback throughout the year on our digital publication rules for interpretation events. The ad hoc committee for interpretation used your feedback and forwarded recommended rule changes to the Competition Rules Committee and the Board of Directors. These rule changes have been approved by the Board and are effective for the 2016-2017 school year. See our Interp FAQ below for additional clarification!
Interp Rules: See What's New in 2016-2017
The following language appears in the High School Unified Manual. (The following section was updated 10/17/16. Additions are shown below in orange and deletions are shown in gray strike-through.)
This includes categories of individual (solo) performance of dramatic (serious) and humorous literature, as well as duo performance of either emotive appeal, with selections drawn from published, printed: novels, short stories, plays, poetry, or other printed, published works, PDFs, e-books, as well as limited online works as provided for in the rules below.
1. Divisions: Contests are conducted in Dramatic, Humorous, Duo, and Program Oral Interpretation. See additional rules for the supplemental and consolation interpretation events of Poetry, Prose, and Storytelling.
2. Length: The time limit in Interpretation Main Events (Dramatic, Humorous, Duo, and Program Oral Interpretation) is ten minutes with a 30-second “grace period.” If there are multiple judges in the round, all must agree that the student has gone beyond the grace period. Should a student go beyond the grace period, the student may not be ranked 1st. There is no other prescribed penalty for going over the grace period. The ranking is up to each individual judge’s discretion. Judges who choose to time are to use accurate (stopwatch function) timing devices. No minimum time is mandated.
3. Material: Selections used in these contests must be cuttings from a single work of literature (one short story, play, or novel). If the source is an anthology (collection of short stories, plays, or novels), each selection of literature is independent and only one selection can be used, even if it is from the same author. In the genre of poetry, cuttings may come from one or more poems or a collection of poems. Unlike the other interpretation events, Program Oral Interpretation may use multiple sources for the program. Song lyrics may be used if the performer has an original, hard copy of the lyrics such as sheet music or a CD jacket. Lyrics may only be used from online sources that appear on the approved websites list.
A. Print, PDF, and E-book Publications:
1) Print publications includes novels, short stories, plays or poetry, published in print as per 4A.
2) In addition to the listed printed sources, published, unaltered PDFs that are commercially or professionally available are also eligible sources.
3) E-books (such as Kindle, Nook, etc.) may also serve as eligible sources. NOTE In addition to these sources, certain online materials are allowed as per 3B.
4) Also, if a treatment of a movie script is ordered from a company that provides printed movie scripts, keep the original treatment. Please note that text of the treatment may differ from the actual film, so students are advised against transcribing directly from the film.
B. Digital (Online) Publications: Material is only allowed from pre-approved online publishing sources listed at www.speechanddebate.org/rules-forms-manuals. Online material must meet the web page standards outlined below:
1) If the website offers online material in a variety of formats, only material that can be printed directly from the web page is allowed.
Downloaded files will NOT be accepted.
2) The Association defines a web page as a document coded with hypertext markup language (HTML), displayed in a web browser.
The Association defines a downloaded file as a specific non- hypertext format, such as PDFs or word processing documents.
se following guidelines determine d digital (online) publication sources selected:
a. The literary material is from a website with strict editorial submission standards that include editorial review and acceptance. Also, websites that have editorial review for their own staff writers are permissible. In either case, the website must be on the NSDA Approved List. See submission guidelines below.
b. Unacceptable sites include:
i. Personal sites (social network content, such as Facebook posts, tweets, and unmoderated blogs)
ii. Personal professional sites (those where a writer who has their own site and can place their works for sale or view such as Wix or similar platforms)
iii. Publish it sites (those with one click upload or that accept submissions without a selection process)
b. Texts must come from a verifiable website that can be accessed universally by any user. The site and literary text needs to be verifiable on the web if challenged.
i. Unmarked or casual sites where individuals can easily post work either for performance or criticism will not be accepted.
ii. The website has been in existence for a minimum of two years prior to submission for consideration by the National Speech & Debate Association for the upcoming school year (several online tools allow for verification of the existence of a website).
C. Prohibited Material: not published in print or allowable online material as per above, including:
1) Recorded material (videotape, DVDs, audio tape, CDs, MP3s, or phonograph recordings).
2) Original material published in a high school publication such as a newspaper, literary magazine, or yearbook.
D. Source Verification: Interp source material must be available at all district tournament contests in the event of a protest. However, it shall be the choice of each individual District Committee whether or not to require these materials be submitted prior to the district contest. At the National Tournament, all quarterfinalists are required to turn in the print, PDF, or e-book original source OR printed web manuscript (as outlined below) to the ombudsperson by noon on the third day of competition unless officially notified otherwise by the National Tournament director. Photocopies are not acceptable. In addition, contestants must turn in the script highlighting all of the words used and noting any words added for transitional purposes only. Any contestant failing to produce the original source and highlighted manuscript to the bud room will not qualify for the semifinal rounds of competition.
1) When requested by tournament officials, access to the source material upon demand, either in electronic or print form, must be presented.
2) For print publications, the original publication must be presented.
3) For e-books, an original, unaltered e-pub or other recognized e-book format via flash drive or email must be presented; however, as some e-book formats are exclusive to their specific apps or electronic readers, students must provide the required technology and/or Internet access to verify the material performed for tournament officials.
4) For PDFs, an original, unaltered PDF via flash drive, email, or on an electronic device (e.g., laptop) must be presented. Manipulation of a PDF script outside the scope of the rules will be subject to disqualification.
4. Material Availability: It is the affirmative duty of each coach and each student entered in Interpretation contests to determine absolutely that the cutting being performed meets all rules for material.
A. Print Publications: The original published source of any selection used must be immediately available at the tournament as well as a word-processed manuscript of the cutting performed, and a complete copy of the highlighted pages from the original script used in the cutting. The typed manuscript and the text used from the page copies of the original script should reflect the content performed. A complete script of the cutting from the original text includes:
1) A photocopy (or printed screenshot for e-books) of every page from which any line of the cutting is taken; pages are to be placed in the order in which they are performed (e.g., if text from one page is used more than once within the cutting, that page should be copied again with those words highlighted and re-inserted and re-inserted where it is used in the cutting).
2) All words used from the script should be highlighted (any words/lines not used should be left unmarked).
3) Any word changes (to eliminate profane language) and/or additions (for transition) must be indicated clearly in ink. Any word changes (to eliminate profane language) and/or additions (for transition) must be indicated clearly in ink. Failure to clearly indicate the addition of words will be subject to disqualification. Changes to the script may only be used for the purpose of transition or to eliminate profane language. Transitions may be used to clarify the logical sequence of ideas. They are not to be used for the purpose of embellishing the humorous or dramatic effect of the literature.
4) The NSDA provided checklist must be completed by the coach attesting that the oral interpretation typed manuscript and the pages submitted from the original script accurately reflect the performance. See sample checklist below:
I certify that we, the coach(es), student(s), and administrator(s) directly affiliated with our NSDA chapter, have complied with the following requirements.
_____ I have included a word-processed manuscript of the cutting.
_____ I have included a highlighted copy of the original script. The pages are in the order of the cutting. If lines from one page were used more than once within the cutting, the original page was re-copied, highlighted, and inserted to show the order of the line(s) used.
_____ I have clearly indicated in ink any words added or changed as permitted in the rules.
_____ I am aware of the Transition Rule: “Failure to clearly indicate the addition of words will be subject to disqualification. Changes to the script may only be used for the purpose of transition or to eliminate profane language. Transitions may be used to clarify the logical sequence of ideas. They are not to be used for the purpose of embellishing the humorous or dramatic effect of the literature.”
_____ The pages submitted from the original script accurately reflect the performance.
B. Digital (Online) Publications: The material the competitor performs must presently appear on the website if questions arise in competition; additionally, a printed manuscript must be available:
1) Manuscript items to be printed directly from the screen:
a. The first page in the website (the home page)
b. All other linked pages needed to navigate to the literary text selected for competition shall be printed out and the link must be highlighted in the manuscript
c. All web pages upon which the cutting appears
2) Each page must have printed in the header and/or footer:
a. Date the page was printed
b. Web address
3) Only the printed manuscript shall be considered adequate proof of authenticity. In other words, the student or coach must provide printed pages or an identical copy for examination.
4) The highlighted manuscript submitted for material verification will follow the same rules designated for printed publications as per 4A.
5) The website and online version of the digital publication need to be available for comparison if challenged. Online access is the fundamental responsibility of tournament officials and/or individual filing the protest. NOTE: If tournament officials cannot gain online access and the above requirements have been met, the piece is considered legal for use.
5. Performance: The presentation may not use physical objects or costuming. During the presentation the contestant/team must name the author and the book or magazine from which the cutting was made. Additionally:
A. Adaptations to material may only be used for the purpose of transition. The gender stated by the author must be honored. However, a female contestant may play a male role, and a male contestant may play a female role.
B. Humorous, Dramatic, and Duo Interpretation selections must be presented from memory. Program Oral Interpretation must use a manuscript.
C. In Duo Interpretation, each of the two performers may play one or more characters so long as performance responsibility in the cutting remains as balanced as possible.
D. Monologues, prose, and poetry selections are acceptable in Dramatic, Humorous, and Program Oral Interpretation. In Duo Interpretation, if the selection is prose or poetry and contains narration, either or both of the performers may present the narration.
E. Artistic Plagiarism: Videos of previous final round performances are intended to provide educational examples for coaches and students. They are not intended to serve as a model to directly imitate or duplicate in performance. The wholesale impersonation of final round performances is strongly discouraged.
6. Focus: In Dramatic, Humorous, and Program Oral Interpretation, use of focal points and/or direct contact with the audience should be determined by the requirements of the literature being interpreted. In Duo Interpretation, focus may be direct during the introduction [the performers may look at each other] but must be indirect [off-stage] during the performance itself.
7. Re-Use: A student may not use a cutting from a work of literature the student used in National Speech & Debate Association district or national competition in any previous contest year. A student entered in two events may not use the same selection of literature in both events.
8. Website Approval Submission Process: Literature source submissions for the approved website list will be accepted year-round for review. If the source meets the stated criteria, it will be posted on the approved website list four times a year. Submission received by the 15th of each designated month will be reviewed and posted by the 1st of the next month. The months for submissions are August, November, February, and April. Once a site is approved (e.g., the New York Times), all articles posted by that source would be approved for use.