Uniqueness analysis

Uniqueness is analysis of the status quo. What is happening now in the world of your argument? What trends are appearing, what problems are prevalent, what's being done to address them? Controlling what happens in the status quo allows you to control the true, unique effects of the resolution.

While the specific arguments and situations you'll be making arguments a bout will vary from topic to topic, the overall strategies for aff and neg will remain roughly the same, with few exceptions. Both are trying to win arguments about the status quo, and the current state of affairs, which will determine the direction of the offense in the round.

Aff uniqueness

The affirmative is almost always a change from the status quo. (In topics where this isn't true, just flip these sides.) In nearly every PF topic, you're discussing something severe, a big change from the status quo. This is a risk the judge has to take, and of course, that risks both benefits and harms. The comparison you need to make is between the uncertain world of the affirmative and the certain status quo, by making the status quo really really bad. Paint the current world, and thus the world of the negative, as terrible, people are dying, the impact is about to happen. And you should almost always take it one step farther - not only are things bad, but they are getting worse. Voting aff might make things worse, but voting neg would've made that happen anyway, just a little slower. As a result of this analysis, voting aff is the only chance of changing a very bad status quo. This is especially applicable to binary impacts, e.g. a war happening, since if the neg is going to cause a war in the status quo, the aff is the only one that risks changing away from that course.

Neg uniqueness

The negative is almost always a preservation of the status quo. (In topics where this isn't true, just flip these sides.) The status quo is a paradise which we shouldn't disrupt. The problems the affirmative is trying to solve are becoming better in the status quo, and only making some big change would risk this nice trend. Importantly, if you win that the current status quo is solving the issue at hand, even if the affirmative would also solve it, they're only solving it a little bit faster - the benefits would've happened anyway. That means voting for them is the only risk of changing the current trend towards a devastating impact. Again, this especially applies to binary impacts, since if there's no risk of them happening in the status quo, affirming is the only one that can change it.


This entire round focuses on the South China Sea, a topic area within the September-October UNCLOS topic. From the beginning of Chad's rebuttal, both sides agree that controlling tensions and conflict in the South China Sea is the most important impact in the round, and both sides go for links into controlling China. How does that impact break down? Throughout the round, a uniqueness debate develops, where teams try to determine the direction of the status quo and how the resolution will affect that.

Don't go overboard!

Uniqueness is great, and can really swing a round in your favor. Make sure you implicate what you say, as always. However, remember that controlling the status quo trend isn't going to 100% win you the round. Maybe your opponent has a warrant why timeframe matters. Maybe your evidence isn't as specific as you'd like. Make sure you don't rely too heavily on your uniqueness analysis, and making totalizing claims might not be the best way to win a judge. Be realistic, explain yo