A few guidlines from my college notes ...decades have passed so excuse the dog-eared pages :p
I just wanted to add a few suggestions for both starting a thread and for participating in one once it's started.
When you start a thread, in theory, it should state a premise and then ask for arguments from those who are "for" and those who are "against" that premise. This is basic debate "101."
What you should try NOT to do is to state a premise and ask for "opinions." What this does, right off the bat, is to scatter the responses in many different directions. The thread then has a much greater chance of sprouting conversations that go off on a tangent that could pull the topic away from the premise initially stated.
Once the thread has started each poster should endeavor to argue either for or against the premise stated. This is when "opinions" among other thoughts can be stated. However, the main underpinnings of the discussion should be focused on arguing either for or against the premise. This, hopefully, will keep the thread focused and on-topic.
I've dug out a compilation of notes from my old debate classes and will share some of them here:
Things to avoid:
*the use of ALWAYS
*the use of NEVER
*presenting opinions as facts ...if it is an opinion, admit it
*saying "you are WRONG" ...there are softer ways of saying the same thing and still getting the point across
*disagreeing with obvious truths
*use MANY or SOME rather than MOST
*quote sources and cite references
*stress the positive
*concede minor points
Remember that the use of the words "often" and "generally" allow for exceptions.
Sometimes it is better not to state the screen name of the member when rebutting their argument. It can possibly be antagonizing if used in the wrong situation.
And, remember what our T.O.S. has always stated: attack the idea and not the person.
Discipline yourself to keep your emotions in check and take a quick pause before posting in an emotionally-charged discussion. Sometimes, in an arena as this, you might take time to quickly proofread what you've composed.
A good debate can be fun, intellectually stimulating, and an experience where a lot of interesting things can be learned. Keep things in perspective ...it's just a debate on an internet forum where you're basically anonymous.
Have fun and let's keep this Great Debate forum a cut above the others. We need the cooperation of all who choose to participate here to make it something more than just another shouting match with a lot of bickering and quarreling.
Have fun and good luck!