At its core, debate is the formal argumentation of two sides of a topic. Debate allows you to research a topic in depth and write arguments supporting or rejecting that topic. You then present those arguments in a round where a judge will evaluate who "won."
There are different forms of debate that have different lengths, topics, and argument styles. Each event has different lengths and case styles, so make sure to check out the descriptions of each event. For all of these events, however, research plays a big role. The more research you do, the better off you will be in a round. "Research" includes understanding your topic thoroughly, creating responses for potential arguments your opponents may say, and creating multiple arguments to present in a round.
Each topic will make a claim about a relevant policy or principle. The topic is also known as the resolution. If you are agreeing with the topic claim in a round, then you are the affirmative or pro side. If you are disagreeing with the topic claim, then you are the negative or con side. You will have to prepare arguments for both sides of the debate because you will be expected to debate both sides at a tournament.
You will compile all of your arguments into cases which are different sets of arguments grouped together. Before a round you will be able to choose which case you want to run (debate) for that round.
There are TONS of resources out there to help you with this whole process... don't feel overwhelmed! Lots of people get discouraged by the amount of work this activity requires, but it is extremely rewarding. Additionally, the cut-throat nature of argumentation can be intimidating, but that is what this website is here for! We hope that you can use the resources on this forum to get involved and feel confident in rounds, regardless of whether you win or lose. Debate teaches many great skills that can help you tremendously no matter what you hope to do in the future. What's the harm in trying? (The answer is nothing!)