Writing Good Current Events Questions

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Writing Good Current Events Questions

Postby Cheynem » Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:04 pm

Matt Weiner alluded to this in the VCU Closed discussion thread, and I thought it make a good thread of its own.

What are some ways in which to write good current events questions? In thinking about the kinds of current events questions I dislike, there's some trends that I think are problematic, such as:

-minor election bowl, which fixate on candidates running for office in recent elections. Obviously there are good ways to write on elections and some are important. I also get a little rankled about these questions as sometimes I think they turn into "are you from this state? Have 15 points."

-transparency caused by attempting to write on a legitimately important or interesting issue but not really hiding it in any way.

-writing on something current but just using trivia clues as the lead-ins (so writing on like Chuck Hagel and hitting up Wikipedia for irrelevant facts about his life).

-going for oppressively hard answerlines when easier ones would do--such as choosing some country's Defense Minister when the country would be a better answerline, etc.

Any other thoughts?
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Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Postby Demonic Leftovers » Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:36 pm

One thing I'd like to see CE questions do more is address policy matters. I tried to do this with the questions I wrote for VCU Closed where I included a bonus part on Chained-CPI and mentioned Shinzo Abe's stimulus plan for Japan (note I don't know if these were used and if so in what form). An example of this would be asking about something like the recent attempts at filibuster reform, or the immigration reform debate that is going on right now or the Fed tying interest rates to target unemployment rates.

I definitely agree with you Mike regarding the minor election bowl thing. This is something that NAQT has had problems with in the past (although I think they did a better job of it in last year's ICT). A problem I view as related to this is bonuses that just ask you for three representatives or senators. While these are ok every once in a while, I think they are something that become a crutch for people looking to quickly write a CE question.

Another issue I see as related to the trivial clues issue is relying too heavily on amusing anecdotes. These can be fun but should be moderated. And please don't make them the center of a tossup or bonus unless it is amusing and actually important.
Last edited by Demonic Leftovers on Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:48 pm

I have long been an advocate of turning Current Events into something closer to "Modern World". The key distinction here is that "Modern World" encompasses things that are inherently and latently important, regardless of whether or not they have been in the news recently.

I think taking this view would help us move away from minor election bowl and other oddities that ensue when people only pull questions from recent headlines.
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Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Postby Auroni » Mon Feb 04, 2013 5:03 pm

One thing that NAQT seems to do a lot, that I find annoying, is the endless questions on current state senators or governors. You can pretty much guarantee that there will be lots of tossups and bonus parts on these at a given SCT/ICT. Not that these are poorly written, or that there's anything philosophically wrong with a question like this, but they seem kind of lazy in the same way that minor election bowl is.

Another trend I've seen is that people write on a news story that is huge at the time of writing, but becomes much less important closer and closer to the tournament date.
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Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Postby DumbJaques » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:03 pm

As with many other questions (geography perhaps most notably), good current events questions often result from an understanding that one does not need to rigorously strip the material of any meaty content that isn't strictly CE.

That is, a good current events question probably WILL have some history (though more recent history), geography, etc. Otherwise you're going to ensure a boring, minor-election-bowl type question as Mike alluded to.

Also, good current events questions do not always need to be as long as the rest of the questions in the packet. Sometimes 6 lines is going to be sufficient to ask about a solid, academically-relevant recent issue; that's fine! You don't need to fill in two lines of leadin about the minor community leaders of Benghazi* to make the question look meatier.
*They're assuredly going to get Haddad-Fondaed in the interim anyway, so don't waste everyone's time.
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Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Postby Holla! » Wed Feb 06, 2013 11:25 pm

One thing I'd like to see CE questions do more is address policy matters.

I would second this. Especially when multiple states are voting on voter ID referendums, it makes for a good common-link tossup to ask about several states' separate policies. It's also helpful when there's a stark contrast between federal- and state-level policy to write a tossup on those differences and particular politicians' reaction to those laws.
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Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Postby historical pun » Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:41 am

The tricky thing about policies (this is purely from experience answering questions, but currents events is the closest thing I have to a specialty, so this topic interested me) is that it can be difficult to write a clue that a) points to a unique answer, rather than to a variety of potential people/parties/countries and b) is hard enough to put in the first couple lines of a tossup. Including lame trivia about Mr./Ms. X's life experience is not desirable, but it's easy to see why people often resort to it.

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