Writing Good Current Events Questions

Old college threads.
Locked
User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6289
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Writing Good Current Events Questions

Post by 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?
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
Demonic Leftovers
Wakka
Posts: 248
Joined: Tue Aug 07, 2007 2:26 pm
Location: Wilmington, DE

Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Post by 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.
TWO TIME NATIONAL CHAMPION David A. Seal, Esq.
QUINTUPLE CROWN WINNER: ICT/ICT/NHB/NHB/CULT
Coach of 2014 and 2015 ICT Champion UVA
University of Chicago '10
University of Virginia School of Law '13
Not Every Team Can Afford Me
Coattail Rider

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3141
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Post by 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.
Bruce
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 2947
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: ann arbor

Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Post by 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.
Auroni Gupta
Michigan '17
"I love Milf Money" - Will Nediger

User avatar
DumbJaques
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 3035
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2004 6:21 pm
Location: Columbus, OH

Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Post by 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.
Chris Ray
OSU
University of Chicago, 2016
University of Maryland, 2014
ACF, PACE

User avatar
Holla!
Lulu
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 6:03 pm
Location: Algonquin for "the Good Land"

Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Post by 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.
Cory Haala | Simley HS: 2003-2009
Northwestern University: 2009-2012 | Marquette University: 2013-2015
Writer/Moderator, NAQT: 2012-present

historical pun
Lulu
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Re: Writing Good Current Events Questions

Post by 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.

User was reminded to enable a signature. --the mgmt
Jonathan, Rutgers

Locked