I find it sad that nobody has come to Jerry's clinic, so I am going to kick things off by posting a tossup. This tossup was part of a packet submitted for Oxford Open by a completely inexperienced writer who asked for feedback on the packet. I did give fairly extensive feedback on the history questions, but I don't think the rest of it ever got much attention, and I didn't have a lot of time, so I stopped after the history. I think this is a good opportunity for the writer to learn. I'm posting the question exactly as it was submitted.
OOT 2014 submission wrote:This religion espouses the adoption of a global auxiliary language, recommended by its founder's son, a man born ‘Abbàs Effendi. A history of this religion is given in Shoghi Effendi’s book God Passes By. The central tenets of this religion are the unities of god, religion and humanity, as stated in its holy book, the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Members of this religion often wear rings bearing the ‘ringstone’ symbol, symbolising the connection between God and Man. This religion sees both Abrahamic and Dharmic figures as messengers of God, and its most recent messengers are its founder and a man known as the Báb. FTP, name this Eastern monotheistic religion founded in the 19th century by Bahá’u’lláh, whose symbol is a nine-pointed star.
The Baha’i Faith
I don't think this is a particularly horrible question. Many clues are not in order of difficulty, but I'll chalk that up to the author not knowing the relative difficulty of these clues, which is not unusual for a novice. Here are some quizbowl-theory related points I have to say to the author:
(1) One of your goals as a question writer is to distinguish between knowledge and lateral thinking. By "lateral thinking", we mean educated guessing based on context clues. In a good quizbowl match, people with actual knowledge of the thing being asked about should be able to beat people who are merely applying lateral thinking (though it's OK for people who are better at applying lateral thinking to beat other people applying lateral thinking). This tossup becomes latterable as soon as you start giving the names of various Effendis: only so many religions have been founded by people with binomial, Middle Eastern-sounding names. It would be better if you took some information that only somebody very familiar with Bahai would know (such as the ring clue) and put it ahead of any clues that made it laterable. In any tossup, you're going to eventually divulge information that enables lateral thinking, but drop some real knowlege upstream of that.
(2) With few exceptions, the name of a religion's holy book is one of the most famous things about it. Under the principle of pyramidicity (start with the hardest clue, end with the easiest), the name of the holy book should be closer to the end. Likewise, the name of the founder (another very famous thing about any religion) should come after the clue about their symbol.
(3) Pay close attention to whether your clues are uniquely identifying: that is, are any of them also true of another religion. Avoid clues that are too generic or apply to multiple possible answers. For example, I believe that "This religion sees both Abrahamic and Dharmic figures as messengers of God" may also technically be true of Din-i-Alahi, another religion that there are often questions about (at least at very high levels of quizbowl). "Unity of God" is a very generic thing for a religion to believe in, there's not much there that distinguishes it from, say, Islam or Sikhism, both of which would also claim unity of God as a major tenet. Many organizations also advocate for a universal auxiliary language, and some of them are religions.
When talking about Bahai beliefs, I would mention specific doctrines (if they have names), I would mention specific parables and metaphors used in Bahai texts (Bahai has like a dozen sacred texts, its an excellently sourced religion!).
EDIT: So my memory is very hazy, but for example there's a metaphor somewhere in Bahai scripture where Bahaulla is asked about the differences between Bahai Law and Islamic Law. If the Bahai God is also the Islamic god, the interrogator asks, why has he changed his laws? Bahaulla replies with something to the effect of "what's in the sky often changes, but it is the same sky". This metaphor illustrates the Bahai belief in unity of God, but is also unique to Bahai and makes a much better clue than "this religion believes in the unity of god" - both because it isn't ambiguous, and because it rewards people who have actually read Bahai holy texts, surely something you want to reward over people who are less familiar with the religion.