Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

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Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Eddie »

It looks like this type of question is really rare - NAQT's website says there's 0.8 of these per round. What's the deal with them? They're kind of annoying to play for me, but is there a solid reason they're frowned upon?
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by vinteuil »

I don't think that it's so much "frowned upon" as specialists won't like them as much, because they have a much-reduced chance of being able to demonstrate knowledge in a category.

I like them, but I often very much feel the "category whiplash" in between clues.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

One problem is that you are forced to decide which categories should go in which order. Making category x the leadin and y the giveaway privs x specialists over y specialists for no obvious reason.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Auroni »

I usually have no objection to these kinds of questions -- I find them to be a cool way to ask about already-familiar topics. From time to time, I'll even toss in an academic clue from another discipline into a supposedly "pure" academic question if it helps conversion.

I only find these to be annoying if they are really contrived.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Eddie »

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:I only find these to be annoying if they are really contrived.
Could you give an example?
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Auroni »

Sure; this is an arbitrary example that I just thought of off the top of my head. Suppose you were to write a psychology tossup on "dreams" focusing mainly on clues from Freud, then you suddenly started to mix in clues from MLK Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech. You might use a clue like "Irma's Injection was one of these things, another of which involves people who will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Individually, there's absolutely nothing wrong with tossups on dreams from Freud or on the "I Have a Dream" speech. However, if you take into account the fact that the phrasing of the second clue might not convincingly point to "dreams" as an answer, then you have yourself a contrived misc academic tossup which doesn't fit together organically.

Examples of misc academic tossups that avoid this pitfall might be: painting tossups on mythological scenes using mythology clues to explain what's going on in the painting, classical music based on works of literature appearing as clues in literature tossups, explanations of biological processes involving chemistry clues, like what bonds are made or broken or what kind of functional group is being replaced by what.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

pk14ster wrote:
Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:I only find these to be annoying if they are really contrived.
Could you give an example?
Possibly the worst tossup I've ever heard in a live game was an NAQT tossup with the answer line of "Where have all the Cowboys gone?"

It contained clues about "possible answers to THIS question" drawn from several fields, including:
(1) the post-NFL careers of several Dallas Cowboys players
(2) theories about agricultural development
(3) the song of that name
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Important Bird Area »

2006 DI SCT round 1 wrote:Guatemala, Fox broadcast booths, and the ESPN studio are partial answers to this question, thanks to the ~Survivor~ appearance of Gary Hogeboom and the TV careers of Daryl Johnston, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin. It titled a hit from the album ~This Fire~ that also asked, "Where is my John (*) Wayne?" For 10 points--give this question asked in 1996 by Paula Cole that inquires into the disappearance of the ranch hands.
(This was not, incidentally, a "mixed" or "miscellaneous" question as discussed in this thread; it's a pop culture question.)
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Boeing X-20, Please! »

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:
pk14ster wrote:
Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:I only find these to be annoying if they are really contrived.
Could you give an example?
Possibly the worst tossup I've ever heard in a live game was an NAQT tossup with the answer line of "Where have all the Cowboys gone?"

It contained clues about "possible answers to THIS question" drawn from several fields, including:
(1) the post-NFL careers of several Dallas Cowboys players
(2) theories about agricultural development
(3) the song of that name
This is not as great as the common-link Japanese tourist/Twins baseball player Torii Hunter tossup.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by bag-of-worms »

Boeing X-20, Please! wrote: This is not as great as the common-link Japanese tourist/Twins baseball player Torii Hunter tossup.
You forgot the British political faction.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Important Bird Area »

2005 HSNCT round 18 wrote:This American athlete's name might suggest that he targeted George Canning during the 1827 elections in Britain. Alternatively, he might be interested in searching out the holy entrances to Shinto temples. In reality, he nabbed an apparently long-gone (*) Barry Bonds hit in the 2002 All-Star game. For 10 points--name this defensive standout, the first Twin since Kirby Puckett to start in that game.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Kyle »

I feel like I ought to say something in this thread. Starting last year, after the last IS set but before the HSNCT, it became my job to edit these questions for NAQT at the high school level. Prior to that point, I didn't have particularly strong feelings about multi-subject questions, other than that I remember playing on the Torii Hunter question in 2005 and not finding it nearly as clever as its author did. Gradually, I started to develop much more adamant ideas about how these questions should be written, and gradually this point of view is being imposed onto NAQT's multi-subject questions.
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:One problem is that you are forced to decide which categories should go in which order. Making category x the leadin and y the giveaway privs x specialists over y specialists for no obvious reason.
First of all, in an ideal world, there should be a relatively even mix of all categories in the multi-subject questions across the entire set. In reality, this is extremely difficult to achieve, and besides that most set editors have other, bigger concerns. One of the particular problems which we could do something about is that science and math get left out almost entirely. I have tried to encourage people to write more science and math into interdisciplinary questions, but this hasn't happened much yet. There is a lot of possibility for interdisciplinary questions that discuss, for example, math and philosophy, physics and music, or history of science. As it is, these combinations almost never get written.
Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:I only find these to be annoying if they are really contrived.
This is, of course, the biggest problem. Lots of the multi-subject questions that I see are horribly contrived. One reason is that NAQT writers often write questions to fill specific needs in the distribution. People, not all of whom are very experienced writers, are told "you need to write two multi-subject tossups and two multi-subject bonuses immediately." What they then do is come up with a really loose theme for the bonuses (hypothetically: "For 10 points each--answer the following about flowers") and as bizarre and contrived a theme as possible for the tossups. I then reject the tossups and attempt to change the bonuses to something a little bit more meaningful (hypothetically: "For 10 points each--answer the following about representations of flowers in art and literature"). Sometimes this process results in good questions getting written, but it definitely isn't the ideal way.

The best way to write multi-subject questions is to write them whenever you read about two or more things that have an interesting and significant connection. I'm not going to give any specific examples here because most of the things on the top of my head right now are used in current sets, but if you remind me when the sets are clear in June I will happily expand on this idea. Basically, any time you hear something interesting, you should consider whether that could form the basis for a multi-subject question. I have found interesting things in the newspaper, in magazines, and even by walking over a "fun fact" which the City of London had painted on the sidewalk to educate tourists. If more NAQT writers kept their eyes open for this kind of thing, then the quality of multi-subject questions would improve dramatically.

Now, the fact that NAQT always has to spur its writers to write to fill needs in multi-subject questions, rather than relying on writers to write them in advance, is a problem that renders this approach unrealistic. Is part of the problem that there are too many multi-subject questions in the distribution? That is a plausible conclusion to draw.

Anyway, in addition to the science-y suggestions I had above, I'd like to point out that the following reliable combinations of subjects can make good questions which nobody ought to find too contrived:

- a place that has both historical and cultural importance
- a film, opera, play, novel, poem, painting, or sculpture that is based on mythological or religious themes
- the historical context of any kind of literature or film
- earth science and geography
- a history / geography / current events combination about a single theme related to a particular place or ethnic group

In conclusion, if you're an NAQT writer who is reading this, at the very least, it would be fantastic if you could start by thinking about the coherent grouping of complementary subjects you want to combine rather than about the link you want to highlight among three very different things. That way, I won't have to keep rejecting (again, hypothetically) bonuses beginning "For 10 points--name these things that are green" whose answers are leaves, the Incredible Hulk, and the twenty-dollar bill.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Stained Diviner »

I wrote one of those questions that Kyle rejected. (The first part was Ellis Island, and the other two parts were people who were processed there.)

To anybody writing such questions for any set, my advice is to write those questions first. Writing them at the end is frustrating, since for example you get an idea to write a question on references to other subjects found in Twain books, only to see that your set already has a Twain question or an eclipse question or a Mississippi River question or whatever. If you are in that position of starting out a set with a few interdisciplinary questions and run out of steam after writing four or five questions, it's more likely a sign that your set should only have five such questions than a sign that you need to dig down deep and write some more. Writing mixed questions first is something that NAQT does not do, and my advice to them would be to have a person or two who are good at writing such questions write 100 or 200 of them at a variety of difficulty levels so that those questions can be placed into upcoming sets early in the process.

I'll add that these questions really don't serve any purpose, and eliminating/decreasing them is just fine with me.
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by setht »

I think interdisciplinary/mixed questions can be really, really cool. Or terrible, or just blah, which is a shame, because as I said, they can be really, really cool.

For 2012 ICT I wrote 35 of the 49 mixed/general knowledge questions. I wrote many of those relatively early in the set production process, and I pretty much did what Kyle suggests: any time I saw something interesting or funny that looked like it could be made into a mixed/general knowledge question, I wrote a question. I had a lot of fun writing these questions--where else are you going to get a chance to write a tossup on "drawing a circle"?--and I'd like to think that people generally had a good time playing them, or at least tolerated them. I realize this is the high school section, but if you want several dozen (hopefully solid) examples of interdisciplinary questions before June let me know.

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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Cheynem »

I enjoy these questions. Where else am I going to get a chance to answer a tossup on "drawing a circle" over people who know math?
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Re: Interdisciplinary/Mixed Questions

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

I remain consistent in finding these questions both fun to write and fun to play when they are on interesting academic or miscellaneous material, and in service of such fun I will be including one Mixed/Misc tossup or bonus in each round of BHSAT 2013.

I probably have a higher tolerance for pretty loose connections between clues than Kyle or Auroni does, especially when that loose connection allows for a clue or interesting piece of information to get written on that really doesn't fit any category, but it's probably better to keep tight connections between clues at first if you're new to writing mixed questions or otherwise don't know what you're doing. If your only connection between vastly different things is a single word, or you're relying on fill-in-the-blank, you should probably reconsider.

Contra Bruce, I don't think it's any bigger an issue to determine which clues are harder than others if they're used in a multi-subject tossup - just put the harder clues, meaning the clues that teams are less likely to know, before the easy ones! With some generalist ability and some research, it's not actually that difficult to figure out that a really hard history clue should come before a moderately hard science clue, for example.
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