The Inquiry Project

In many ways this project is a traditional research project, but it differs in two important ways: I want you to begin with a clearly defined question you want to answer, and the format of the final paper will be different (something of a hybrid narrative/research piece). These differences can sometimes be challenging for students, so I hope this page will help with that.

The first task you have is to come up with a question to focus your inquiry. Below I’ve included a list of areas of concern in the field of young adult literature that I hope might provide some initial direction for you. You’ll notice that none of these is framed as a question–it’s your job to take the issue and craft a question from that broader issue.

So, for instance, you might be interested in cover art and take that interest and focus it into an inquiry question: “What techniques are used in cover art to make books more appealing?” or “Do covers portray a ‘gender’ to the book or story? How do they do that?”

Or you might be interested in the history of young adult literature and curious about the dime store novel phenomenon and devise a question like “How do high-interest books for today’s teen readers compare to the dime novel stories of the 19th century?”

Or you might, perhaps in part because of your keyword study, be interested in the growing distinctions within the border category of young adult literature and come up with a question like “How are we defining the middle grade reader and how do we characterize books written for this audience?”


  1. the YA canon: what to leave in, what to leave out and why
  2. reading “trash” books or series books or any type of books often discredited
  3. censorship
  4. multiculturalism in YA books
  5. YA nonfiction and its potential audiences and uses
  6. series books
  7. the coming and going of horror books
  8. role of (or absence of) God/religion in YA books (see Patty Campbell’s column in Horn Book)
  9. stereotyping (race and/or gender) in YA books
  10. growth and popularity of short story collections for YA readers
  11. the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the study of YA literature
  12. the growth or demise of a particular genre (e.g., YA mystery, romance, SF, fantasy, etc.)
  13. “adult” books widely read by YAs on their own (see also the ALA’s Alex Award)
  14. books that interest reluctant YA readers, why they do
  15. justification for including (or excluding) YA books in secondary school curriculum
  16. use of YA books in AP classes (see Spencer in EJ 1989, McGee in EJ 1992, Crowe in EJ 2001)
  17. the art of cover art (see Sullivan 1998, Yampbell 2005, NYTBR 2007)
  18. the history of YA literature
  19. YA books as bibliotherapy
  20. roles of ____ as portrayed in YA books
  21. history or debate regarding Newbery Award and/or the Printz Award
  22. the “dark” side of YA literature (e.g. novels by authors like Shelley Stoehr, Chris Lynch, Melvin Burgess)
  23. picture (children’s) books suitable for YAs
  24. reader interest surveys—who reads what?
  25. Canadian (or Australian or New Zealand or British) YA literature
  26. the current arguments against YA literature in general and its use in school in particular
  27. the appeal of books like Alcott’s Little Women (or  the appeal of any traditional YA classic: Anne of Green Gables, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Catcher in the Rye, etc.)
  28. influence of some of these classics (especially Catcher in the Rye) on more modern YA lit
  29. the general absence of strong mother characters in YA novels.
  30. the bias against YA nonfiction in literature classes
  31. YA poetry
  32. YA verse novels (see English Journal January 2004)
  33. the ethical issues in representing other’s cultures or historical information (see Claudia Mills’ article)
  34. a particular writing device in YA novels (beginnings, plots, character types, setting, dialogue, etc.)
  35. the history of a particular type of novel for YAs
  36. the history of the term “young adult” or its other, earlier labels
  37. adult “literary” authors writing YA books (e.g. Isabel Allende, Carl Hiaasen, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Chabon, etc)
  38. the current state of the YA novel (see Jonathan Hunt, 2007)
  39. the Twilight or Harry Potter phenomenon—or other similar widely popular books or series and why they ‘make’ it
  40. body image in YA lit
  41. “blended” books in YA lit (printed texts with online connections)
  42. mother-daughter/father-son/etc. types of relationships in YA lit
  43. portrayals of any subgroup in YA literature