What Is Shared Inquiry?

The educators Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler established the Great Books Foundation in 1947, after many years of leading Great Books seminars at the University of Chicago. Their purpose was to expand opportunities for people to read and talk about the significant works of the Western intellectual tradition. To help explore, interpret, and evaluate the complex and challenging ideas in these works, the Great Books Foundation developed a discussion method known as Shared Inquiry™. Many of the Foundation’s reading and discussion programs and publications for grades K–12, colleges, and adult book groups are based on this method.

Shared Inquiry promotes an intellectually stimulating interpretative discussion of a work—a group exploration of meaning that leads to engaging and insightful conversation. It helps participants read actively, articulate probing questions about the ideas in a work, and listen and respond effectively to each other. And it is based on the conviction that participants can gain a deeper understanding of a text when they work together and are prompted by a leader’s skilled questioning.

In Shared Inquiry discussion, each participant engages in an active search for the meaning of a work that everyone in the group has read. With the energy and encouragement of the group, participants articulate and develop their ideas, support their assertions with evidence from the text, and consider different plausible meanings. The discussion leader provides direction and guidance by asking questions about the text and about the comments of the participants. The participants in the group should look to the leader for questions, not answers.

Whom Is Shared Inquiry For?

  • Book groups and clubs
  • Organizations looking for team building
  • People looking to express themselves through works of literature and engaging texts

To get a sense of the scope of what we provide, please see our current partnerships below. Please contact us with any inquiries.


Chicago Sister Cities International

American Legion Event

Talking Service

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel Radio Archive