College of Communication > About > Centers & Initiatives > Center for Journalism Integrity & Excellence > FOIA Resources for Journalists > How to File a FOIA Request
FOIA requests are essential to our work as reporters, but submitting a request can feel overwhelming to journalists who are new to the process. This page includes basic guidelines for submitting a FOIA request.
For more information on state and federal FOIA laws, refer to these pages:
When filing a FOIA request, first determine which agency has the information you are looking for. Researching the correct agency will save time and prevent you from requesting information from multiple agencies before reaching the one with the documents you are looking for.
The Freedom of Information Act (called the Open Records Act in some states) applies to executive branches of the federal and state governments. It typically does not apply to legislatures and courts.
Once you know the agency, find its FOIA officer. This is the person that you will be working with to obtain the information you need. In some situations it is helpful to call the FOIA officer before you submit your request. Some officers will help you focus and word your request. They may also offer to send the documents over without submitting a request.
After speaking with the FOIA officer, your next step is to file the FOIA request. This can be done online, or by fax, mail or email. The agency may have a specific form for you to fill out, or you can
use a template.
After submitting your FOIA request, follow up with the FOIA officer. Federal and state level agencies have different time limits, so it is important to hold your officer to these. In their response, they must either include the information, reason for the delay, or a denial.
Exemptions to FOIA
For more information about filing a FOIA request, visit the
FOIA Wiki site.
Public records requests are fundamental to our work to hold our government accountable. There are many additional resources available to help with your FOIA requests.