Freedom of Information Act (Federal) Research Guide

This guide discusses how to use the federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, to obtain records from federal government agencies when those records are not published in the Federal Register or distributed by the Government Publishing Office.


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This research guide discusses how to use the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, to obtain records from federal government agencies when those records have not been published in the Federal Register or otherwise distributed by the Goverment Publishing Office. For example, if you are researching the history of a regulation and the public comments associated with that regulation weren't published in the Federal Register, you might be able to find them on the Internet in the agency's Electronic FOIA Reading Room (generally, www.[agency name].gov/foia). A list of federal agencies with links to their FOIA pages is available at In the alternative, you might be able to obtain them by requesting them under the Freedom of Information Act.

This guide is intended only as an introduction to the Federal Freedom of Information Act. It provides citations to other guides and handbooks, as well as agency regulations, which may help you in drafting your own FOIA requests. This guide does not discuss state freedom of information laws.

Further Information:

Note that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have their own freedom of information statutes. The text of each of those statutes can be found in the appendices to Justin D. Franklin and Robert E. Bouchard, Guidebook to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts (updated through March 2021).

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Update History

Updated 01/13 (JZ)
Updated 09/19 (SB)
Updated 06/21 (DGD)