FOIA 101: Tips and Tricks to Make You a Transparency Master

Whether it's your first request or your first request *today,* it never hurts to go over the basics. MuckRock's compiled a lot of FOIA advice over the years, and with this project, it's all in one place.

Basics / Intermediate/Advanced / MuckRock Site Guides / Exemptions / Agency-Specific Advice / Topic-Specific Tips / Presidential Records / Student Resources / State Maps / Ongoing Series

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Never filed a public records request? Not sure what a “FOIA” is or if you know how to pronounce it? Start here.

What’s considered a public record?

Fee categories

First time FOIA request flowchart

Five tips for beginners

Leaks and FOIA FAQ


Appealing fee categories and waivers

Dealing with excessive redactions

FOIA inspiration from #IRE2017

Five lessons from “FOIA Strategies and Tactics”

How to get a faster FOIA response

Reminder that Congress is (increasingly) exempt from FOIA

Tips for better FOIA appeals

Searching for specific sections of records

Sunshine Week 2019 public records reporting round-up

What to do about “Still Interested” letters

What to do when an agency claims not to have records you know it has

What the 2016 FOIA reforms mean for requesters

MuckRock Site Guides

How to explore MuckRock’s public archive of FOIA requests and releases

How to use MuckRock to look at your state’s public records law

Looking for daily #FOIA inspiration? Check out our new site, Muck.Rocks

We want you to build a project with MuckRock

Why can’t I upload my existing FOIA requests to MuckRock?


MuckRock Assignments: Your newest tool for audience feedback

Tap your readers, followers, and fans to help crowdsource your FOIA finds

What we’ve learned helping crowdsource over 10,000 pages of government records


Give the gift of government accountability year-round with MuckRock Crowdfunds

Learn how to crowdfund your request on MuckRock from the pros


Getting the most out of DocumentCloud


For what reasons could an agency withhold or redact your records?

Federal FOIA exemptions overview

The Glomar “neither confirm nor deny” exemption

Agency-Specific Advice


The ultimate guide to searching CIA’s declassified archives

Using exemption codes to find documents hidden in CREST

Department of Defense

Tracking down Department of Defense contracts


A FOIA beginner’s guide to requesting a FBI file

The #AppleVSFBI FOIA Primer

Five ways to use FOIA to explore the FBI’s 110 year history

Getting your own FBI file

How to read an FBI file: A beginner’s guide

Telling the FBI where to search

What is an FBI background check?


A beginner’s guide to FOIA-ing the NSA

Topic Specific Tips

Autopsy reports

Environmental reports

The JFK assassination records

Immigration records

Mueller Report

A guide to the FOIA exemptions in the newly-released version of the Mueller Report

What will the Special Counsel’s Office release?

#NODAPL / pipeline records

Protest records

Private prison records


Presidential Records

Presidential records primer

Trump Administration records

White House’s FOIA exemption

White House visitor logs

Student Resources

College journalist’s FOIA guide

College sports records guide

FOIA 4 Kidz lesson plan

High school journalist’s FOIA guide

State Maps

MuckRock request data shows big difference in backlogs between states

Response deadline map

State by State records guide

Ongoing Series

#FOIAFriday Round-up

FOIA Slack Chats

Requester’s Voice interviews

State of State Public Records Laws

Sunshine Spotlight: Massachusetts

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Image via the National Archives Flickr

186 Articles

A MuckRocker’s guide to requesting public records with the public

A MuckRocker’s guide to requesting public records with the public

FOIA can be a tricky process, but you don’t need to go at it alone. Here are some of our favorite tips, tricks and examples of opening up the public records process, whether it’s hosting an event to train others or building a larger records campaign that works to get more people involved. The benefits: More transparency, more documents and stronger laws that work better for all requesters.

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How you can use eviction data and public records to report on housing during the pandemic

How you can use eviction data and public records to report on housing during the pandemic

Protections have been put in place and rental assistance rolled out. But did landlords in your area use them fairly?

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How you can use ‘Uncounted’ CDC data to explore the COVID-19 pandemic’s hidden death toll

How you can use ‘Uncounted’ CDC data to explore the COVID-19 pandemic’s hidden death toll

The Documenting COVID-19 project and the USA TODAY Network spent months investigating where and why COVID-19 deaths go uncounted.

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