UK Experience of Freedom of Information as a method of enquiry

Keith Spiller, Andrew Whiting

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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This chapter considers Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as a viable tool for academic research. To date, journalist, campaigners or concerned consumers have been to the forefront in using FOIs to gain information on issues as diverse as politician’s expenses, the cost of policing a royal event or the levels of food hygiene in restaurants. Yet this line of enquiry appears to be infrequently used by academic researchers. The chapter concentrates on the UK and will offer 5 areas for consideration. Firstly, we consider the value of FOIs as a research tool. Secondly, we reflect upon some of the limitations to using FOIs in research. Thirdly, we locate the FOIA within a broader process of modernising digital information and highlight some of the challenges that can present for researchers via this trend. Fourthly, we review effective use of FOI in research. Finally, we offer some observations from our own nascent research project that is using FOIs as a key methodological approach. The chapter concludes by stressing the usefulness of the FOIA for researchers to produce democratising and politically impactful research. The chapter’s aim is to highlight the practicalities of applying this method of enquiry and to further its contribution to academic research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFreedom of Information and Social Science Research Design (Routledge Advances in Research Methods)
Place of PublicationAbingdon
PublisherTaylor and Francis
ISBN (Print)9780429794865
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2019


  • Freedom of information
  • Research methods
  • Prevent Duty
  • Higher Education
  • counter terrorism

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