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U.S. Federal Documents

Northwestern University Libraries have been a U.S. Federal Depository Library since 1876. Our collection includes materials in paper, microfiche, CD-ROM, DVD formats and online formats. This guide is based on a similar guide by Kelly Smith at UCSD.

How to Make a FOIA Request

Making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request is complicated and takes time.  Use the resources of the following agencies and organizations to make your request as strong as possible.  Use the resources on the Declassified Documents page of this guide to verify that the documents you need have not already been released.

Materials Made Available by FOIA Requests

Federal agencies are required to provide an electronic reading room for materials released in response to FOIA requests.  For those agencies not linked below, try this search in google:

"electronic reading room" site:agencyurl   |  for example:  "electronic reading room"

FOIA: State of Illinois

If you need to contact an Illinois state agency about FOIA and they are not listed at the link above, try a google search structured as follows (substitute the name of the agency of interest where "public health" is used in this example):

"freedom of information act"  "public health"

Laws Governing Access to Government Information

The Congressional Research Service provides the following reports explaining the scope and limitations of FOIA and related legislation which clarify the extent of transparency in governance.