Requesting information - hints and tips

Using FOI is simple - you have a right to the information held by Scottish public authorities and, to receive it, all you have to do is write to them and ask.

Our Your Rights pages provide more detailed information for requesters on using FOI. However, there are also some simple steps you can take to ensure that your FOI request is dealt with as quickly and easily as possible. Here are some hints and tips that may help when making an FOI request.

Focus on recorded information

The FOI right applies to recorded information. It won't, therefore, apply to information which isn't recorded and held by the authority at the time you make your request, and authorities aren't required to create new information in order to respond.

When wording your request, then, think about the types of information that might be held by the authority that could be provided in response. It might be helpful to provide examples of the sorts of information you're interested in - for example information contained in correspondence, reports, minutes of meetings or spreadsheets.

Be specific

If your request is framed too broadly it may mean that you receive information which is of no interest to you, while also placing an unnecessary burden on the public authority. There is also a greater risk that a wide-ranging request will be refused because it costs too much.

It's a good idea, therefore, to try and be as specific as possible when making your request. It might help, for example, to provide the authority with a time period during which the information you want was likely to have been created, or to refer to the specific people you think might have been involved in the creation of information.

Keep it simple!

Try to keep your request as clear and simple as possible so that it can't be misunderstood. Avoid commenting on other issues if the main reason you are writing is to ask for information. If you do want to raise any general issues with the public authority, keep that correspondence separate from your FOI requests. A request which is contained within lengthy correspondence on other matters is more likely to be missed or overlooked.

Keep copies

Keep copies of all your correspondence until you have got the information you want. You will need them if you need to bring an appeal to the Commissioner.

Ask for help!

If in doubt, ask for help. Public authorities have a duty to advise and assist people making FOI requests. Talking about your request with an authority can also help you target your request more accurately to ensure you receive the particular information you want.


You can also contact us for support, advice and guidance on using FOI.

Find out more...

Voluntary sector homepage - Return to our homepage for the voluntary sector.

User experiences - Learn about real-life examples of campaigners using FOI to help achieve their goals.

Common questions - Find answers to the questions we are commonly asked by voluntary sector staff.

Your rights - Explore our practical guidance on making a request - and what to do if you don't get what you're looking for.

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