In England and Wales at least, Freedom of Information requests are a legitimate research technique to use for obtaining data on occasions when (a) they are applicable, and (b) other avenues have been exhausted.

If a researcher wishes to obtain answers to multiple questions, or to obtain multiple different datasets, should (s)he submit:

  • one FOI request providing a clear list of the requested items; or
  • one FOI request per item?

I would be especially grateful for links to relevant advice from trustworthy sources, and for advice from academia.stackexchange members who have either made or received FOI requests.

  • 3
    Does the law specify whether FOI requests have to be focused? It would seem to me to be a question of law, not of preference. Mar 29, 2015 at 3:42
  • 1
    The only issue is whether there is some exemption the public authority can apply in order to refuse your request. One particularly relevant one is the time limit. If you ask for too much they can say it will take them too long to find it. You could do worse than start reading here ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-freedom-of-information/… .
    – Simd
    Mar 29, 2015 at 11:09

1 Answer 1


Under a single request, you can requisition multiple data that are related.

As a guide for FOI officers (the people who will process your request), the State Government of Victoria gives this gloss:

Practice Note 4: Multiple Requests for Access


Multiple requests arise where a number of applications for access are made by or on behalf of a person at the same or within a short period of time (e.g. within 2-3 weeks).

If there is sufficient commonality between the requests, they can be considered as a single request to determine whether it is a "voluminous" request under section 25A(1).

Each request should otherwise be treated individually, in the usual way.

If it is not reasonably possible to notify a decision to the applicant on each request within 45 days, subject to the FOI Act, take practical steps to consult with the applicant about priority of requests and to possibly reduce their scope.

  1. Note: references in this Practice Note to sections are references to sections of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) ("FOI Act") unless otherwise stated.

I have experience requisitioning such data (i.e., warranted by FOI) from commonwealth government law enforcement agencies.

The specific protocol (e.g., email, web form[s], and/or paper form[s] to submit) for filing a freedom of information request will depend on the agent or agency to whom you're submitting it.

Typically, the agency will ask you to state the specific data you want under a single subject heading so that the scope of their response is appropriate to your request.

See How to make a freedom of information (FOI) request by the UK Government Digital Service here: How to make a freedom of information request

  • You say, "Under a single request, you can requisition multiple data that are related." That goes some way towards answering my question, but I would be grateful if you could also include, in your answer, which of the two approaches I mentioned is best for requesting multiple data that are not related (except insofar as they are held by the same organisation). Thanks :)
    – user10623
    Mar 29, 2015 at 14:59
  • Thank you for the reminder for precision. :-) I have updated my answer with precedent information from the State Government of Victoria to hopefully treat your targeted inquiry more directly and credibly. Mar 29, 2015 at 19:56
  • Thanks. The excerpt you've quoted is from a different jurisdiction & doesn't answer my question directly, but I suppose its fundamental point (i.e. that FOI officers might combine separate requests if they refer to data with "sufficient commonality", whatever that is) may be applicable in other jurisdictions with FOI laws besides Victoria. An inductivist might conclude that therefore in general, if the data are related, it doesn't matter whether the items are requested singly or multiply per request. I'm still none the wiser, though, about requesting multiple data that are not related.
    – user10623
    Mar 31, 2015 at 0:23
  • Common law precedents (whether in the form of findings of adjudication or legislation) will hold between common law countries. So, for example, Canadian courts will often look to law in the United States to help decide how to adjudicate in Canada. ‘Jurisdiction’ relates to a court's power to act, but law per se can be invoked as exemplary. This is especially true of countries that inherited the Commonwealth laws of the English system. Mar 31, 2015 at 0:32
  • However, I think you're right to take this Act as a mere guideline rather than law. Mar 31, 2015 at 0:33

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