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What information should I include in my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request?

While you are not required to give a reason for your request, you should be as specific as possible when describing the records that you seek. That will produce faster and better results. Phrases like “any and all” can significantly delay the processing time and potentially increase your processing fee.

Prior to submitting your request, we suggest that you:

  • Check the USGS website and/or contact the USGS to make sure that what you need is not readily available.

  • Check our FOIA Reading Room for links to documents that are often requested.

  • Review the USGS Science Center and Mission Area web pages to determine which office or mission might have the requested records.

  • Decide on the time frame of the records that you want.

  • If appropriate, determine the names of the USGS employees whose emails you want to have searched. To save time, consider requesting the emails without the attachments. Email attachments are listed in the email and you can always submit another request for specific attachments.

  • If appropriate, compile a list of search terms that you would like us to use.

  • Decide if you want records given to you in a paper or electronic format. You can request either, but we are only obligated to provide electronic records if we can do so with a reasonable amount of effort. If you request records in paper format and we only have them in electronic format, we will print the records to paper and mail them to you, but there might be a fee associated with this service. There might be FOIA processing fees associated with any special services associated with processing your request.

For additional information about the FOIA process, visit, the USGS FOIA Reading Room, or send an email to