1st Edition

Freedom of Information and Social Science Research Design

Edited By Kevin Walby, Alex Luscombe Copyright 2020
    266 Pages
    by Routledge

    266 Pages
    by Routledge

    This multidisciplinary volume demonstrates how Freedom of Information (FOI) law and processes can contribute to social science research design across sociology, criminology, political science, anthropology, journalism and education. Comparing the use of FOI in research design across the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada and South Africa, it provides readers with resources to carry out FOI requests and considers the influence such requests can have on debates within multiple disciplines. In addition to exploring how scholars can use FOI disclosures in conjunction with interview data, archival data and other datasets, this collection explains how researchers can systematically analyse FOI disclosures. Considering the challenges and dilemmas in using FOI processes in research, it examines the reasons why many scholars continue to rely on more easily accessible data, when much of the real work of governance, the more clandestine but consequential decisions and policy moves made by government officials, can only be accessed using FOI requests.

    Foreword: Thinking About Access

    Ben Worthy

    Introduction: Freedom of Information and Research Design in International Perspective

    Kevin Walby and Alex Luscombe

    Part 1: Freedom of Information and Research Design: The Foundations

    1. Designing Research Using FOI Requests in the USA

    Emily J.M. Knox, Shannon M. Oltmann, and Chris Peterson

    2. Accessing Information in South Africa

    Toerien van Wyk

    3. UK Experience of Freedom of Information as a Method of Enquiry

    Keith Spiller and Andrew Whiting

    4. Using FOI to Explore Governance and Decision-Making in the UK

    Mike Sheaff

    Part 2: Freedom of Information and Research Design: Disciplinary Applications

    5. Freedom of Information and Australian Criminology

    Ian Warren

    6. Accessing Information in a Technology Industry: Tracing Canadian Drone Stakeholders and Negotiating Access

    Ciara Bracken-Roche

    7. Using Continuous FOI Requests to Uncover the Live Archive: Tracking Protest Policing in the USA

    Pierce Greenberg

    Part 3: Freedom of Information: Triangulation, Data Analysis and Exposition

    8. Piecing it Together, Studying Public-Private Partnerships: Freedom of Information as Oligoptic Technologies

    Debra Mackinnon

    9. Researching the Complexities of Knowledge Contestations and Occupational Disease Recognition: FOI Requests in Multi-Method Qualitative Research Design

    Christine Pich

    10. Repertoires of Empirical Social Science and Freedom of Information Requests: Four Techniques for Analyzing Disclosures

    Kevin Walby and Alex Luscombe

    Part 4: Freedom of Information and Research Design: Challenges and Dilemmas

    11. Analysing Public Policy in the UK: Seeing through the Secrecy, Obfuscation and Obstruction of the FOIA by the Home Office

    John R Campbell

    12. A Double-Edged Sword? Freedom of Information as a Method in Social Research

    Hannah Bows

    13. The Falling Currency of Democracy: Information as an Instrument of Control and Certainty in the Postwar and Post-Truth Eras

    Sean Holman

    Postscript: Access in the Absence of FOI: Open Source Investigations and Strategies of Verification

    Giancarlo Fiorella


    Kevin Walby is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg, Canada. He is the author of Touching Encounters: Sex, Work and Male-for-Male Internet Escorting and the co-author of Municipal Corporate Security in International Context as well as A Criminology of Policing and Security Frontiers. He is the co-editor of Access to Information and Social Justice: Critical Research Strategies for Journalists, Scholars and Activists; Brokering Access: Power, Politics and Freedom of Information Process in Canada; The Handbook of Prison Tourism; Corporatizing Canada: Making Business Out of Public Service; National Security, Surveillance, and Terror: Canada and Australia in Comparative Perspective; Policing Cities: Urban Securitization and Regulation in a 21st Century World and Corporate Security in the 21st Century: Theory and Practice in International Perspective. He is co-editor of the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons.

    Alex Luscombe is a PhD Candidate in criminology at the University of Toronto, Canada. He has published widely on issues of policing, corruption, secrecy and Freedom of Information law in Canada and beyond. His past research has appeared in Social Forces, British Journal of Criminology, Sociology, International Political Sociology, Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Policing & Society, Criminology & Criminal Justice, as well as a number of other academic journals and edited volumes. He serves on the editorial board of Criminological Highlights, a University of Toronto publication aimed at providing criminal justice practitioners with an accessible overview of recent criminological research. He is also a Junior Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College.