Using Violation Tracker UK as an academic researcher: A powerful tool in the academic toolkit

January 10, 2023

A white woman with a computer, phone and pad of paper on the screen. She is poised to write something on the pad; a pencil in her hand.
Source: Tirachard Kumtanom / Pixels

Violation Tracker UK is designed to provide access to information on corporate regulatory infringements for a wide range of users. Along with campaigners, journalists, lawyers and others, these include academics. The database provides comprehensive data on enforcement activity that can help in scholarly analyses in a variety of disciplines. 

How Violation Tracker data can complement research: Investigating research questions with Violation Tracker UK

As is widely known, academic research requires rigour and high standards of evidence and method. As an academic (well aspiring, currently a PhD student!) I know how time consuming and difficult it can be to collect data from regulatory agencies. One of the empirical chapters of my PhD looks specifically at enforcement data from three different regulatory agencies in the UK. Collecting this data from different regulatory agencies was messy. This is where Violation Tracker UK can really help and did really help my own research. Having data in one place is a real luxury, saving time and making research more efficient. Moreover, Violation Tracker UK doesn’t just provide the statistics, it also provides source links, so that within one easy click you can have fuller knowledge of the case in front of you.

Violation Tracker UK can support both quantitative and mixed methods research projects, providing either primary data or supporting data for other qualitative methods. It can help sharpen research questions as well as create them.

Using Violation Tracker: Getting the most from the database

When it comes to using the database, there is of course the basic search function, but the advanced search function is particularly powerful. The advanced search function gives you a military precision search of data to specific research questions. This is where the tracker shines. However, the basic search or other summaries pages are great if you are unsure of your question or just want/need to feel inspired.

On the advanced search, there are a range of options. From looking at specific regulatory agencies, to looking at specific years, to looking at specific parent companies. It even has the capacity to narrow the search down by Prime Minister, which is interesting from a political viewpoint. There is also the parent-subsidiary matching ability, which gives you the ability to see the full range of infringements associated with a given company.


A researcher wants to examine a specific corporation’s history of misconduct, such as Southern Water, more specifically in relation to environmental offences. This could easily and efficiently be done by using the advanced search tool, then typing in ‘Southern Water’ in the ‘company or parent’ search bar, then selecting ‘environment-related offences’ in the ‘offence group’ section. This will then give you all the environmental offences committed by Southern Water. You could also narrow it down by year, by regulatory agency, by location or by Prime Minister, giving a wealth of data and options.

Not just one powerful tool

While this blog post has indulged in how Violation Tracker UK can be used to aid smooth yet rigorous academic research, Good Jobs First, who produced Violation Tracker UK, also have a range of U.S.-based trackers. All in Good Jobs First has six databases! Aside from Violation Tracker UK, the other trackers are Violation Tracker (the original Violation Tracker if you like), Subsidy Tracker, Tax Break Tracker, Amazon Tracker and COVID Stimulus Watch. From these, a whole other collection of research possibilities opens up with these other trackers. From the ability to compare U.S. and UK enforcement actions, to being able to analyse U.S. tax breaks and seeing which companies in the U.S. benefited from COVID stimulus money through the CARES Act.

Violation Tracker UK can go beyond a research paper or question, it can be used in methods student seminars for instance, to encourage academic research and methods skills. For example, we recently carried out a seminar with Oxford Brookes University journalist master’s students to help them investigate corporations. For students it is an easy tool to use which is not daunting to use, meaning it can help students research something with confidence and creativity.

I hope this blog has inspired you to use Violation Tracker UK (and the other Good Jobs First trackers) in your academic research or in student university programmes. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or [email protected].  We can provide help, a free talk through or demo, or a presentation at student seminars. Academics are also eligible to receive copies of the full dataset, for this please email [email protected].

Enjoy using Violation Tracker UK, we’d love to hear from you about what you are interested in and what you are researching!