What articles do

Articles can be used to provide detailed analysis on topics or to give information on updates or changes to a project or method.

An audit of articles published on the ONS website identified two categories of articles: analysis articles and information articles. Within these, the audit identified seven types of articles: 

Analysis articles

  • in-depth: an in-depth look at a topic using new, previously published or experimental data
  • cross-cutting: broader analysis formed from linking separate data and topics
  • review: retrospective examination of previously published data from a different angle
  • commentary: latest commentary on trends found in thematically linked bulletins
  • digital content article: short articles on a timely topic that are collaboratively written with the Digital Content team and focus on visual representation of data

Information articles

  • method changes: explanation of recent or upcoming changes in methodology and how they affect data or findings
  • progress report: description of or an update on a project, programme or roadmap

Articles are usually published on a one-off or irregular basis, although some articles are published on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Our Digital Content team works with business areas across the ONS to create articles specifically for inquiring citizens. These tend to follow a different format to the articles covered in this guidance. To find out how to commission a Digital Content piece, contact DigitalContent@ons.gov.uk.

Who articles are for

Articles have a range of purposes and so may be of interest to different users. It is important to understand your users before you start writing your article.

Analysis articles contain more detailed analysis of a topic than statistical bulletins and are often used by a range of users, including the media. Information articles, such as methodology changes and project updates, are likely to be of more interest to policy influencers and technical users

These users are often busy and want to get the information they need quickly and easily. Writing clearly and using plain language will make your content understandable to all users.

When to use an article

Articles should:

  • be published alongside a bulletin if they contain analysis of new data; they should not be the only release of new data
  • be timely and relevant at the time of publication 
  • be structured with the user in mind, presenting the most important or interesting information first
  • not provide complex or detailed explanation of a method, data source, process or concept (we have separate methodology articles for this)

Articles are not bulletins

Articles should only contain analysis of new data if they are published alongside a bulletin. If your article will be the only written analysis published with the data, use a bulletin template instead.

If you are not sure if your content is an article or a bulletin, contact the content design team at content.design@ons.gov.uk.

Articles are not methodology

Articles can be used to give an explanation of any recent or planned methodology changes and how these may affect the data. They should not be used to give detailed information about a method, process, data source or concept. Instead, use a methodology article (a separate content type) and link to it from your article.

Use a methodology article if you are writing any of the following:

  • Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) reports
  • Quality assurance of administrative data (QAAD) reports
  • methodology pages or guides
  • explainer articles
  • technical reports
  • user guides
  • glossaries

Methodology articles do not provide previous versions and the content on the page is replaced as and when changes are needed. There is only ever one version of the page.

If you need help deciding if your content is an article or a methodology article, contact the content design team at content.design@ons.gov.uk for guidance.

Keeping articles focused

Consider the length of your article to make sure you are getting the main messages across. On average, users spend about four minutes looking at a page on the website. That is long enough to read around 900 words. 

We do not expect most users to read every word on every page. But if you are publishing significantly more than this, consider whether you could split your content into multiple articles or link to methodology pages elsewhere on the website. If your content already exists on the ONS website or it is published on another website, link to it rather than duplicating it.

The Content Design team can help you decide how to split your content and advise on the best approach. Email content.design@ons.gov.uk.

Next section: Article types and structure