Citations, references and sources

Cite this release 

Writers and academics use citations to tell users that certain material in their work came from another source.  

We need to include a “Cite this release” section in our bulletins and statistical and methodology articles. This will help writers and academics to find the information and cite our releases accurately and consistently. Do not include a citation in a digital content article, as these are aimed at inquiring citizens rather than academics and expert users.

The “Cite this release” section will be the final section of the release and be included in the table of contents. It needs to be formatted as a pull-out box including:  

X. Cite this [content type] 

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released XX Month 20XX, ONS website, content type, Title: edition with link embedded 

17. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 4 December 2020, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK: 4 December 2020


Using hyperlinks within your text is best practice for web writing and reference sections should be avoided. However, when a reference section is needed, use the following guidance.

When writing a reference:

  • do not use italics
  • use single quote marks around titles
  • write out abbreviations in full: page not p, volume not Vol.
  • use plain English, for example, use “and others” not “et al”
  • use “to” instead of a hyphen for page ranges: pages 221 to 224, not pp 221-224
  • do not use full stops after initials or at the end of the reference

Bean C (2015), ‘Independent review of UK economic statistics: Interim report’, December 2015

Colangelo A, Inklaar R (2012), ‘Banking sector output measurement in the euro area – a modified approach’, Review of Income and Wealth, Volume 58, Issue 1, pages 142 to 165

If the reference is available online, make the title a link.

If you are providing a source for an image (a map, for example), you may need to give the full URL. Use the following format and make it a hyperlink:


Figures and tables must provide a source, in the following format:

[Organisation] – [Publication or source of data]

Office for National Statistics – Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings
Office for National Statistics – Personal well-being estimates by age and sex, January to March 2018
Land Registry – Local Land Charges Research

More than one source

If the figure or table is compiled using more than one source, then list them all. However, if the list becomes very long then just provide the three most important sources.

Office for National Statistics – Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey, Labour Force Survey
Office for National Statistics – International Passenger Survey, Department for Work and Pensions – National Insurance number registrations to adult overseas nationals, Home Office – long-term work visas

Too many sources to list

If it is not possible to list all the particular sources – for example, if there are many and highlighting just some would be misleading to users or the data all come from another publication – the source can be the name of the bulletin or release.

Office for National Statistics – Balance of payments, UK: July to September 2018
Marine Management Organisation – Monthly sea fisheries statistics October 2018

We are constantly improving based on research and best practice. Any significant changes to our guidance are available on the Updates page.