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Understanding issue types in jira

Just as a project can have many different types of work, Jira uses different issue types to help identify, categorize, and report on your team’s work. We’ll cover Jira’s standard issue types below. 

  1. Tip: You can customize issue types to suit your team’s workflow.


What are the issue types?

The standard issue types in Jira are story, task, bug, subtask, and epic. How do they relate to each other, and how are they used? Let’s put it into context with an example. Say we’re on a team of game developers, and we’re working on the latest AAA title. 



A story (or user story) is a feature or requirement from the user’s perspective. Stories should be defined using non-technical language so anyone involved in the project can understand. For example:

  1. Example: As a player, I want to use a joystick to control my character (or “Add joystick support”)

The player is the user of the game, and in this story, the support for an input device is required. To solve this issue, it may be necessary to assign several smaller work items to individual teammates as subtasks.


Tasks are work items that are not directly related to a user requirement but still must be completed, like the upgrading of a server, the coding of a function, or even the ordering of a pizza for the team. A task contains a more detailed and technical description of the particular work item.

  1. Example: Reduce latency to improve character movement

In this case the task involves updating a core function of the game rather than a user feature. While tasks can generally be completed by one team member, they may also be broken down into individually manageable subtasks. 


O, the lamented bug. By classifying bugs as their own issue type, we can differentiate the work they require from other issues. This enables the team do things like filter by bugs in the backlog or draft reports on the number of bugs fixed per week.

  1. Example: Character sometimes moves backward when pushing the joystick forward



A subtask is the child of another issue, and is used to break down stories, tasks, or bugs into individually manageable pieces of work. Since they are written for the person working on the task, subtasks can be more technical than their parent issues. 

In the above story of adding support for an input device, the following subtasks may be completed by different team members:

  1. Example:
  1. [Game Designer] Map game mechanics to joystick inputs
  1. [Software Engineer] Implement input mapping for character movement
  2. [Artist] Create a visual for joystick configuration in the options menu

A subtask can only be created under a parent issue. However, each subtask has its own issue key and can be moved through boards independently. 


Finally, an epic is a parent issue that groups stories, tasks, and bugs together to capture a large, holistic body of work. As the name implies, epics usually represent a significant deliverable. In the backlog, you can filter by issues belonging to a single epic.

  1. Example: Character movement update

In this example, the epic encompasses the story of adding joystick support, as well other stories, tasks, and bugs in an overall initiative. It might look something like this:

  • Epic: Character movement update
    • Story: As a player, I want to use a joystick to control my character.
      • Subtask: [Game Designer] Map game mechanics to joystick inputs
      • Subtask: [Software Engineer] Implement input mapping for character movement
      • Subtask: [Artist] Create a visual for joystick configuration in the options menu
    • Task: Reduce latency to improve character movement
      • Subtask: [Software Engineer] Reduce server calls and move processing to client side
      • Subtask: [IT] Update SDK for engineering team
    • Bug: Character sometimes moves backward when pushing the joystick forward
      • Subtask: [Testing] Determine conditions where this behavior happens

Subtask: [Software Engineer] Update game code


Knowledge check

Did you get all that? Outstanding. Now let’s put your knowledge of issue types to the test. Match each of these issues to one of the 5 issue types:

  1. Seasonal cosmetics update
  2. Santa hats in holiday skin pack are not rendering correctly
  3. As a player, I would like to customize my avatar with costumes for Halloween
  4. Add support for a new 3D model format
  5. [Artist] Design skeletal armor skin for warrior class

Answers: (1-Epic, 2-Bug, 3-Story, 4-Task, 5-Subtask)

Related resources:


G subramanyam Community Leader Nov 11, 2020

Hi @Christina Nelson that's a quick and easy read. Will serve as a training aid in the events or in-house trainings. I believe this article marks complete if you can add a roadmap that includes customized issue type-"Feature" and configuring the hierarchy.

Like Biswa Bijaya Samal likes this
Taranjeet Singh Community Leader Dec 06, 2020

@Christina Nelson This is a great article for learning basics of Jira issue types in a quicker manner. Thanks for sharing!

Like Cheri Hansen likes this

@Christina Nelson Thank you for that article I am going to share with accountants. They will be happy as it's written so clear

Like Biswa Bijaya Samal likes this

thanks for articulating the steps . 

@Christina Nelson Thanks for a very clear explanation. These have been shared with newbies to Jira. 

@Christina Nelson wanted your advice on structuring a large project where multiple stories are used in different customer journeys. 

I see I can create other issue types e.g. 'user journey' for large definitions and 'feature' for small reusable pieces. Is the hierarchy of epic -> story -> task ->subtask the only hierarchy inbuilt in Jira? I know I can link any issue to any issues but that's more complex especially when it comes to reporting progress. 

Or is there a much better way to achieve a larger hierarchy?


That´s Excellent, I will share this article with my colleagues. Thank you!

Very helpful indeed. Thanks for sharing. 

Like Biswa Bijaya Samal likes this

Thanks for this Article good for understanding.

Thanks a lot for sharing wonderful article about the basics of Jira

dward I'm New Here Apr 26, 2021

As a new Jira user, this article was just what I needed. Concise and to the point. Thank you

Thanks! Excellent and useful article! 🤓

Thank you for the simple and straight to the point explanation.

Meri Uwi I'm New Here Jun 03, 2021

this is really helpful especially for a starter like me


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