Guide to Write a White Paper
This guide to write a white paper was developed specifically for those who have no experience writing white papers or want to learn the secrets of professional white paper writing.
Style Guide for a White Paper
To begin with, a white paper is a competent piece of academic writing. Its goal is to provide the reader with full and objective information on a specific topic. The intent of white paper writing is to give readers an understanding of the topic and encourage them to do more research. A white paper can also be used as a source of information for those who need to make a difficult decision. Any white paper is presented in a formal tone. It is usually very extensive and contains a lot of data and graphic components.
How White Papers Are Used
In most cases, white papers are presented by businesses as part of their marketing or advertising strategy. For example, an organization will write an extensive review of its market niche while emphasizing the benefits of its products and services relative to its competitors. Contrary to popular beliefs, white papers are mostly objective and contain a lot of information. Therefore, they can be used by businesses working in the same industry to make relevant marketing and advertising decisions.
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Choosing a Topic for a White Paper
Choosing the right topic for a white paper is one of the most difficult yet responsible steps in writing. Consider the following elements when making a decision on the topic.
- Target audience. When you are working on your white paper, you must understand who will be the primary recipients of your message. Every word and sentence you write must be delivered with a powerful understanding of your audience’s professionalism and information needs. What are the questions that your audience may want to answer? What information may your readers need to make decisions? With this at hand, you will step ahead to write your white paper.
- Expertise. Your white paper should reflect the experience, reputation, and expertise of your company. That is, the white paper will add or question your reputation as a business entity. Therefore, you must conduct external research to justify every single claim and incorporate your corporate expertise to produce a compelling message for your audience.
- The focus of white paper writing is on identifying problems and offering solutions. It means that you should identify a problem that is relevant and specific and offer solutions that are realistic and cost-effective. This is how you can earn a better reputation for your company and draw your readers’ attention to the problem of choice.
White Paper Format Templates
This guide to write a white paper was created to help you prepare a perfect white paper. The following are the basic steps to take as you are working on your white paper.
- Do research: you must research your topic in detail. Use a variety of reliable, credible references and internal documents to identify a problem and justify its significance. All white papers contain large clusters of data. Therefore, you cannot move on without having a solid body of data or information to support your points. As for citations, follow some basic citation format. However, be consistent. Choose the format you want to follow before you start writing the white paper. Include references, so that your readers could track the original source.
- Review other white papers: if you find any other white papers related to your topic, review them. This way, you will know what was or was not covered before you. Do not be repetitive. Identify gaps in information and knowledge and use your competence to close them.
- Create a mind map: because a white paper is always a serious, voluminous piece of writing, it is better to create a mind map. This way, you can organize the contents by topic or issue; you can also organize the sources you plan to use to support your thesis.
Formatting the White Paper
Almost all white papers follow the same format. Do not confuse the white paper with other business documents. Consider the following:
- The conclusion of the white paper will always be at the end, unlike many business documents that place the conclusion or executive summary at the beginning;
- The purpose of any white paper is to provide information that will improve the reader’s understanding of the problem or topic. The white paper leaves the “aha” moment until the end, when the reader is finally allowed to see possible solutions to the problems discussed in the body of the report;
- A white paper is not the same as a routine business report; in the white paper, findings always follow research;
- If you are not confident how to make a difference between a white paper and a business report, you may need professional help;
- Whatever path you take, you should produce a document that it is easy to read and understand.
How to Write a White Paper
Do not underestimate the importance of a creative title. You may include the words “white paper”, but the title of your document should reveal the issue you plan to discuss with the reader. For example, “Ethics scandals in retail organizations – a white paper.” Whether or not you include the words “white paper” is completely up to you. Think about your audience. The title should not look scary.
Writing an Outline
Because white papers are always lengthy and contain volumes of data, it is better to start with an outline. Your outline should include the following components:
- Working title: you may still revise the title later, but the earlier you create it, the stronger will be the line you follow when writing the white paper.
- Executive summary: here, you will write approximately 200 words to specify the issue you plan to investigate and the sources you plan to use.
- Introduction: what background information do you plan to include in the introduction? How will you catch the attention of your readers?
- Major subheadings: what subsections will you have in your white paper? How are they related to the title of your white paper? What aspects do you plan to cover in your work?
- Graphics and tables: what are you going to do to present the data? How will you improve the comprehension of this data among your readers?
- Conclusion: wrap the argument and restate the main solutions to the problem discussed in the white paper.
Abstract: in the abstract, you will provide a brief statement of the white paper, its goal and results.
Problem statement: here you will specify the problem you are going to research in the white paper. Include enough data to justify the significance of the problem. Define it against the context that is familiar to your readers.
Background information: In this section, you will provide the most important information about the problem. Include statistics. Be detailed and persuasive. The amount of the background information provided will vary depending in the complexity of the problem. In case you do some original research, you will also need to discuss the methods and design of your study.
Solution: The “aha” moment is when you present the most appropriate solution to the problem. Justify its appropriateness using data.
Conclusion: Summarize the key points of your white paper. Provide recommendations to improve the quality of your organization’s performance.
References: cite all sources using the selected format and style. Follow the recommendations outlined in the guide to write a white paper. Do not hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Your references should be arranged in alphabetical order. You should include in-text citations whenever you cite external data or information in the body of your paper.
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