White Paper: Organization and Other Tips
A white paper is a certain type of report that is distinctive in terms of purpose, audience, and organization. This resource will explain these issues and provide some other tips to enhance white paper content.
Contributors:Sachiko Sakamuro, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2010-04-21 08:23:28
A white paper typically starts with a big picture and leads readers to the proposed solution. Make the headings clear and specific so that busy readers can scan the white paper effectively. The following are general guidelines on organizing a white paper.
Introduction / Summary
It is a good idea to provide a summary at the beginning of the paper in order to have busy readers quickly grasp the main point.
Background / Problems
A white paper needs to provide readers with general background information of a particular issue in order to help them make their decision based on the understanding of facts. Show them enough evidence that you are an expert on the subject. Point out problems from your readers' perspective. Make sure that you do not digress from the main subject; do not pose problems for which you cannot provide solutions.
After explaining the background and problems, propose your solution.
If you write a white paper for a commercial purpose, mention your products/services last to ensure that your readers read the whole paper. If you advertise before convincing your readers of the truths of your argument, they are more likely to be turned off.
Write a conclusion in order to wrap up the white paper and enhance your readers' understanding.
Put the works cited at the end of your white paper. Do not forget to put the information of hyperlinked sources for the reader who prints out your white paper.
Other Tips: Visuals and Examples
Visuals and examples deepen the reader's understanding and make the white paper more appealing and persuasive. Because many white papers are published online and thus read on screen, it is important that the visuals are appealing to the reader who browses the Internet. Graphics (charts, graphs, diagrams, and tables) increase readability, if used properly. Also consider using case studies and examples in addition to theoretical concepts and models.
Learn More from Reading White Papers
White papers abound on the Internet. Find some using a search engine such as Google. Type in "white paper" and a topic that interests you. You can add "pdf" to your search because many white papers are published in PDF format. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of those white papers to help improve your own white paper.