What is white paper? A beginner’s guide on how to write and format (2023)
White papers are an incredibly popular and effective tool for content marketers. They’re used to promote and sell products or services, raise awareness about an issue or problem, and educate people on a particular topic.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to writing a white paper, but all successful papers share certain elements. In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about how to write a white paper, from conducting research and crafting your argument to formatting and design tips.
What is a White Paper?
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
White papers are often used in political, technical, and business contexts. The content can vary widely in terms of length, tone, and style.
However, all white papers share a few common features:
- They are well-researched and written in a formal, objective tone.
- They present complex ideas in a clear and concise way.
- They are persuasive, making use of logic and reason to make their case.
- They are heavily researched and footnoted.
- While white papers are not always explicitly promotional, they are often used as marketing tools. for instance, to promote products or services, generate leads, or raise awareness about an issue.
What is a basic white paper?
A white paper is an in-depth, research-based document that covers all aspects of a particular topic. It is usually intended to be shared with a wide audience, such as leaders in industry, government, or academia.
It provides educational information for those who are interested in the subject and outlines solutions to problems or offers advice on how to improve policies and procedures. A white paper can be a great tool for any business trying to promote its own products or services, as well as those aiming to educate their customers.
When it comes to writing and formatting a white paper, there are several best practices to keep in mind. Begin by researching the topic thoroughly before diving into the writing process. Find reliable sources such as professional journals, books, or websites that offer reliable information on the subject matter.
Use this information to create an outline that organizes your thoughts and arguments. When writing the paper, keep it concise and focused, avoiding long-winded explanations or unnecessary details. Stick to facts and cite sources when necessary to bolster the credibility of your work.
Types of white papers
A business might publish many different types of white papers. Here are a few of the most common:
Problem/solution: These papers identify a problem and then propose a solution. They are often used to promote a particular product or service.
Backgrounders: These papers provide background information on an issue or topic. They might be used to educate readers on the history of a problem or the different solutions that have been proposed.
Comparisons: These papers compare and contrast two or more products, services, or approaches. They can be used to help readers understand the pros and cons of different options.
How-tos: These papers provide step-by-step instructions for doing something. They might be used to promote a particular product or service by showing how it can be used to solve a problem.
Position papers: These papers take a position on an issue and explain the reasoning behind that position. They might be used to lobby for a particular policy change or to persuade people to adopt a certain point of view.
How to Write White Paper?
Now that we’ve discussed what a white paper is, it’s time to dive into how to write one.
Develop Concise Goals
Before you start writing, take some time to think about what you want to achieve with your white paper. What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish?
Your goals will shape every other aspect of your paper, from the research you conduct to the argument you make to the design and layout. By taking the time to develop clear goals upfront, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and effort down the line.
Choose a Topic
Once you know what you want to achieve with your white paper, it’s time to choose a topic. If you’re not sure what to write about, consider the following:
- What are the hot topics in your industry right now?
- What are the most common questions you get from customers or clients?
- What are the pain points that your product or service addresses?
- What are the biggest challenges your target audience is facing?
- Answering these questions will help you zero in on a topic that’s both timely and relevant to your audience.
Once you have a topic, it’s time to start doing some research. A well-researched white paper will include data and statistics, quotes from experts, and real-world examples. The goal is to build a strong case for your argument by providing as much supporting evidence as possible.
To get started, try searching for your topic in Google Scholar. This search engine is specifically designed for academic research, so it can help you find the most trustworthy, peer-reviewed research papers. You can also check out the resources section of your local library’s website. If you’re having trouble finding reliable sources, reach out to experts in your field and ask for recommendations.
Make an Argument
Once you’ve gathered all of your research, it’s time to start putting it together into an argument. What do you want your audience to take away from your paper? W position are you taking on the issue? What solutions are you proposing?
Your white paper should have a clear thesis statement that sums up your argument in one or two sentences. Everything else in your paper should be based on this thesis, so make sure it’s strong and specific.
Here’s How to Format an Engaging White Paper
Crafting a well-planned and scalable white paper ensures that your readers will be able to follow along easily. Here are some tips on how to write a white paper that’s engaging and effective:
Start with a strong hook. The first few sentences of your white paper should be attention-grabbing. Make it clear what the document is about. You can start with a fact or statistic, an interesting anecdote, or a question that will be answered in the paper.
Make sure your argument is clear. A white paper should have a defined purpose or goal, and all of the content should work towards achieving that goal. Before you start writing, take some time to plan out your argument and the supporting points you’ll make. This will ensure that your paper is well-organized and flows logically.
Use simple language. A white paper is not a place for jargon or technical language. Use clear, concise language that can be understood by anyone.
Include plenty of supporting evidence. A white paper should be based on facts and data, so make sure to include plenty of evidence to support your claims. This could include statistics, research studies, or quotes from experts.
End with a call to action. Once you’ve made your case, finish strong by telling the reader what you want them to do next. This could be signing up for a newsletter, downloading a white paper, or contacting you for more information.
How to Design a White Paper?
Once you have the content of your white paper sorted out, it’s time to start thinking about the design. Here are a few tips on how to format and design your white paper:
Use plenty of headings and subheadings. This will make your paper easier to scan and more digestible. It will also make it seem much more organized.
Include graphics, images, and infographics. These can help break up the text and make complex concepts easier to understand.
Keep the design simple. White papers are meant to be easy to read, so avoid anything too flashy or complicated. Stick to a clean, straightforward design.
Use reverse type for emphasis. This is when the background is a dark color, and the text is white. It’s easy on the eyes and makes important information stand out.
Make use of white space. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of whitespace in your design. This will make your paper more readable and less daunting to look at.
Writing a white paper can seem like a daunting task, but with a little planning and effort, it’s definitely achievable. By following the tips in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating a document that’s both informative and engaging.
Don’t forget to proofread your paper before you publish it, and make sure to get feedback from others to ensure that it’s clear and concise. With a little effort, you can create a white paper that’s sure to impress your readers.
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