A white paper is an in-depth report on a topic researched, written, and published by an individual or group with authority on the topic.
The term was first used in the early 1920s to describe an official government report that is authoritative in nature. Typically, the purpose of a white paper is to advocate a certain position that its authors believe is the best solution to a particular problem.
White papers can be divided into four basic categories:
- Technical: Explain newly developed technologies and can include an explanation of how the technology was developed, how it is used, benchmark and other testing results for the technology, statistical analyses, and other information.
- Policy: Used to describe a political solution to a problem
- Marketing: Educate current or potential users about their products/services as a way of marketing them.
- Hybrid: A combination of the above-mentioned categories
How are white papers Used?
A white paper is typically a detailed document or executive summary commonly used by businesses to highlight or promote a product, solution, or service. It helps influence the decision-making processes of customers.
In information technology (IT), a white paper is used by the product team to explain the operation, philosophy, and use of a particular technology, computer program, or application. Many software products or websites include a white paper along with an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section that offers more details about product specifications.
How is a white paper created?
Like most longer-form writing or technical documents, developing a white paper starts with primary and secondary research. The author will develop an outline that identifies key points to be made to support the white paper’s thesis statement. With this structure in place, the author writes the paper, including narrative, expert quotes, images, and supporting data. Once reviewed by the company’s legal team and subject matter experts, the paper is published in print form as well as PDF.
White paper examples
There exist countless examples of white papers in information technology. For example, Microsoft offers white paper documents for its cloud technology Microsoft Azure. These include Azure Onboarding Guide for IT Organizations or the Backup and Recovery Overview for Azure Users. Through these white papers on Azure, Microsoft offers users and potential users a deeper understanding of its cloud computing services.
TechRepublic offers IT professionals a comprehensive library of vendor-researched and written white papers on topics from Big Data and IoT to security and cloud computing.