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A white paper is a widely researched report on a specific topic that presents a solution to a problem within an industry. It is usually written by a company to define their knowledge and expertise through facts and evidence; however, it should not advertise or endorse a company’s product.
A white paper shows the control and expertise a person or company has about their respective industry. Its objective is to persuade readers, through in-depth inquiry of evidence and information, that a particular solution to a problem is best. Furthermore, it describes to readers that the writer (or company) responsible for the white paper is a trusted expert in the field.
While a white paper should not precisely mention, advertise, or endorse a product or service, the level of expertise exhibited can certainly have positive implied effects on the reputation of a company or writer.
White papers are drafted to an audience that is outside of the industry. Readers may be somewhat recognizable with the topic, or they may be searching to learn more about the industry in order to ultimately select a product or service, so a white paper strives to provide trusted skill set, experience, and guidance through credible research and reasoning.
The primary difference between a white paper and other texts is ultimately the depth of research.
Business proposals differ in two important additional ways:
Self-promotion - While business proposals are typically sales pitches written by members of a company to promote their own services, white papers persuade readers that a company is a trusted expert within the industry. This may incidently motivate readers to choose their services, but a white paper should not overtly try to increase customers or contracts.
Audience - While the readers of a business proposal are usually the investors or executives signing off on a deal, white papers target a huge audience of non-experts who may only be trying to learn.
Industry blogs can deliver the same ultimate purpose as a white paper – to influence an audience of a solution based on expert reasoning and research. However, the research requirements for a blog are substantially lower than for a white paper. An industry blog should be competent, but a white paper should be both professional and academic. For this reason, a blog can be informally written; a white paper must maintain a formal writting.
White papers do not have one single, exact format, so be sure to discuss your instructor’s prompt and guidelines. However, as a general rule, a white paper should have the following parts:
1. Title page
2. Introduction (including “Problem Statement”)
3. Background (research-heavy)
4. Proposed solution
6. References or citations
Note that, unlike most academic papers, the resuly (ultimately, the main argument) should emerge at the end, after the information has been presented and considered.
Length - If you are writing a white paper, be groomed to build a long document. Depending on your organization, a white paper can stretch beyond 25 pages. However, it will not generally be this long in the academic context.
If your mentor asks you to write a white paper, follow their steps regarding length. Be ready to write a minimum of five pages.
Note that images should be used as additive to the written word, not replacements. In other words, one page of content is 300 words on standard; if your appointment requires 10 pages, you should write 3,000 words in inclusion to any images you have integrated.
Detail - Unlike some business documents that are easily examined, a white paper is more academic in nature. Its paragraphs will be heavy and complex, and the facts, evidence, and information managed will receive thorough explanation and analysis.
Appearance - White papers usually include visuals, such as tables, graphs, charts, and images, in order to define and enlarge their main ideas. Be prepared to add these if you are enforced to do so as part of the assignment instructions. Even if there are no stated specifications to incorporate these visual figures, consider doing so to transmit your point in more than one manner.
Remember that images are used to addon the written content, not replace it. Their use does not change the amount of written content you are asked to produce.
Style - Since the goal of a white paper is to express a high level of expertise in a field or industry, the tone of the writing must be formal and competent. Be sure to edit carefully, as the writing must be authentic and trustworthy.
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