“What is a White Paper?” by Mak Pandit
You may take any of the following approaches:
a white paper to an internal audience – written to individuals within an organization you
work for or are a part of. The white paper might inform them about a trend in the field
and/or to solve a problem in the organization.
a white paper to an external audience – written to individuals in a particular industry or
field of study, but not an organization you are a part of. The white paper could address a
problem you are attempting to solve in the organization or to inform an external audience
about a relevant trend.
a white paper promoting a new product or service to potential customers. This is an
example of a white paper to an external audience, but it features different rhetorical
considerations than the typical white paper written to an external audience does.
All three options are discussed in the Purdue OWL video mentioned above. In addition, the video
from Mak Pandit mentioned above provides excellent insight into how these approaches would
Strategies to Consider for this Assignment:
Please follow these guidelines:
have a focused topic
write to an identified audience
o if your white paper is to an internal audience, it might have a fairly narrow
audience. For example, if you work in a hair salon and write a white paper
promoting a new billing system for your salon, the audience will probably be the
owner and manager of the hair salon.
o if your white paper is to an external audience, it could have a broad audience or a
narrow audience. For example, if you do not work for a hair salon and you write a
white paper promoting a new billing system for hair salons, the audience will
probably be the various hair salons in your neighborhood.
o if your white paper is to promote a product or service to potential customers, it
could have a fairly broad audience. For example, a white paper promoting a new
taxi service in your neighborhood has, theoretically, all residents in the
neighborhood as a potential audience.
integrate thorough research
make sure that you do not directly tell the audience what action it should take. Rather,
offer background information that the audience can use to make a decision. The Purdue
OWL video mentions this principle. This is one reason the video refers to the white paper
as a backgrounder report.
Please include the following sections in your white paper:
In the Executive Summary, summarize your research and your purpose. The executive summary
should be a stand-alone document. It should be written in such a way that a busy executive could
read the executive summary and know exactly what the paper is about without reading the rest of
In the Introduction, you lay the groundwork for your readers for the details that will be
introduced in the white paper. If you need to define any terms, you will do so here. You might
share an anecdote or illustration to describe why this topic is important.
In the Previous Approaches section, you will describe the approaches or strategies that have
been previously used or are currently used on the topic. For example, if your white paper is being
written to advertise a new taxi service in your area, you might review what transportation services
are provided now. You could show the challenges or problems that the current services involve.
In this section of the white paper, your use of sources will be very important. You should
integrate research to show that the problems you have identified exist.
In the New Findings section, you present perhaps the most important information in the paper. In
this section, you will describe the findings of your research and relate these findings to the
purpose of your report. You will not only provide data and research, but you will also explain the
data and research and why it is relevant to your report’s topic.
For example, if your white paper is being written to advertise a new taxi service in your area, you
might review what transportation services are provided now and show why the new taxi service
fills a need that the current set of transportation services does not fill or solves a problem that the
current set of transportation services does not solve. You will provide data and evidence for why
the new taxi service has promise in solving the problems you have identified.
In this section of the white paper, your use of sources will be very important as well. You should
integrate research to show that the problems you have identified will be solved by your new
In the Conclusion section, you review what your research shows in light of the previous
approaches used. You will not tell the audience what steps to take next. However, you will
summarize what your findings articulate.
In the References, you will list your sources that you cited in the paper. You will list them in
APA format. Please note that the lectures on white papers that you have viewed and examples of
white papers you may have read may not have used APA format. You will be using APA format
in this assignment.
You are required to have at least five sources for your paper. In addition, at least one of them is
to have been acquired through UMUC Library OneSearch.
Primary sources will be very beneficial for the paper. For example, if your white paper is being
written to advertise a new taxi service in your area, you might interview some local residents
about the problems they have with the current transportation services in the area. The information
in such interviews would be persuasive research to integrate into your white paper.
The following websites and documents offer additional guidance in writing a white paper:
Chapter 1, “A Primer on White Papers,” by Michael Stelzner
“The Art of the White Paper,” by Manuel Gordon and Gordon Graham
“Guidelines for Writing White Papers” from Warthman Associates
Length of your paper:
Your white paper should be 2000-3000 words in length. Again, you are required to use at least
five sources, with at least one of them being acquired through UMUC Library OneSearch.
Your white paper should incorporate at least three graphics. Graphic can include tables, charts, or
graphs showing some research findings. They can also be images that are relevant to the topic of
the white paper.
At least two of the graphics must be original. Original graphics can include photos taken by you;
tables, charts, or graphs developed by you; or screen captures showing a function on your
computer (not a screen capture of an image off of the web).
To see examples of graphics used in white papers, see the Purdue OWL video, “White Papers: An
Introduction to the Genre and Its Expectations,” at the 3:27 mark, at the 5:29 mark, at the 6:58
mark, at the 7:01 mark, at the 7:11 mark, at the 7:43 mark, and at the 7:58 mark.
Your instructor will notify you of the due date. You will write a first draft, your instructor will
comment on the first draft, and you will submit a second draft using the comments as your guide
“What is a White Paper?” by Mak Pandit