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Read on for more information on writing white papers and how UnemployedProfessors can help with your white paper!


A white paper is a unique type of academic or business document which is oriented towards dissecting a complex economic, political or social issue so as to present a given organization’s perspective on it. In this respect, a core element of the white paper is to unpack a very complex issue in the first section of the custom white paper. By unpacking the issue, you are replacing the literature review that you would use in a traditional research paper. The position you take on this complex issue will then be based on this unpacking.

The complexity of the issues which white papers are written on represent some of their most important characteristics, and some of the greatest challenges associated with writing them. White papers are written by think-tanks, universities, public agencies and even government. The purpose of writing a custom white paper is to allow for the organization or person’s perspective on the issue to be presented after it is explained and decomplexified. In other words, the white paper writing process requires that one understand the issue they are writing about so that they can appropriately unpack it.

Beyond the complexity of the issues which white papers are written on, they are also challenging because of how they require that the writer put forth the position of their organization. In this respect, the perspective that an individual might be taking on when writing a white paper may not be a position that they agree with. In fact, it might be a position that they emphatically disagree with. Nevertheless, and because of the fact that a white paper always involves taking a position on an issue, the unpacking of the issue which takes place in the first part must be of a variety which can then serve to justify the position being taken in the second section of the custom white paper.

Finally, another challenge that is tied to writing a white paper is justifying the position that the organization is taking relative to the issue. With the issue already being complex in nature, writing a white paper requires that one connect the position on the issue being taken in part two of the white paper with the unpacking of the complex issue presented in part one of the white paper. With not all positions on white paper issues being coherent in nature, and with some white papers twisting facts to advance biased positions, one must be able to strategically use the information presented in the first section of the custom white paper so as to be able to defend the position which the white paper is arguing in favor of – especially if this white paper position is controversial.


Generally, a white paper will be written in steps. The first of these steps pertains to unpacking the issue that the white paper will be written on. Because white papers are typically written on very complex topics, for example Central Bank inflation rates or illegal immigration, one must understand the issue, unpack all of its causes and consequences, and then present these in a manner that is simultaneously articulate and understandable. Because the audience of a white paper is quite wide, typically including governmental elites, company leaders and the public at large, the writing style of a white paper must be formal but must also be clear. When writing a white paper, you should avoid jargon as you describe the issue that white paper is about so as to avoid confusing these very different types of readers.

The second step involves taking a position on the issue either based on your own opinion or based on the mandate given to you by your organization. If you are writing a white paper for university, you will likely be tasked with choosing your own position on the issue. That said, if you are writing a white paper for work, you might be tasked with supporting the position that your organization prefers. In this respect, you must be able to consolidate your presentation of the issue in a manner that will be germane to supporting the position that you have been tasked with asserting in writing a white paper. If you have to choose the position yourself, you should likely support the simplest and least controversial position possible. If however you must support a fixed position imposed by your professor or your employer, strategically presenting facts as you unpack the issue would be something worth doing.

Finally, writing a white paper involves supporting the position being taken on the issue. This typically involves isolating pieces of the issue and applying analytical frames to them so as to demonstrate why the position being taken in the white paper is superior to alternative positions. In some cases, taking a position when writing a white paper will involve making recommendations. When making these types of recommendations, you will be asked to suggest what types of policies should be adopted or what types of changes should be made for a certain goal to be achieved. In this respect, and while some white papers only involve writing about why a given perspective on an issue is superior, others will require that you actually make recommendations so that that this preferred perspective can come into existence. Depending on the type of white paper you are writing, you should thus adjust your style on the basis of whether you are simply supporting a position or making recommendations as to how a given position can be brought about.


Unlike essays or smaller-scale researcher paper, a capstone paper must typically be written on the basis of the style guide provided by your institution or your employer. As a first step in formatting your white paper, you must absolutely determine what your organization’s white paper formatting style is. Most organizations will make such a style guide available internally or through the department responsible for white papers. If you do not comply with the requirements of your organization’s white paper formatting guide, your white paper may be rejected, or you may be asked to revise its formatting. It is thus imperative that you ensure you are respecting your institution’s white paper formatting guidelines as you are writing and editing your white paper so that you can deliver it on time and in the manner requested by the institution mandating it – academic or otherwise.


The differences between writing a white paper and writing a research paper are quite small. When you are writing a white paper, it is just like writing a longer version of a research paper with an opinion that is based on an organizational position. You should approach the research process of your white paper in the same way that you would when writing a research paper – especially in terms of unpacking the issue under analysis. This means that you need to establish a thesis and support it with evidence. The difference is that, when you are writing your white paper, you will need to defend your organization’s position rather than one that is associated with a traditional thesis. Because your organization wants you to show that you can master a complex issue in relation to the project topic, this is the main difference between a white paper and a traditional research paper. Keep this in mind as you are writing your white paper so that you can stay on track.