WHAT IS A 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.