How to Write a White Paper

(Updated on April 17, 2017 by Michelle Williams)

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A white paper is a technical document that's used in industry to describe how a product or a form of technology can be used to solve a specific type of problem.  As such, it's also a type of marketing document, though it's not meant to be persuasively written in the same manner as an advertisement.  Rather, it simply describes and highlights the advantages of the technology or product.

In order to properly complete a white paper, you must acquire a deep understanding of the product.  Not only do you have to understand how it works, you need to be able to describe how the product can be applied toward technical business problems.  In this way, a white paper can demonstrate the company's ability to understand the customers' problems while also describing the technology and why it's the customers' best choice.

Although you're completing a document that's of a technical nature, you should write the white paper in an informal tone and using plain English.  Remember, the goal is to educate and convince the reader to support the product you're writing about.  As such, you don't want to use technical jargon that will be difficult for the reader to understand.  

How to Write a White PaperWhen you complete a white paper, you should start off with an abstract, which is a one-paragraph description that highlights what the paper is about.  In the abstract, you should tell the reader the purpose.  Don't give away all of details in the abstract, as you want the reader to have a reason to read the entire paper.

In the first two or three paragraphs of the actual paper, you should discuss the problem and provide a little bit of a background.  In these paragraphs, you should be straightforward and concise.  

After discussing the problem, you'll then discuss how the product works.  Do not describe how the product helps solve a problem at this point.  Rather, discuss the product in general terms.  Once you have described the product, you can then tell the reader how the product can solve a particular problem.  At this point, you should provide the reader with evidence that demonstrates how the product can solve the problem.  In addition, you should discuss why this product is the best one available for solving this particular problem.

The last paragraph of your white paper is the conclusion, which should be limited to just one paragraph and serve as a summary of reasons why the product is the reader's best option for solving a particular problem.

The best white papers take the time to really describe the problem and to form an understanding with the reader.  By describing the problem thoroughly, readers can better associated with the product and see a need for it in their lives.  Therefore, be sure to spend some time formulating this portion of the white paper before you go on to describe how wonderful your product is.

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