What is a White Paper?

Subject: What is a White Paper?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l digest recipients <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 10:56:19 -0700

"Perry Moore" <perrya -at- jps -dot- net> wrote:

>I have a recruiter who has contacted me about writing "white papers" on a
>variety of topics. What are white papers? Just informational writing on a
>topic? what is their purpose? is there a format?

A white paper is the closest that business gets to an academic
paper. Usually, it's a technical description of a product or a
technology. Sometimes, it's a description of the theory or
problems faced in building the product or technology.

A white paper's purposes can include sharing of information with
technical people in the same field, and formal presentations at
conferences. From a business viewpoint, a white paper can also be
a form of publicity (someone from your company delivers a paper
in front of his/her peers), as well as a statement of legitimacy,
especially when a company is still in development. If a company
is working on something new or for a highly specialized audience,
the production of white papers can be extremely important.

The major difference from an academic paper is that a company
will often be more circumspect than a pure research paper, so
that competitors don't learn too much.

However, the format of most white papers I've read or been
involved in producing is usually very much that of an academic
essay. The style is usually formal, and paragraphs are usually
academically long, too.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"And you've seen it before:
The names of good women and men,
Decreed by the sword and the pen
To be outlaws all over again."
-Karen Mathieson (Capercailie)

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