What is a White Paper?

Christine and Jimmy Wales
Image via Wikipedia

As per Jimmy Wales and his merry band at Wiki (pedia not leaky-ah)- The emphasis is mine

What is the best white paper you have read in the past 15 years.

Categories are-

  • Business benefits: Makes a business case for a certain technology or methodology.
  • Technical: Describes how a certain technology works.
  • Hybrid: Combines business benefits with technical details in a single document.
  • Policy: Makes a case for a certain political solution to a societal or economic challenge.
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white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and are often requested and used in politics, policy, business, and technical fields. In commercial use, the term has also come to refer to documents used by businesses as a marketing or sales tool. Policy makers frequently request white papers from universities or academic personnel to inform policy developments with expert opinions or relevant research.

Government white papers

In the Commonwealth of Nations, “white paper” is an informal name for a parliamentary paper enunciating government policy; in the United Kingdom these are mostly issued as “Command papers“. White papers are issued by the government and lay out policy, or proposed action, on a topic of current concern. Although a white paper may on occasion be a consultation as to the details of new legislation, it does signify a clear intention on the part of a government to pass new law. White Papers are a “…. tool of participatory democracy … not [an] unalterable policy commitment.[1] “White Papers have tried to perform the dual role of presenting firm government policies while at the same time inviting opinions upon them.” [2]

In Canada, a white paper “is considered to be a policy document, approved by Cabinet, tabled in the House of Commons and made available to the general public.”[3] A Canadian author notes that the “provision of policy information through the use of white and green papers can help to create an awareness of policy issues among parliamentarians and the public and to encourage an exchange of information and analysis. They can also serve as educational techniques”.[4]

“White Papers are used as a means of presenting government policy preferences prior to the introduction of legislation”; as such, the “publication of a White Paper serves to test the climate of public opinion regarding a controversial policy issue and enables the government to gauge its probable impact”.[5]

By contrast, green papers, which are issued much more frequently, are more open ended. These green papers, also known as consultation documents, may merely propose a strategy to be implemented in the details of other legislation or they may set out proposals on which the government wishes to obtain public views and opinion.

White papers published by the European Commission are documents containing proposals for European Union action in a specific area. They sometimes follow a green paper released to launch a public consultation process.

For examples see the following:

 Commercial white papers

Since the early 1990s, the term white paper has also come to refer to documents used by businesses and so-called think tanks as marketing or sales tools. White papers of this sort argue that the benefits of a particular technologyproduct or policy are superior for solving a specific problem.

These types of white papers are almost always marketing communications documents designed to promote a specific company’s or group’s solutions or products. As a marketing tool, these papers will highlight information favorable to the company authorizing or sponsoring the paper. Such white papers are often used to generate sales leads, establish thought leadership, make a business case, or to educate customers or voters.

There are four main types of commercial white papers:

  • Business benefits: Makes a business case for a certain technology or methodology.
  • Technical: Describes how a certain technology works.
  • Hybrid: Combines business benefits with technical details in a single document.
  • Policy: Makes a case for a certain political solution to a societal or economic challenge.

Resources

  • Stelzner, Michael (2007). Writing White Papers: How to capture readers and keep them engaged. Poway, California: WhitePaperSource Publishing. pp. 214. ISBN 9780977716937.
  • Bly, Robert W. (2006). The White Paper Marketing Handbook. Florence, Kentucky: South-Western Educational Publishing. pp. 256. ISBN 9780324300826.
  • Kantor, Jonathan (2009). Crafting White Paper 2.0: Designing Information for Today’s Time and Attention Challenged Business Reader. Denver,Colorado: Lulu Publishing. pp. 167.ISBN 9780557163243.

Author: Ajay Ohri

http://about.me/ajayohri

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