A white paper is generally defined as an authoritative report or guide that is intended to inform readers about a complex issue, including the author’s perspective on the topics covered. White papers typically rely upon expert knowledge and research in support of a solution or recommendation.
White papers aren’t the same as an article that is published in a scientific journal, heavy with specific jargon, methods and statistical analyses. Neither are white papers sales brochures that pitch the features and benefits of a product or service.
A well-written white paper must often distill complicated concepts into an informative narrative that the average reader can understand while ensuring that stated arguments and their conclusions are based in objective sources of evidence. Achieving this balance of facts and simplicity can provide a powerful communication tool for both technical and non-technical customers. Consider the following example of a white paper that supports other communications on a new medical device.
RapidOxygen manufactures the R15 portable emergency oxygen device. Cleared by FDA for bystander use, the R15 device provides oxygen to victims of breathing emergencies while awaiting the arrival of emergency medical services (EMS).
RapidOxygen realized that many of their potential customers would not have high medical or technical knowledge. Managers of public and private facilities, for example, could benefit their clients by adding the R15 device to their existing medical response protocols but only if they could quickly grasp those benefits.
Providing non-medical/technical customers with detailed descriptions of human physiology and oxygen delivery, or the chemistry of how certain chemicals can create oxygen on-demand would not explain in simple terms how the R15 device could help support victims of breathing emergencies. After consultation with RapidOxygen, Ringbolt developed a white paper through several direct steps outlined below.
Collection of References. RapidOxygen provided Ringbolt with various references from medical publications that discussed topics related to human physiology, hypoxia and hypoxemia. Ringbolt also conducted independent research for additional information in the Public domain, including use cases for portable emergency oxygen.
Creation of the Narrative. Ringbolt reduced the collection of references into key concepts that it then organized in a story arc. Written in plain English, the narrative revealed the high incidence of breathing emergencies, the therapeutic benefits of oxygen support during breathing emergencies, and the practical methods of providing safe oxygen for bystander use in Public places like airports, shopping malls and health clubs.
Design of the White Paper Format. Ringbolt created a clean visual format in Word for the narrative that included call-out boxes for powerful quotes made by independent sources from the collection of references. Key statements made in the white paper were annotated with references organized on the final page of the white paper. This design enabled the general reader to understand the issues and recommendations, and provided the various references for those who wished to learn more.
Publication of the White Paper. After review and approval by RapidOxygen, the final white paper was exported to a PDF file that could be shared via email, printed for hand outs, and posted to the RapidOxygen website.
White papers stand apart from technical and sales materials and can help engage and educate a wider audience. Well-written white papers can help the average reader comprehend otherwise difficult concepts and provide recommendations that are grounded in independent and objective information.