Did you know there are basically three kinds of white papers? According to Gordon Graham, the “White Paper Guy,” there really isn’t any standardization, but white papers can be categorized into three major categories.
Problem and Solution White Papers
This is the type of white paper that’s attractive to engineers. The problem-solution paper is the traditional technical business-to-business document. In it, an industry problem is described, ramifications of the problem are elaborated upon, a solution proposed (that happens to coincide with the products or services you sell) demonstrating the efficacy of the solution, with a soft-sell approach.
This type of white paper is good for illustrating a product to people who just want to know what it is. It’s essentially a summary paper.
This is just a list of features or highlights on a product or service which highlights some misconceptions, or simply tries to convince the reader the product can better do the job than the competition.
This is, of course, a set of rules. Instead, consider it more like taxonomy. There are a lot of variations in the structure of a white paper because every company and product is different. The intention for any given white paper may be different than any other given white paper. Part of the challenge is to determine what type of paper to use, and that all comes down to the objectives for the paper.