White papers are widely used among organizations and corporations to explain a problem and describe a solution that can meet that need, such as a product, service or program. Tailored to fit the needs of a specific audience, a white paper gives background information on the topic, explains the challenges the audience faces and presents the benefits of the writer's proposed action plan. Knowledge of your audience, solid information on the topic and strong organization can all help you write a white paper that persuades readers to choose your solution.
Address the Audience Early
Three seconds. That's how long you have to grab a reader's attention, states the technology resources website Knowledgestorm. Within the first paragraph, the paper should identify the audience's problem in a way that captures their attention. If they don't feel you're addressing their particular needs, they may not continue reading. Begin your paper with an introduction that summarizes the issue of concern. For example, if your white paper is about choosing a method of course evaluation for college classes, you'll define the problems teachers and administrators face with this issue, such as the effect of a lack of student interest on the results.
Bring in Background
Presenting the topic's history in an objective, informative tone gives a recap of its past challenges and allows you to establish credibility with readers through your knowledge of the issue. As you present this background, consider what your audience already knows about the topic and use this information before you present your solution. For example, a white paper about using electronic textbooks in college might describe the growing role of technology in students' lives, as well as the financial burden of purchasing textbooks when college tuition is already expensive.
Sell the Solution
Once your paper has objectively established the problem, you can describe how your solution meets its needs. Waiting until this point to bring up your solution demonstrates to readers that you're genuinely interested in the problem itself, not just in trying to push your own ideas. Al Kemp of Impact Technical Publications suggests opening this section with a statement of purpose about your proposed idea, summing up what it would accomplish. Then, explain the benefits of your plan, how it would be implemented and any special considerations readers should keep in mind as they put it into action.
Don't Forget Design
Many white papers are published on the Internet and read on computer screens, placing added importance on maintaining the attention of readers. Visual aids, like flowcharts, photos and graphs, engage audiences with the information, enhance their understanding of the topic and create an aesthetically pleasing appearance for the document. The way you lay out your text on the page is also significant, as long paragraphs can visually overwhelm readers. Instead, use bulleted lists, section headings and call-out quotes, quotes pulled from the text and printed in the sidebar, to break your ideas into manageable sections.