A whitepaper is a kind of document little-used in academia but much more common in business and policy contexts. It is a semi-formal, persuasive document that outlines and analyzes a project or proposed course of action, generally intended for limited circulation among readers directly involved in the process at hand. There's some interesting history of the medium and the term in British efforts to contain early Jewish-Palestinian conflicts. Whitepapers might be considered to lie on a spectrum between internal memos and external reports. They are generally not formally published and thus, despite their alleged whiteness, may be considered gray literature.


  • A tone that is serious and impersonal, but clear and direct above all. It is more technical than journalistic writing, but less formal and jargon-laden than academic writing.
  • Articulates problems and solutions—ideally, one of each—with a persuasive and rigorous explanation of each.
  • Provides relevant background and research data to the problems and solutions at hand.


  • British White Paper of 1922 - the original, distinguished from Parliamentary Blue Papers, on the topic of the future of Palestine
  • On Distributed Communications” - a 1964 report by Paul Baran for the RAND Corporation, outlining the basic protocol for what would become the Internet
  • The Bitcoin whitepaper - the classic early articulation of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency system; since then, whitepapers have been frequently used to introduce new cryptocurrency projects
  • New York Times Innovation Report - a 2014 internal report at the New York Times that advocated a radical turn toward digital media