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.