Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:

  • an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;
  • an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
  • and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.

It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.

If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

The Contents of an Abstract

Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:

  • the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
  • the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
  • what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
  • the main reason(s) , the exigency, the rationale , the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
  • your research and/or analytical methods
  • your main findings , results , or arguments
  • the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.

Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

When to Write Your Abstract

Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.

Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract

The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.

The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.

The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).

Sample Abstract 1

From the social sciences.

Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses

Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

Sample Abstract 2

From the humanities.

Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications

Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

Sample Abstract/Summary 3

From the sciences.

Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells

Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study

Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.

Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.

“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.

METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.

RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.

CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)

Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:

abstract white paper

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How to Write and Format a White Paper: The Definitive Guide

Mary Cullen

Table of Contents

What is a white paper, use and value, how to select a white paper topic:, white paper preparation, white paper format, final thoughts.

You’re ready to compile and share your company’s deep knowledge of your industry. A white paper seems like the perfect format. It’s a useful product to highlight your company’s expertise and a valuable tool in marketing.

But, how do you transform your knowledge into white paper content?

White papers are similar but distinct from business reports. In order to write a successful one, you need to understand the difference and include key elements. This article will help you decide if a white paper is right for you, and if yes, how to prepare and produce one.

To write a white paper, thoroughly research a topic and propose a comprehensive solution in a well-structured, factual, and persuasive document.

A white paper should include: 1. Title (accurate but enticing) 2. Abstract (including the Problem Statement) 3. Background (may be detailed and technical or broad and high-level, depending on audience) 4. Solution (the ‘ta-da’ moment of the white paper) 5. Conclusion (the summary of findings) 6. References (using correct industry format)

A white paper is an authoritative document intended to inform the reader on a particular topic fully. It combines expert knowledge and research into a document that argues for a specific solution or recommendation.

The white paper allows the reader to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

White papers are data-centric, text-heavy business documents. Due to a large amount of data and research, white papers are deep reads and tend to have a formal tone.

Businesses write white papers both to record expertise and to market themselves to prospective customers.

White papers are generally written for an audience outside of the business. Therefore, they are a tool to attract readers to the company by offering top-quality, industry knowledge.

However, a white paper is not a sales pitch. It sells the company by highlighting the internal expertise and valuable recommendations, not by bidding for business.

Sales Pitch: 8 Ways ABC Marketing will save money on your social media budget

White paper: Social Media Advertising: Matching marketing needs and platforms

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Choosing the right topic is essential to have your white paper read. There are three major factors:

1. Audience

As with any business writing, your audience is your first consideration. The white paper must be written with a target reader in mind. The audience may be long-time customers familiar with the industry or new prospective buyers who are entirely new to the field.

Reflect on the reader’s pain points or major questions. Within these topics, look for ones that have not been fully investigated or the available information is out-of-date.

2. Expertise

Your white paper should match and highlight your company’s expertise.

The entire document should provide a complete investigation, including external research and internal knowledge. The business’s own know-how informs the content that is included and how it is compiled.

3. Problem-based and solution-focused

White papers should identify and address a particular problem. The problem should be relevant and timely in your field. The document may focus on issues such as common dilemmas, new trends, changing techniques, and industry comparison.

The white paper must have a proposed solution or recommendation to answer the problem. This solution is based on thoroughly examining the problem and potential solutions.

The selected topic must be comprehensively researched. Pull information from online references, industry resources, and internal documents. White papers are data-focused, so they should be supported by significant research.

There’s no hard and fast rule on citations but you need to cite any information that is not public knowledge and that you didn’t know before beginning your research. However, understand that the reader’s confidence is likely to increase with an increasing number of cited references.

Of course, all resources must come from authoritative sites. In order to write a valuable document, all research materials must be from credible, reliable sources.

Read other white papers

Are there white papers covering your topic or area already? Read them to determine the knowledge gaps and the opportunities to build on existing content. This review will also ensure that your white paper is novel instead of redundant.

Use a mind-map

It can be overwhelming to keep track of the many sources, ideas, and content involved in preparing a white paper. A helpful organizational tool is the mind-map . A mind-map allows the writer to catalog and connect the many different pieces into one visual overview.

We suggest using the free tool MindMeister to organize your content. It’s simple to use and free.

FreeMind is another alternative but some organizations don't allow it to be used since it must be downloaded.

Don't forget visual elements

When designing a white paper, the written content is most important. However, taking the time to create an aesthetically pleasing design cannot be ignored. It should be remembered that the visuals used can greatly contribute to the overall impact of your white paper. By using visual elements such as images, animations, videos, charts, and graphs that reinforce and illustrate arguments, can greatly increase clarity for the reader while making key points stand out.

White papers generally follow a standard document format. The content order may seem similar to other business reports, but there is one major difference:

A white paper places the conclusion at the end.

Many business communications, such as technical reports or proposals, place the main conclusion at the beginning of the document. This order responds to the desires of the reader and their preference in receiving the information.

In a white paper, the content and research inform the reader and increase their understanding of the problem throughout the document. The final section provides the ‘ta-da!’ moment where the reader now receives the solution which is supported by the evidence in the document.

The reader’s journey and preferences in a white paper and business report differ. The major findings follow suit.

If you’re unsure of these distinctions or are looking to improve your business writing skills, consider enrolling in our online self-paced Technical Report Writing Course (see all of our courses here ).

And, no matter the journey, the document must be easy to understand and include informative headings for easy navigation.

Choose an accurate title

A good title is essential. It should clearly indicate what the reader will learn from the white paper. It should also be enticing.

Bland title example: White paper on Law 123.4 Referencing Environmental Impact Assessments.
Enticing title example: The Rules are Changing: White Paper on the Environmental Impact Assessment Legislation Proposals in 2018

The phrase ‘white paper’ does not necessarily need to be in the title at all. Some audiences are seeking that authoritative indicator. Other readers may be scared off from valuable content because of the term. As always, think of what your audience would prefer.

The abstract offers the reader a brief overview of the white paper’s main points. It allows the reader to ensure they have found a document relevant to their needs. After reading, the reader should be able to know if they are ‘in the right place.’

Problem statement

The problem statement specifies the issue the white paper will address. The problem needs to be defined and placed into a context to ensure it’s understood by the reader.

This section provides the background information required for the audience to grasp the problem and, ultimately, the solution. The content may be detailed and technical or broad and high-level. The content depends on the reader and the problem.

If original research is completed for the white paper, the methods should be communicated.

The ‘ta-da’ moment of the white paper.

Based on the preceding information, the solution is now presented. It is developed and argued for using the gathered evidence and the expertise of the author and their company.

This section summarizes the white paper’s major findings. Recommendations based on the solution are provided.

All sources used to develop the white paper must be collected and cited in this section. It adds validity to the document. It also gives the reader content for further research. Depending on your industry, follow MLA or APA citation formats. 

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Writing a good white paper is not a simple task. However, the investment of time and skill can produce a valuable document that shares your company’s knowledge, contributing to overall education and progress in your industry. And, a good white paper increases business opportunities. As you develop an informational document such as a white paper, it's helpful to strengthen your writing process with our Advanced Business Writing course. 

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White Paper: Purpose and Audience

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A white paper is a certain type of report that is distinctive in terms of purpose, audience, and organization. This resource will explain these issues and provide some other tips to enhance white paper content.

What is a White Paper?

Originally, the term white paper was used as shorthand to refer to an official government report, indicating that the document is authoritative and informative in nature. Writers typically use this genre when they argue a specific position or propose a solution to a problem, addressing the audience outside of their organization. Today, white papers have become popular marketing tools for corporations especially on the Internet since many potential customers search for information on the Web. Corporations use white papers to sell information or new products as solutions that would serve their customers' needs.

The Purpose of a White Paper

Typically, the purpose of a white paper is to advocate that a certain position is the best way to go or that a certain solution is best for a particular problem. When it is used for commercial purposes, it could influence the decision-making processes of current and prospective customers.

What Kind of Problems Do Readers Want to Solve?

The audience for a white paper can be the general public or multiple companies that seek solutions to their problems or needs. Typically, you will not know your audience personally, unlike when you write a recommendation report for your client. And yet, in order to persuade your audience, you need to focus on their needs. If you can address the problems that your readers want to solve, they will read your white paper for a solution. Otherwise, your white paper may not be read. It is important to emphasize your readers' interests rather than your interests, as shown in the example below:

The 2024 Ultimate Guide: How to Write and Format a White Paper

The step by step guide to succeeding with white paper marketing.

Frame 16 (1)

  • 1 What is a white paper?
  • 2. White paper examples
  • 3 How to write a white paper
  • 4 Mistakes a white paper should avoid
  • 5 White paper Format
  • 6 Gating your white papers
  • 7 White paper distribution
  • 8 Handling your white paper leads
  • 9 Choosing the right white paper template
  • 10 Final thoughts

Introduction

White papers are a popular and powerful tool for content marketers. They can be used to position your company as a thought leader and authority on a subject by presenting useful and persuasive research findings and information about your products and services, White papers can also be used as a powerful asset to generate more leads when the information is valuable enough for readers to submit their personal details in order to access your findings. This ultimate guide will teach you everything you need to make white paper marketing a formidable addition to your content marketing strategy . 

How to Write and Format a White Paper Infographic

1. What is a white paper?

A white paper is an in-depth report or guide about a specific topic and the problems that surround it. It is meant to educate readers and help them to understand and solve an issue.

In the world of marketing, a white paper is a long-form piece of content , similar to an eBook . The difference between the two is that white papers tend to be more technical and in depth. The facts and opinions expressed in white papers are often backed by original research or statistics that the publisher has aggregated from reliable sources. They often include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data. 

The term "white papers" originated in England as government-issued documents. One famous example is the Churchill White Paper , commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1922.

Today, the term is most commonly applied to “deep dive” style publications. Businesses — especially in the consulting, financial, or B2B sectors — use them to communicate their organization’s philosophy on a topic, make the case for the superiority of their product, or simply to present research findings related to their field.

White papers are no less editorial than other forms of content, but the depth of research lends them an authoritative tone. For this reason, they are good candidates for promoting thought leadership .

Who uses white papers?

In the past, white papers were most often produced by governmental agencies, NGOs, think tanks, consultancies, and financial institutions that needed to present the findings of their ongoing research in a succinct format.

With the widespread growth and adoption of content marketing (the creation and distribution of non-promotional content intended to generate interest in a business and its offerings), white papers have become more common in other industries as well. Any organization that engages in content marketing can benefit from producing white papers.

Their popularity across industries is due to their versatility. While all white papers have certain elements in common, a B2B startup will use them differently than a large consultancy, and both will use them differently from a governmental organization.

Types of white papers

There are numerous types of white papers a business might publish.

  • One type is the backgrounder , in which the benefits of their product, service, or methodology are explained in depth.
  • Another is a problem-solution approach, which walks the audience through the solution to a problem that is common in their industry.

Other types of white papers simply present a summary of useful statistics and information about the state of a particular field or industry. An example of this would be the Content Marketing Benchmarks Budgets and Trends from the Content Marketing Institute.

Whatever type you produce , the contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area. Your audience is searching for an information document, and will look for an authoritative source — a business they perceive as having in-depth knowledge of a subject.

The contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area.

The purpose of a white paper

White papers enable you to build trust with your audience. They show readers that you're reliable, experienced, and adept in a given domain. When potential customers search for an informational document to help them understand a problem or opportunity they're facing, and you provide them with a quality white paper that helps, they'll turn to you again in the future.

This perception of authority can also serve to boost sales in an organization. More than half the respondents to the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey reported having read a white paper before making a buying decision. Buyers prefer to purchase from vendors they trust and see as experts in their field.

Finally, white papers are extremely useful for lead generation . The Content Preferences Survey from DemandGen found that more than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper — more than for eBooks , case studies, analyst reports , podcasts, brochures , or infographics.

With all of these potential benefits, utilizing white papers in your content marketing strategy can produce great results.

More than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper.

2. White paper examples

When you think about white papers, you probably think of PDF articles with thousands of words. But times are changing and so is the way we produce and consume content.

Nowadays, every marketing collateral (including white papers) needs to be well written, well structured, and designed for every type of visitor. 

Here are some great examples of white papers doing exactly that. 

White paper example - CodinGame

This unique one-pager presenting findings from the Developers at Work Survey demonstrates how a white paper should be done. The animated, interactive data charts show off just what's possible with our embed feature.

Open white paper example #1  

White paper example - BDO GDPR

Privacy and the GDPR - BDO

This well-produced special edition produced by BDO and creative agency Monte Media does an incredible job of turning a conventionally dull topic into a piece of content that's engaging and comes to life.

Open white paper example #2

White paper example - content-marketing-strategy

This white paper is a step by step guide to succeeding with content marketing.

See more  white paper examples

Start creating white papers with Foleon

3. How to write a white paper

Starting a white paper can be a daunting task. So much information and research are required that it’s easy to get lost in that portion of the work and let it become a roadblock to actually putting things on paper.

Even after the writing itself has begun, white papers are tricky to do well. Simply listing statistics without some form of narrative arc is a surefire way to keep your white paper from ever being read. Luckily, following a few simple guidelines can help keep a white paper engaging and make the process of finishing it much easier.

Pick the right topic

This might seem obvious, but without a topic that resonates with your audience, your white paper is not likely to be read. When choosing the right topic, you should consider three important criteria:

  • It should be something you are qualified to write about.
  • It should be something your audience is interested in.
  • It should address a topic around which little content has been written already and thus fill a " content gap ."

Naturally, finding a topic that brings points 1 and 2 together is vital. White papers are meant to be authoritative pieces of content based upon the author's experience and expertise, so it's important to write about what you know . But you must match this to the interests of your readers if you're to produce something they'll be eager to engage with .

Don't be afraid to crowdsource information from within your organization. If the topic of a white paper is related to engineering, why not interview an engineer or have them look over what you’ve written? The same goes for other roles. Crowdsourcing knowledge means having the power of a true expert in many fields.

Finally, filling a "content gap" will help your white paper get noticed and gain traction. By addressing a topic no one else has written about definitely, your white paper will be more likely to rank highly on search engines and even be featured elsewhere on the web.

Pro tip: You can even ask your audience what they would like to see in your upcoming white paper. You'll get ideas, make your topic more relevant, and you'll generate buzz around your content even before it's finished. In fact, we used the same method for this guide!

white paper promotion slack

Define your audience

Defining your audience goes hand in hand with choosing the right topic. But moving beyond your audience's interests, it’s important to think of the kinds of people who will be reading your white paper.

  • Are they fellow professionals, well versed in your subject?
  • Are they likely to be reading something they are relatively unfamiliar with?

Knowing this helps establish the voice you should use and whether industry-specific jargon is appropriate. It also narrows the scope of the research you should include. It’s always important to ensure all arguments are logically sound and well supported, but the stats and information presented should be relevant to the specific audience you're targeting.

Part of defining an audience in the age of Google centers around how people will find the white paper. This means thinking about which platforms specific personas use for research and what search terms they put in. Not only will this help a white paper get found by the right people, but it is useful when outlining the white paper later on.

Optimizing for keywords is important, but remember to write for people, not for search engines. Google is getting better all the time at understanding and matching search intent with relevant content . This has become particularly important with the advent of AI-powered language models which can produce long-form content at scale. 

Wrap it in a great intro and outro

Ad with all good writing, your intro should serve to captivate your audience, pique their curiosity, and entice them to read further. It's good practice to provide a brief summary of what they'll find in the white paper and to emphasize exactly what benefit they'll get from reading it.

Your outro is equally important, especially if you're using your white paper to market your products or services. You should avoid any self-promotion in the body of your white paper, but you can certainly mention your relevant product offerings and how to obtain them — perhaps using a compelling call-to-action — at the end.

Pack it with value

White papers are not meant to be advertisements for your company, and you should avoid any overt promotion. Instead, you should provide plenty of useful information that will be valuable to readers even if they don't become customers. Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Remember, white papers serve to showcase your expertise as a company or brand in a given field. Your readers should come away having learned something useful and with the impression that you're a reliable source of expert information. As pointed out earlier, generating this kind of reputation will lead to greater business success as buyers are more likely to purchase from companies they trust.

Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Don’t be scared of multiple drafts

No first draft is ever a finished work. Elizabeth Bishop, the renowned and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, wrote seventeen drafts of her poem “One Art” before it was completed. It’s now considered one of the best villanelles ever written .

While a white paper may not need seventeen drafts, there will undoubtedly be points missed and logical inconsistencies in the first version. Finishing a draft, stepping away, and coming back to it with a fresh mind is the best way to ensure quality. If there’s another good writer at your company, getting another set of eyes on it is even better.

Keep it interesting

White papers should be more detailed and thorough than blog posts or eBooks . This may cause them to be more dry and formal, but this doesn't mean they have to be boring.

A trap that white papers easily fall into is using statistics as a crutch and not maintaining interest throughout. Technical as it may be, you still want your white paper to be read. To make this happen, it’s useful to borrow techniques from fiction and creative nonfiction writers.

There are lots of resources for learning about a plot, but generally, it has five parts, as illustrated in Freytag’s pyramid:

White paper plot design

These won’t always correspond perfectly in a factual piece of writing like a white paper, but they can get you thinking about how to create and hold interest. Use those ideas to keep readers’ attention until the very end.

4. Mistakes a white paper should avoid

There are some pitfalls and common mistakes to avoid when writing a white paper. Each of these has the potential to make an otherwise stellar piece of content into a wasted effort. Here's a brief list of things to look out for.

Sounding like a sales pitch

When white papers are used as part of a marketing campaign where businesses showcase their product, a common mistake is to make them sound like a sales pitch . Don't let this happen; it will immediately turn your readers off. In a white paper, your audience is seeking unbiased, educational information that will help them, not try to persuade them. Save the sales pitches for other content, like product brochures .

Lack of adequate research

As previously mentioned, white papers should be well-researched documents. It’s true that conducting lengthy original research may be outside a marketing team’s budget, but merely including a few stats from the first page of a Google search simply won’t cut it.

Aggregating statistics and searching through scholarly work may take time, but the result will be worth it. For your white paper to achieve its intended effect, It’s important to establish your content as an authoritative source to which the audience would want to return.

Poor design

We'll go in-depth into design in the next section, but it's worth mentioning here. The written content of a white paper is what matters most, but neglecting design is a big mistake. Design makes your salient points stand out and helps the reader understand what they're reading. Using visuals (like images, animations , videos, charts, and graphs) that support your arguments is crucial.

Check out this white paper example built with Foleon!. Open the white paper

Not telling a story

White papers are informative and factual. We’ve driven that point home already. That doesn’t mean they should be boring. Backgrounders, problem-solution white papers, and research findings all have a story to tell, and the reader is far less likely to make it through the entire piece without some form of narrative to keep them engaged. Setting up a problem, elaborating on a solution, and including some type of success story is a proven formula for making any type of content more story-like.

Leaving it abstract

Because most white papers will involve sharing research findings, it can be easy to leave them in the realm of theory without explaining how to utilize those findings on a practical level. This is true more of backgrounders but can be the case with problem-solution white papers as well.

A good example is the abundant amount of content on employee engagement. Many B2B cases have covered the importance of employee engagement and the pitfalls of getting it wrong. Too little of this content goes further and gives concrete examples of what companies in specific verticals can do to alleviate the problem.

5. White paper format

Before addressing anything else, we first need to talk about the format you'll use.

A picture is no longer worth a thousand words. Today, its value is in the number of eyeballs it can keep glued to your content and the ratio of those viewers it convinces to click through to other sections of your website.

Your carefully crafted copy and painstakingly gathered statistics won’t earn those clicks on their own. The average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish . And with 3.3 million Facebook posts, 448,800 tweets, and 149,513 emails sent every minute , competition for your readers' attention is intense, to say the least. Long form mediums like the white paper need serious sparkle just to compete.

How to format a white paper

You'll need more than just black text on a white background. Your design choices regarding things like color, typography, and the use of visuals will play a prominent role in the success of your white paper. Here are a few important principles to keep in mind for creating a quality white paper design.

Keeping mobile visitors in mind

More than 54% of internet traffic is now mobile , and web designers have adapted to this trend by creating what's known as responsive design . Before this, web pages simply scaled according to the size of a user's screen, retaining their layout. Naturally, this made most pages both unreadable and unnavigable on smaller devices.

Responsive design solved this by allowing elements on a page to rearrange, resize, or be completely hidden from view in response to the size of the screen. When a smaller screen is used, font-sizes increase, buttons become larger for touch screens, and the entire layout adjusts to make the page mobile-friendly.

But while this has become standard for web designers in a mobile-first world, producers of other digital content assets like white papers have generally not adapted . Surprisingly, most companies that offer white papers and eBooks on their websites still use PDF format .

The problem with PDFs is that they're unreadable on smaller screens . They're fixed-layout documents — they can't adjust or adapt to different screen sizes. Reading them on a mobile device requires excessive zooming and panning around, which is a terrible experience for users.

Mobile traffic is ever-increasing. If you decide to produce your white paper as a PDF , you risk excluding this vast segment of your audience. It's a design mistake that will cost you views and conversions.

Responsive white paper example - NGData

See examples of responsive white papers

Emphasis and readability

Because in-depth white papers contain lots of text and visuals, as well as supplementary information like footnotes, figures, logos and copyright info, the danger is that your design becomes cluttered. Clutter accumulates before you realize it. You may choose a clean layout and color scheme, to begin with, but as you continue to add content, things can get crowded. Often, you must make tough choices about what not to include to strike the right balance between completeness and readability.

Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information. These choices and priorities affect layout, placement, color, font size, page order and more. Use these design elements to create emphasis on vital pieces of information. But be careful. Emphasizing too many pieces of information — or too few — will cause readers to struggle to discern what’s important.

Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information.

Have a look at what's trending

Bold fonts and color schemes are in. If you look at the hippest tech companies right now, you’ll see lots of pastels and color gradients. Of course, all that might change tomorrow. But still, a great way to get inspiration when you're just starting is to take a look at what design trends are currently popular.

U2's frontman, Bono, sings "every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief." And he's right. Good designers are always drawing inspiration from other designers. The best way to create a successful design is to spend a lot of time looking at what others are doing successfully. Use Evernote , or a bookmarking service to save white papers and other exceptional designs that you encounter for future reference.

Don’t know where to start looking? Dribbble and Behance are two networks where great designers share their latest work. They consistently have material that’s on the cutting edge of what’s trending.

Design for your audience

While trends may inspire you, it's more important to align your design with your audience and your subject matter.

  • Will you be addressing suit-and-tie financial executives or blue-collar management at construction firms?
  • Are you writing about changes to privacy regulations in the tech industry, or about the effects of farming on biodiversity?

White paper format and design

Your design should support and strengthen your topic. The colors and typography should be consistent with what you're writing about, the tone you've chosen, and the audience you've defined. Writing a white paper for a funeral parlor? Hot-pink headlines might be a bad choice. Taking color psychology into account can help you achieve the look and feel you're after.

Brush up on the basics

No prior knowledge of design? No problem.

If you don’t have a designer working with you in-house, you can still teach yourself the basics of design and check work against those principles. A big part of the battle is knowing the search terms that will get you the knowledge you need. Luckily, good primers on basic graphic design are abundant.

After doing a bit of reading, start creating. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you create a white paper and don’t like the design, try to pinpoint what it is about the design that needs improvement. After the reading you’ve done, you’ll have the tools to critique your own work and the work of others. This is the best way to improve and create well designed white papers.

Choosing the right tools

At Foleon, we pride ourselves on providing a tool that makes creating responsive digital white papers easy, even for those with no prior graphic design experience.

Choosing a tool like this, which takes the guesswork out of design, will shorten the time it takes for you to produce great white papers. There is a vast ecosystem of tools out there, each of which is geared toward a different purpose and skillset. The right one will enable you as both a designer and a writer.

See how you can scale engaging content creation .

6. Gating your white papers

For most companies, lead generation and growing lists of contacts for the sales and marketing teams are important activities. Attracting visitors to your site and offering them something of value in exchange for their contact information is a proven method for filling the top of your funnel.

But for this type of inbound marketing to work, two things are needed: exceptional content that visitors are eager to acquire, and a method for gating (or walling off) that content behind a form.

Gated white paper

Many brands skip the first part and move straight to the second. They quickly produce something mediocre and put it behind a form. This might work in the short term for generating lists, but keep in mind that users expect more from content they “pay” for. The quality of your gated content serves as an indicator of the quality of your brand will affect your ability to turn prospects into customers down the road.

So how do white papers fit into your b2b content marketing funnel ? They may act either as lead generation tools themselves or can be used to direct readers to other parts of a website that captures lead information.

What is gated content?

Walling expert content off behind a form designed to capture personal details is one of the most common techniques for generating leads. Gated content is any content that a reader cannot access until after they input some personal information, such as their name and email address. White papers and eBooks are two of the most common types of content used for this purpose.

Typically, a company will create a landing page that includes a description — and perhaps a preview — of what information readers can expect to find inside. The landing page will include a form for visitors to enter their personal information and thus gain access. After entering the required information, visitors are either presented with a download button or receive the gated content in their inbox.

There are plenty of variations on this formula, but the basic technique of providing “free” content and asking readers to “pay” by providing their personal information has been very important part of content marketing for a long time.

To gate or not to gate

While gating your best content is great for lead generation, there are some drawbacks as well. Walling off your white paper will mean it gets read by fewer people as not everyone is willing to give away their contact details.

An open-access white paper will be read by a wider audience. If it’s in-depth and authoritative, it may also do well organically and improve your search rankings. Gating it behind a form, however, will prevent search engines from indexing it.

It’s important to consider what the primary goal of your white paper is: disseminating information and gaining brand awareness or generating leads. If the latter is more important, then gating is a great option.

Semi-gating

Another variation on gated content — and one that’s growing in popularity — is semi-gating . This can give you the best of both worlds by allowing your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.

Semi-gating gives readers a taste of your white paper without requiring them to give up any info. You can, for example, make the first few pages of your white paper open access, and then make visitors fill in a form to read more. This works well because digital content is so abundant and brands must offer more for free or risk visitors turning elsewhere.

Allow your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.

Offering more content for free also builds trust and brand loyalty among your readers. Let them know your white papers are valuable and helpful, and they’ll be more interested in giving you their personal information. You’re also more likely to gain qualified leads if readers have a chance to sample your white paper before converting.

Of course, semi-gating doesn’t mean giving away your entire white paper. Typically, there’s at least one section of the white paper that is exclusive to those who go through the gating process. Semi-gating can help reach a wider audience, build trust and loyalty, increase lead quality, and still help you capture the contact information you need.

There’s a concept in marketing and design known as friction . Friction is anything that causes the sales process to slow down. It’s like a roadblock that makes it less likely prospects will convert, sign up, download, or purchase. It can be caused by a multitude of things including poor design, confusing navigation, subpar copy, too many form fields, and more.

Your ability to generate leads with a gated white paper will largely depend on how much friction is involved. Asking for more information than you really need is one common and unnecessary source of friction that can lead to losing potential readers.

The entire field of conversion rate optimization is geared toward removing friction — or making user interactions easier. CRO specialists make forms simpler, navigation more intuitive, and design CTAs that are more likely to be clicked. Optimizing your landing page for conversions is a vital part of any lead generation campaign.

But the reality is, asking for personal information will always be an obstacle for a large number of people. So the key here is to make the process easy and noninvasive as possible.

An excellent way to do this is by reducing the number of form fields to the bare minimum and using mid-gating to ensure your ask is timely and yields immediate value for the reader: "Fill out this form to get access to the rest of this white paper, we've saved the best for last!".

Create white papers and eBooks that integrate with your favorite CRM or marketing automation platform. Get started

7. White paper distribution

So, after following the tips in this guide, you create an engaging, informative white paper that inspires readers to take action and deepen their relationship with your company. You mid-gate (or semi-gate) it to capture readers’ information and gain valuable insight into the interests and demographics of your consumer base.

Now, you publish it on your website, sit back, and wait for your Pulitzer.

Only, the traffic never comes… Where did you go wrong? You didn't think about your white paper distribution strategy . 

The importance of distribution

The internet isn’t the same as it once was. Thanks to the massive amount of content produced every day for and an ever-growing number of channels, it’s a lot harder to get noticed. Unless you’re Gabriel García Márquez back from the dead, simply writing something and posting it online doesn’t guarantee readership.

To get eyes on your white paper, you need to be smart not only about writing and design but distribution as well. Some content marketing thought leaders go so far as to claim that you should spend 20% of your time on content creation and 80% on promotion.

Distribution is all about identifying traction channels where your ideal customers consume content and making your white paper highly visible on those channels. Depending on the audience you defined in the beginning, some will be more relevant for you than others.

Social promotion

If you’re at all familiar with marketing, advertising, or online media, chances are you’re aware of how important social media is to visibility. People from all walks of life, and from all over the world, are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Ensuring that you share your content regularly on these platforms will give you a solid base of promotion on which to build.

But it's not enough to simply write a post and tweet it into the void. Try to find communities like Facebook and LinkedIn groups where your target audience is likely to congregate. Search for relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram . Find subreddits relevant to your industry.

Once you’ve found your audience, it’s much easier to connect with them. If you contribute to these spaces regularly, you’ll have an easier time keeping their attention and distributing your white paper.

Influencers and earned media

Public relations isn’t what it once was; influencer marketing has taken its place as the way to get noticed by the masses.

These days, influencers — people with large, engaged followings on social media and newsletters — are better equipped to amplify your content than traditional journalists. They play a growing role in shaping public opinion and even in setting business trends . Shares from an influencer can even help you land spots in major publications the way press releases used to.

Social media is the best place to find influencers in your vertical. When you investigate the best communities in which to promote your white paper, look for the content that people are already referencing and sharing. Eventually, you’ll start to get a picture of who’s putting out content that’s getting widespread traction. These are the people whose voices can amplify your brand.

Start by interacting with them. Begin a conversation, comment on their pieces with regularity, and give them feedback on their work. There are great tools, like Voila Norbert and ContactOut , to help you quickly track down email addresses.

After building enough rapport, try offering to collaborate on future white papers or other types of content. This process can take some time because your goal here is to build a relationship.

Eventually, you can ask an influencer to share your white paper. You might even consider quoting them in the white paper itself — anything that gives them an incentive to share your work is helpful.

Pro tip: Try to find an expert in your white paper related subject and interview them. It will add value to your white paper and you'll increase the chance that the expert shares your content with his or her extensive network.

Email marketing

The jungle of online content may thicken daily, but there are a few places you can still get readers’ attention. Email distribution has stood the test of time in this regard. It provides greater ROI than social , and it shows no signs of weakening.

If the purpose of your white paper is lead generation, email marketing will not be applicable. But for boosting sales, building trust, and establishing your brand as a trustworthy source of information, it's important not to neglect your existing contact base.

Although email may not have the appealing viral possibilities associated with social media, it does have other advantages. Namely, anyone who subscribed to your email list chose to be there. This means you can expect a higher level of engagement from this audience than those who come in via other channels. Capitalize on their loyalty and engagement by encouraging contacts to share your white paper with their networks and thus multiply your distribution efforts.

This was discussed in the previous section, but it's worth mentioning again here: another big advantage of Foleon's gating features is that when your existing contacts share your white paper with their contacts, those people will be confronted with a login form that will allow you to capture their info and expand your email list further.

Going beyond the basics

The techniques discussed above are essential items in your white paper distribution toolbox. However, they’re not the only ones. The best way to distribute your white paper depends largely on your target audience and the industry to which your content speaks.

Take some time to critically evaluate and research how knowledge is shared in your industry. Every industry will be slightly different. Reaching people in these places is the best guarantee of effective distribution.

8. Handling your white paper leads

As we've discussed, white papers can serve a variety of objectives. They’re commonly used for thought leadership and to disseminate important research, relevant to a specific industry.

When it comes to content marketing, however, the most common use for white papers over the last several years has become lead generation. In chapter 6, we discussed how to bring readers to your white paper and capture their information.

Once you've properly gated your white paper and set up a solid distribution strategy, it's time to think about how you'll handle the leads that come in. If not properly tracked and nurtured, leads will quickly become cold and won't lead to increased sales for your company. So how do you follow up with leads and maximize the opportunity you’ve created with your white paper?

How to track your white paper leads

The buyer’s journey outlines the steps a person goes through, from becoming aware of a problem they have, to learning about different solutions to that problem, to eventually purchasing a product or service (hopefully yours) that solves their problem.

White paper customer journey

To maximize the chances your new leads become paying customers, you must take the abstract concept of a buyer’s journey and map it to your specific content ecosystem. The actions your prospects take on your website can be indicative of what stage of the journey they're in.

For example, you may see someone read a blog post on your site, then come back a day later to get your white paper, and then finally sign up for a free trial or an email list. After that, they might decide to make a purchase. As patterns begin to emerge around the journey your customers take, you'll learn what actions on your part can help them to advance.

There are many tools available to help you analyze this journey for yourself. Google Analytics is probably the most widely used. It lets you track and compile data regarding user behavior on your website. You can define goals and generate reports that will show you steps users tend to take before completing those goals.

Targeting stages of the buyer’s journey

As it becomes more clear what actions visitors take before purchasing, you'll better understand where to use your white paper in the buyer's journey.

The question you should seek to answer is, where does it provide the most value to your potential customers? Do you see greater success when accessing your gated white paper is a prospect's first interaction with your company? Or is it perhaps more effective to use it as an offer once visitors have returned a second (or third) time to your site?

You can see that white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of an ecosystem. The related blog posts, landing pages, emails, social messages, and follow up sequences must all be carefully orchestrated and properly timed.

This process takes practice. It takes trial and error, and you must be a keen observer of trends . However, that effort will pay off.

...white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of a content ecosystem.

Following up with your leads

Depending on where in the buyer's journey you use your white paper, the way you'll want to follow up with leads will be different.

  • If, for example, your white paper targets the awareness stage and the leads you gather are relatively unfamiliar with your company, it might be smart to enroll them in an email sequence that highlights other pieces of content on your site such as blog posts that are relevant to the topic they showed interest in.
  • If your white paper is for people in the consideration stage, and leads are already familiar with what you have to offer, you might consider following up by sending them special offers or exclusive deals — again, closely related to the topic of interest.
  • If you're taking a highly targeted approach to distribution and using your white paper to generate hot leads that you think are already close to making a purchasing decision, the best way to follow up might be for a sales representative to reach out directly by phone.

This is what it means to nurture leads. By proactively keeping in touch with leads and offering them more relevant content, you maximize the likelihood of them becoming a customer.

9. Choosing the right white paper template

In 2021, Hubspot reported that 82% of marketers actively invest in content marketing. Thus, the need to create interactive content experiences that stand out amongst your competitors has never been more critical in your content marketing strategy as the volume of published white papers grows yearly. 

For this reason, the visual representation of your white paper has become increasingly crucial for retaining your audience's interest. In addition to the value your white paper content provides your audience, the single most significant factor at your disposal to maintain content engagement is how your white paper is visually presented. 

For whitepapers, the white paper template you opt for to present your content can significantly influence the success of your publication. The template is more than just a matter of aesthetics; it represents a strategic decision that affects user engagement, experience, and even how your brand is perceived.

Below are some factors you should carefully weigh when choosing your white paper template .

Target audience and content

The two biggest influences that will determine the selection of your white paper template are your target audience and the purpose of your content. 

For example, if you create an annual report that provides Financial Services information or a research piece exploring trends in Software & IT salaries, you’ll want to use a template that easily represents data-rich elements such as tables and eye-catching statistics. In contrast, visually-oriented templates containing hi-res imagery or videos are better suited for online catalogs or digital magazines . 

Think about your target audience's needs and how your template's layout can optimize your content's engagement. 

Creative control with flexible features 

You’ll get the most value out of your interactive white paper with a content creation platform that allows you to harness professionally designed white paper templates that are easy to use and fully customizable with a drag-and-drop interface. This will allow everyone in your team to create content quickly with no coding experience required. 

Custom templates set your white paper up for success by providing a starting foundation to help guide the layout and structure of your content. Custom features allow you to design your white paper any way you like by quickly changing blocks, fonts, and colors according to your brand guidelines with the added ability to add or remove sections. 

Mobile experience and device responsiveness

As of September 2023, over 55% of website traffic is from mobile devices. Therefore, it is essential that your white paper is responsive across all devices. 

Most content creation platforms have integrated tools that automatically adapt your content to different screen sizes. However, to ensure the best possible user experience, you should always test your white paper on multiple devices as part of your content creation process before publishing.

Finally, website speed is one of the most significant factors influencing user experience and playing a pivotal role in organic rankings. According to section.io , 32.3% of visitors bounce from a webpage if it takes more than 7 seconds to load. Ensuring that your content creation platform and hosting services are optimized for website performance is critical in maximizing your readership when choosing your white paper template.

10. Final thoughts

Be prepared to write a lot more content.

By this point, you should have all the ingredients you need to make your white paper a rousing success. However, you’ll notice by now the reality that your white paper fits into a larger ecosystem of marketing actions and content.

In today’s business world, producing quality content is one of the best ways to get your target market's attention. But not everyone will be ready for the same piece of content at the same time.

From white papers to blog posts, to podcasts, the type of content that will drive conversions for your business is something you'll discover over time. What’s certain is that one type won't satisfy all your audience's needs. Because of that, you should be prepared to fill the rest of your buyer’s journey with other appropriate content.

This means lots of writing. There’s no way around that. It means coming up with content ideas, creating them, distributing them, and measuring their success — then rinsing and repeating. After this primer, you should be fully equipped for success writing not only white papers but whatever content you choose along your journey.  

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How To Write a Whitepaper Document

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Table of Contents

A white paper is the perfect format to compile and share your business’s deep knowledge of the industry. It’s a useful product that can highlight your company’s expertise, and it’s also a valuable marketing tool. But how exactly do you transform your knowledge into a cohesive white paper?

White papers and business reports are similar, yet still distinct from one another. To write a successful white paper, it’s necessary to understand the difference and cover various key elements. This article will help you determine whether a white paper is for you, as well as how to prepare and produce one. 

What Is a White Paper?

A white paper is an authoritative document. It’s meant to fully inform the reader on a specific topic by combining expert knowledge and research into one document, which argues for a specific recommendation or solution. White papers allow the reader to either understand an issue, make a decision, or solve a problem.

White papers are focused on data, and they’re very text-heavy business documents. Because of their large amount of data and research, they are deep reads with a generally formal tone.

Use and Value

There are two main reasons that businesses write white papers: to market themselves and to record expertise. Usually, white papers are written for an audience outside of the business, so they’re a tool to attract readers to the company with their top-quality industry knowledge.

A white paper is not a sales pitch, however. It doesn’t bid for business; instead, it sells the company by highlighting valuable recommendations and internal expertise. 

Sales Pitch:  10 Ways XYZ Marketing Will Save Money in Your Advertising Budget

White Paper:  Advertising: Matching Marketing Platforms and Needs

How to Select a Topic for Your White Paper

If you want people to read your white paper, then you have to choose the right topic. There are three major factors to remember:

1. Audience

The audience should always be your first consideration. Every white paper needs to be written with your target reader in mind. The audience could be prospective buyers that are new to the field, or it could be long-time customers who have familiarity with the industry. 

Focus on the reader’s major questions or pain points. Look for topics within these that haven’t yet been fully investigated, or for which the available information would benefit from an update. 

2. Expertise

A white paper should highlight and match your company’s expertise, providing a complete investigation with both internal knowledge and external research. The content included and the way it’s put together is informed by your business’s own know-how. 

3. Problem-Based and Solution-Focused

White papers identify and address specific problems. The particular problem you choose for your white paper should be timely and relevant in your field. It may focus on issues like new trends, changing techniques, industry comparison, and common dilemmas. Your white paper should have a proposed recommendation or solution that answers the problem. This solution is formulated through a thorough examination of the problem and its possible solutions. 

White Paper Preparation

You always need to do comprehensive research on your selected topic before writing your white paper. Use information from internal documents, industry resources, and online references. Remember that white papers are data-focused, so they need to be supported by a significant amount of research.

Although there’s no exact rule regarding the number of required citations, you’ll need to cite any information that isn’t public knowledge and that you weren’t aware of before conducting your research. Still, you should be aware of the fact that your reader’s confidence in your white paper is likely to increase the more cited references you have. All resources must come from authoritative sites if you want to write a valuable document. Look for research materials that have credible and reliable sources. 

Read Other White Papers

If there are already white papers that cover your area or topic, read them so you can identify the knowledge gaps and opportunities to build on content that already exists. This also ensures that your white paper isn’t redundant and introduces new ideas.

Use a Mind Map

There are many ideas, sources, and content involved in preparing a white paper, and it can be a challenge to keep track of everything. A mind map is a helpful organizational tool that helps the writer catalog and connect all of the pieces into one visual overview. The free tool  FreeMind  is a great way to organise your content, and it’s simple to use. 

Related: Learn about better organising your ideas to serve your audience needs:  How thinking small can improve your writing

White Paper Format

There is a standard document format that white papers generally follow. The order of the content is similar to other business reports, but the major difference is that the conclusion is placed at the end of the white paper. Often, you’ll see business communications like proposals and technical reports put the main conclusion at the beginning of the document. This is a way to cater to readers’ desires and their preference to receive the information as quickly as possible.

The content and research in a white paper inform the reader and continue to increase their understanding of the issue throughout the entire document. In the final section, the reader receives the solution, which is supported by all of the evidence put forth in the document. 

The journey and preferences of the reader are different for white papers and business reports. The major findings follow suit. But regardless of the journey, the white paper must include informative headings and be easy to understand.

Choose an Accurate Title

A good title is crucial. The title should be enticing and indicate exactly what the reader will learn from reading the white paper. 

Bland Title Example:

White paper on Law 567.8 Referencing Environmental Impact Assessments

Enticing Title Example:

The Rules Are Changing: White Paper on the Environmental Impact Assessment Legislation Proposals in 2021

It’s not necessary to include the phrase “white paper” in the title. While some audiences are looking for that type of authoritative indicator, others may shy away from valuable content simply due to the use of the term. Always consider what your audience would prefer.

The abstract is the first portion of the white paper. It offers readers a short overview of the white paper’s main points and shows the reader whether the document is relevant for them. After reading the abstract, the reader should know whether they’re “in the right place.”

Problem Statement

Next, the problem statement identifies the issue that will be addressed within the white paper. The problem should be well-defined and contextualized so that it is understood by the reader. 

The background section of a white paper provides the background information that’s needed for the audience to understand the problem and the solution. Depending on your topic and audience, the content could be technical and detailed, or it could be broad and high-level. If you complete original research for the white paper, be sure to communicate the methods. 

The solution is the “ta-da” moment of the white paper, and it’s based on the preceding information. This solution is developed and argued through the use of the gathered evidence, as well as the author’s and company’s expertise. 

The conclusion of a white paper summarizes its major findings. Recommendations based on the solution are also presented here. 

Within the references section, you’ll need to collect and cite all of the sources that were used to develop the white paper. This adds validity to your document while also providing the reader with further research materials. Depending on the industry, you’ll need to follow either MLA or APA citation formatting rules. 

Final Thoughts

It’s not a simple task to write a white paper. But if you put in sufficient time and skill, you can produce a valuable document that shares your company’s knowledge and expertise. It can contribute to the overall education and progress in your industry. Finally, a good white paper can also increase your business opportunities. 

Want to sharpen your business writing skills? Discover our acclaimed online courses at syntaxtraining.com 

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout provides definitions and examples of the two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. It also provides guidelines for constructing an abstract and general tips for you to keep in mind when drafting. Finally, it includes a few examples of abstracts broken down into their component parts.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline. An abstract of a social science or scientific work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work. An abstract of a humanities work may contain the thesis, background, and conclusion of the larger work. An abstract is not a review, nor does it evaluate the work being abstracted. While it contains key words found in the larger work, the abstract is an original document rather than an excerpted passage.

Why write an abstract?

You may write an abstract for various reasons. The two most important are selection and indexing. Abstracts allow readers who may be interested in a longer work to quickly decide whether it is worth their time to read it. Also, many online databases use abstracts to index larger works. Therefore, abstracts should contain keywords and phrases that allow for easy searching.

Say you are beginning a research project on how Brazilian newspapers helped Brazil’s ultra-liberal president Luiz Ignácio da Silva wrest power from the traditional, conservative power base. A good first place to start your research is to search Dissertation Abstracts International for all dissertations that deal with the interaction between newspapers and politics. “Newspapers and politics” returned 569 hits. A more selective search of “newspapers and Brazil” returned 22 hits. That is still a fair number of dissertations. Titles can sometimes help winnow the field, but many titles are not very descriptive. For example, one dissertation is titled “Rhetoric and Riot in Rio de Janeiro.” It is unclear from the title what this dissertation has to do with newspapers in Brazil. One option would be to download or order the entire dissertation on the chance that it might speak specifically to the topic. A better option is to read the abstract. In this case, the abstract reveals the main focus of the dissertation:

This dissertation examines the role of newspaper editors in the political turmoil and strife that characterized late First Empire Rio de Janeiro (1827-1831). Newspaper editors and their journals helped change the political culture of late First Empire Rio de Janeiro by involving the people in the discussion of state. This change in political culture is apparent in Emperor Pedro I’s gradual loss of control over the mechanisms of power. As the newspapers became more numerous and powerful, the Emperor lost his legitimacy in the eyes of the people. To explore the role of the newspapers in the political events of the late First Empire, this dissertation analyzes all available newspapers published in Rio de Janeiro from 1827 to 1831. Newspapers and their editors were leading forces in the effort to remove power from the hands of the ruling elite and place it under the control of the people. In the process, newspapers helped change how politics operated in the constitutional monarchy of Brazil.

From this abstract you now know that although the dissertation has nothing to do with modern Brazilian politics, it does cover the role of newspapers in changing traditional mechanisms of power. After reading the abstract, you can make an informed judgment about whether the dissertation would be worthwhile to read.

Besides selection, the other main purpose of the abstract is for indexing. Most article databases in the online catalog of the library enable you to search abstracts. This allows for quick retrieval by users and limits the extraneous items recalled by a “full-text” search. However, for an abstract to be useful in an online retrieval system, it must incorporate the key terms that a potential researcher would use to search. For example, if you search Dissertation Abstracts International using the keywords “France” “revolution” and “politics,” the search engine would search through all the abstracts in the database that included those three words. Without an abstract, the search engine would be forced to search titles, which, as we have seen, may not be fruitful, or else search the full text. It’s likely that a lot more than 60 dissertations have been written with those three words somewhere in the body of the entire work. By incorporating keywords into the abstract, the author emphasizes the central topics of the work and gives prospective readers enough information to make an informed judgment about the applicability of the work.

When do people write abstracts?

  • when submitting articles to journals, especially online journals
  • when applying for research grants
  • when writing a book proposal
  • when completing the Ph.D. dissertation or M.A. thesis
  • when writing a proposal for a conference paper
  • when writing a proposal for a book chapter

Most often, the author of the entire work (or prospective work) writes the abstract. However, there are professional abstracting services that hire writers to draft abstracts of other people’s work. In a work with multiple authors, the first author usually writes the abstract. Undergraduates are sometimes asked to draft abstracts of books/articles for classmates who have not read the larger work.

Types of abstracts

There are two types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. They have different aims, so as a consequence they have different components and styles. There is also a third type called critical, but it is rarely used. If you want to find out more about writing a critique or a review of a work, see the UNC Writing Center handout on writing a literature review . If you are unsure which type of abstract you should write, ask your instructor (if the abstract is for a class) or read other abstracts in your field or in the journal where you are submitting your article.

Descriptive abstracts

A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract describes the work being abstracted. Some people consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short—100 words or less.

Informative abstracts

The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the writer presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the complete article/paper/book. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract (purpose, methods, scope) but also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is rarely more than 10% of the length of the entire work. In the case of a longer work, it may be much less.

Here are examples of a descriptive and an informative abstract of this handout on abstracts . Descriptive abstract:

The two most common abstract types—descriptive and informative—are described and examples of each are provided.

Informative abstract:

Abstracts present the essential elements of a longer work in a short and powerful statement. The purpose of an abstract is to provide prospective readers the opportunity to judge the relevance of the longer work to their projects. Abstracts also include the key terms found in the longer work and the purpose and methods of the research. Authors abstract various longer works, including book proposals, dissertations, and online journal articles. There are two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. A descriptive abstract briefly describes the longer work, while an informative abstract presents all the main arguments and important results. This handout provides examples of various types of abstracts and instructions on how to construct one.

Which type should I use?

Your best bet in this case is to ask your instructor or refer to the instructions provided by the publisher. You can also make a guess based on the length allowed; i.e., 100-120 words = descriptive; 250+ words = informative.

How do I write an abstract?

The format of your abstract will depend on the work being abstracted. An abstract of a scientific research paper will contain elements not found in an abstract of a literature article, and vice versa. However, all abstracts share several mandatory components, and there are also some optional parts that you can decide to include or not. When preparing to draft your abstract, keep the following key process elements in mind:

  • Reason for writing: What is the importance of the research? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
  • Problem: What problem does this work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
  • Methodology: An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the larger study. Other abstracts may describe the types of evidence used in the research.
  • Results: Again, an abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way.
  • Implications: What changes should be implemented as a result of the findings of the work? How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the topic?

(This list of elements is adapted with permission from Philip Koopman, “How to Write an Abstract.” )

All abstracts include:

  • A full citation of the source, preceding the abstract.
  • The most important information first.
  • The same type and style of language found in the original, including technical language.
  • Key words and phrases that quickly identify the content and focus of the work.
  • Clear, concise, and powerful language.

Abstracts may include:

  • The thesis of the work, usually in the first sentence.
  • Background information that places the work in the larger body of literature.
  • The same chronological structure as the original work.

How not to write an abstract:

  • Do not refer extensively to other works.
  • Do not add information not contained in the original work.
  • Do not define terms.

If you are abstracting your own writing

When abstracting your own work, it may be difficult to condense a piece of writing that you have agonized over for weeks (or months, or even years) into a 250-word statement. There are some tricks that you could use to make it easier, however.

Reverse outlining:

This technique is commonly used when you are having trouble organizing your own writing. The process involves writing down the main idea of each paragraph on a separate piece of paper– see our short video . For the purposes of writing an abstract, try grouping the main ideas of each section of the paper into a single sentence. Practice grouping ideas using webbing or color coding .

For a scientific paper, you may have sections titled Purpose, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each one of these sections will be longer than one paragraph, but each is grouped around a central idea. Use reverse outlining to discover the central idea in each section and then distill these ideas into one statement.

Cut and paste:

To create a first draft of an abstract of your own work, you can read through the entire paper and cut and paste sentences that capture key passages. This technique is useful for social science research with findings that cannot be encapsulated by neat numbers or concrete results. A well-written humanities draft will have a clear and direct thesis statement and informative topic sentences for paragraphs or sections. Isolate these sentences in a separate document and work on revising them into a unified paragraph.

If you are abstracting someone else’s writing

When abstracting something you have not written, you cannot summarize key ideas just by cutting and pasting. Instead, you must determine what a prospective reader would want to know about the work. There are a few techniques that will help you in this process:

Identify key terms:

Search through the entire document for key terms that identify the purpose, scope, and methods of the work. Pay close attention to the Introduction (or Purpose) and the Conclusion (or Discussion). These sections should contain all the main ideas and key terms in the paper. When writing the abstract, be sure to incorporate the key terms.

Highlight key phrases and sentences:

Instead of cutting and pasting the actual words, try highlighting sentences or phrases that appear to be central to the work. Then, in a separate document, rewrite the sentences and phrases in your own words.

Don’t look back:

After reading the entire work, put it aside and write a paragraph about the work without referring to it. In the first draft, you may not remember all the key terms or the results, but you will remember what the main point of the work was. Remember not to include any information you did not get from the work being abstracted.

Revise, revise, revise

No matter what type of abstract you are writing, or whether you are abstracting your own work or someone else’s, the most important step in writing an abstract is to revise early and often. When revising, delete all extraneous words and incorporate meaningful and powerful words. The idea is to be as clear and complete as possible in the shortest possible amount of space. The Word Count feature of Microsoft Word can help you keep track of how long your abstract is and help you hit your target length.

Example 1: Humanities abstract

Kenneth Tait Andrews, “‘Freedom is a constant struggle’: The dynamics and consequences of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1984” Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997 DAI-A 59/02, p. 620, Aug 1998

This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so. The time period studied includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies. Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports. This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.

Now let’s break down this abstract into its component parts to see how the author has distilled his entire dissertation into a ~200 word abstract.

What the dissertation does This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so.

How the dissertation does it The time period studied in this dissertation includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies.

What materials are used Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports.

Conclusion This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to movement demands and the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.

Keywords social movements Civil Rights Movement Mississippi voting rights desegregation

Example 2: Science Abstract

Luis Lehner, “Gravitational radiation from black hole spacetimes” Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh, 1998 DAI-B 59/06, p. 2797, Dec 1998

The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search for and analysis of detected signals. The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm. This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.

This science abstract covers much of the same ground as the humanities one, but it asks slightly different questions.

Why do this study The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search and analysis of the detected signals.

What the study does The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm.

Results This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.

Keywords gravitational radiation (GR) spacetimes black holes

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2009. Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.

Koopman, Philip. 1997. “How to Write an Abstract.” Carnegie Mellon University. October 1997. http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html .

Lancaster, F.W. 2003. Indexing And Abstracting in Theory and Practice , 3rd ed. London: Facet Publishing.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Write a White Paper (With Help From AI)

How to Write a White Paper (With Help From AI)

Table of contents

abstract white paper

Meredith Sell

The white paper might be the most labor-intensive weapon in a content marketer’s arsenal — but there’s a reason businesses rely on these heavily researched documents to slyly win the trust of potential customers.

Usually available as downloadable PDFs, white papers are chock-full of reliable information. The best ones are written in a way that maintains your interest and interprets the facts in a clear, authoritative manner. No eyes glazing over as the text drones on and on, and no tacky sales pitch at the end that makes you doubt if the white paper is trustworthy. 

abstract white paper

‍ At first, white papers can seem intimidating to write. All that information, the authoritative, branded language, the crisp design. It’s enough to spark imposter syndrome in even an experienced writer. But like all written content, the white paper writing process can be broken down into a series of manageable steps.

Before we get there, though, let’s make sure we understand exactly why white papers are so valuable to businesses.

abstract white paper

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What is a white paper — and why do businesses like them so much?

The simplest definition of “white paper”: A brief, but detailed, document explaining the ins and outs of a particular topic, problem, or solution pertaining to an organization’s work, but written for people outside of that organization.

A white paper is more in-depth and authoritative than a blog. It’s generally not focused on marketing a particular product or service (though such white papers exist), but rather describes the factual context that may create a need for a product or service.

White papers serve businesses in three typical ways:

  • White papers build brand recognition and credibility. The fact that white papers are not explicitly sales or marketing documents makes them great tools for both sales and marketing. Because the best white papers lack a sales pitch and focus on verifiable facts, they engender trust among readers. They present the company as an authority that readers can turn to for reliable information.
  • White papers help companies obtain lead contacts. Many white papers can only be accessed after submitting a landing page form that collects an email address — and in some cases, information like company, role, and location. Because white papers often provide information that’s of interest to people who are actively looking for a product or solution (and may have decision-making power in their organizations), the white paper audience is often further down the “marketing funnel” than, say, a casual visitor to the company blog. This makes their email contact and other information especially valuable in building a list of potential leads.
  • ‍ White papers can be used to share independent research findings. Did your organization conduct its own survey or research study? You’ll likely be publishing findings in a series of blog posts, but a white paper is a great way to collect all of those findings in one place, add the necessary narrative and context, and publish your research in a format that’s more respectable, whether to your customer audience or journalists and researchers writing about your industry.

Screenshot of Adobe white paper landing page

These three uses are the main reasons that white papers are so beneficial to businesses. They support your marketing and sales goals by showing your audience that your business knows its industry inside-out.

3 types of white papers

White papers come in a variety of forms and lengths, but most fall into one of these three categories:

1. Problem/solution

The most common kind of white paper, this type takes a reportorial approach to dig into a particular problem or paint point. It provides relevant context, facts and figures, and then explains potential solutions (often including a natural tie-in to the company product). Some white papers will focus more heavily on the problem, while others go into detail on various solutions and how they compare to each other. 

2. In-depth report / research findings

This type of white paper reports on a particular topic of interest to the audience and relevant to the company’s products or services. Some share independent research conducted by the organization. Others simply compile existing facts and figures from trustworthy sources for a comprehensive, three-dimensional understanding of the issue in question.

abstract white paper

3. Guide to product or service

This type of white paper pulls back the curtain on a company’s offerings — but cuts out the marketing-speak. The paper serves as a technical guide written in an objective tone to make clear what the product/service does, how it works, and what it offers to customers. No cutesy marketing copy trying to win customers’ hearts. Just the cold, hard facts.

How to write a white paper

Time to tackle writing your own white paper. You’ve probably figured out that you need to do a bunch of research — and that’s right. But don’t start there. Instead:

1. Identify your audience and topic.

Who are you trying to reach with your white paper? Where do your audience’s interests and/or pain points overlap with your company’s industry, product, or services?

Do some brainstorming to answer these questions, as well as the following:

  • What would my target audience want to learn more about?
  • What is my target audience googling about our industry?
  • How can my white paper answer their questions or address their concerns?

Try on your audience’s shoes (and thinking cap) and look at things from their perspective. Create a list of topics — and angles — that would be interesting to them. Then focus on the one(s) your business is most equipped to cover.

2. Conduct research (with the help of AI).

Now do your research. Scour existing research studies, reports, official documents. Interview subject matter experts. If you have the resources, conduct your own studies/surveys. Answer the questions your audience is asking. 

White papers can take a bit of time to research, so if you need to speed up the process, enlist Wordtune Read to help you skim documents for relevant information.

abstract white paper

3. Outline and write your white paper in sections.

White papers are often organized like scholarly articles: 

  • Abstract/Summary
  • Introduction
  • Background information/context
  • Main body (with visuals/charts/graphs and a written analysis)

The abstract helps readers figure out quickly if this paper is useful to them or not, while the rest provides substantial information for those who want a deeper understanding.

To outline your white paper, I recommend focusing on your intro, background, main body, and conclusion sections first. Write your abstract or summary after those pieces are complete, once you know exactly what your white paper’s main takeaways are.

Here’s what to think about for each of those sections:

Introduction – engage

How do you engage the reader's attention? What is an interesting insight or discovery from your research that is central to the focus of the white paper? Use the intro to both hook your readers and give them a preview of what’s to come in the rest of the white paper.

Background information/context – Set the scene

What does your reader absolutely need to know about the topic before you dig into the main content? Use this section to set your readers in a particular time and place with regards to your topic. Give them a view of the literal or figurative landscape.

Main body – explain (and keep things interesting)

This is the bulk of your white paper. Here you’ll dive deep into the relevant details of your topic and explain things to your audience. 

Whatever type of white paper you’re writing, you’ll want to organize the information in a logical way. To do this, look for connections between different subtopics or ways to break up the main body into different sections. For example, for problem/solution white papers, you’ll generally have a section that goes in-depth on the problem and another that similarly focuses on solutions. 

‍ Find a hole in your research while writing this section? Wordtune Spices can help you fill in those gaps. Simply highlight your text, hit the spices button, and choose one of the “fact” prompts from the dropdown.

abstract white paper

As you write, look for opportunities to add visuals, like charts or graphs that map out reliable data or diagrams that illustrate concepts. This will help your design team later on make the white paper look like more than giant blocks of text.

abstract white paper

Conclusion – send-off!

What’s the main takeaway, or takeaways, of your white paper? Reiterate it here using fresh wording ( Wordtune Editor can help you say it a new way!) and send your readers off with their newly gained knowledge. 

Depending on the length of your white paper, your conclusion could be a single meaty paragraph or a full page of final words and insights. As with all content, though, make sure it’s not empty fluff. Your readers’ time is valuable.

Abstract/summary – sum it all up

Once the main content of your white paper is fully written, your next step is to write a meaningful paragraph that sums up the main contents of your paper. This is your abstract or summary, and it’s essentially your white paper at a glance . You’ll want to mention some of the background context, as well as the questions your paper answers and its main takeaways here, for a quick, bird’s-eye view of the paper.

‍ Not sure where to start? Paste your main text into Wordtune Read and use the summarized content to start crafting your abstract.

abstract white paper

Appendix – the bonus info bucket

An appendix is not required, but it’s a useful thing to add if you’re trying to keep your white paper concise but still want your audience to be able to reference more detailed information. What information doesn’t quite fit in the paper, but would be beneficial to your readers and/or provides added context or support to your main points? Stick it here.

Get the most out of your white paper

A lot of work goes into producing a deeply-researched, well-written white paper — and your paper is probably brimming with useful information. Don’t let that information just sit in your white paper!

Take advantage of all the work you’ve already done by repurposing your white paper content into other forms:

  • Slides decks for webinars or conference presentations
  • YouTube videos (and short-form videos for TikTok and Instagram)
  • Eye-catching infographics
  • Social content

As a first step, you can use Wordtune Read to summarize your white paper and come up with bite-sized pieces of content to be tailored for different platforms. You can also pull out individual subsections and use Wordtune Editor to rephrase paragraphs in less formal language so it better fits your company’s brand voice for different collateral.

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A white paper is only the beginning! Put your insights and discoveries to work in all the different forms of content marketing — and use those efforts to drive traffic to your company website and the white paper itself. Before long, you’ll have a multiplying list of leads and your company will enjoy its reputation as a reliable, trustworthy source.

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How To Write an Abstract for Any Subject and Publication (With Examples)

How To Write an Abstract for Any Subject and Publication (With Examples)

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APA Abstract (2020) | Formatting, Length, and Keywords

Published on November 6, 2020 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on January 17, 2024.

An APA abstract is a comprehensive summary of your paper in which you briefly address the research problem , hypotheses , methods , results , and implications of your research. It’s placed on a separate page right after the title page and is usually no longer than 250 words.

Most professional papers that are submitted for publication require an abstract. Student papers typically don’t need an abstract, unless instructed otherwise.

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Table of contents

How to format the abstract, how to write an apa abstract, which keywords to use, frequently asked questions, apa abstract example.

APA abstract (7th edition)

Formatting instructions

Follow these five steps to format your abstract in APA Style:

  • Insert a running head (for a professional paper—not needed for a student paper) and page number.
  • Set page margins to 1 inch (2.54 cm).
  • Write “Abstract” (bold and centered) at the top of the page.
  • Do not indent the first line.
  • Double-space the text.
  • Use a legible font like Times New Roman (12 pt.).
  • Limit the length to 250 words.
  • Indent the first line 0.5 inches.
  • Write the label “Keywords:” (italicized).
  • Write keywords in lowercase letters.
  • Separate keywords with commas.
  • Do not use a period after the keywords.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

The abstract is a self-contained piece of text that informs the reader what your research is about. It’s best to write the abstract after you’re finished with the rest of your paper.

The questions below may help structure your abstract. Try answering them in one to three sentences each.

  • What is the problem? Outline the objective, research questions , and/or hypotheses .
  • What has been done? Explain your research methods .
  • What did you discover? Summarize the key findings and conclusions .
  • What do the findings mean? Summarize the discussion and recommendations .

Check out our guide on how to write an abstract for more guidance and an annotated example.

Guide: writing an abstract

At the end of the abstract, you may include a few keywords that will be used for indexing if your paper is published on a database. Listing your keywords will help other researchers find your work.

Choosing relevant keywords is essential. Try to identify keywords that address your topic, method, or population. APA recommends including three to five keywords.

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.

An APA abstract is around 150–250 words long. However, always check your target journal’s guidelines and don’t exceed the specified word count.

In an APA Style paper , the abstract is placed on a separate page after the title page (page 2).

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

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If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Streefkerk, R. (2024, January 17). APA Abstract (2020) | Formatting, Length, and Keywords. Scribbr. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/apa-abstract/

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White Paper Structure White papers generally have the following sections: Title — You'll want an attention-grabbing title that clearly communicate the problem you are solving and is appropriate for your target audience. Even for Product Knowledge white papers, it's not a good idea to include the product name in the title. Your title should be benefit, not feature , oriented.

The abstract or executive summary — You may be tempted to put your conclusion at the end, but a white paper needs to grab the reader immediately. Include direct, pithy statements of your position to engage the reader. Although this section provides a short summary of what the paper is about, you need to provide enough detail to satisfy a busy executive while encouraging the reader to continue on to the meat of the paper..

Introduction — Define the issue and provide background discussion while building credibility . Find common ground with your audience and hook them in.

Problem Definition — Don't start selling yet. Thoroughly and completely identify the business problem your technology solves. This section should be entirely from the perspective of the target audience.   High-Level Solution — Describe relevant technologies at a high level, including any competing technologies (which you will rebut later). Support your arguments with tables, charts, and graphics. Quote industry experts as needed to bolster your positions. You are educating your target audience on the current state of the art, as well as where your solution fits.

Solution Details — Having thoroughly explained the problem and the general approach to solving it, it is finally time to describe your solution in more detail. You can start selling know, but avoid grandiose claims ; the soft approach works better in white papers. Be sure to show how your solution is vastly superior to the competition. Remember your audience and use appropriate language and level of detail. This is the heart of your white paper and you'll probably want to use case studies or customer testimonials to support your arguments.   Business benefits — This section is the soul of your white paper , where you need to grab the reader where he or she lives and provide plenty of assurances that your solution will work for them. Discuss return on investment (ROI), usability, adherence to standards, and speed of implementation. Show you understand your readers' pain and can relieve it. Customer quotes again may be helpful.   Summary — A quick summary emphasizes both the benefits of your solution as well as the risks to readers who decide not to use your product or service. Many readers may skip the entire document and read this section only, so write this section as if it were an entirely standalone document summarizing the main selling points about your solution. Conclude with the most important point that you want the reader to remember.

Call to action — You'd be surprised how many white papers either leave this most important section out or fumble it at the end. Emphatically tell readers what you want them to do and how to do it . We're not talking about simply dropping in a contact person's name and telephone number as well as Website, email, and snail mail addresses. We prefer white papers that end with offers — free trial version, free assessment, free gift certificate if you call today, that sort of thing. The White Paper Process Wondering what's involved in getting your white paper written and how to get started?

Find out more . . . Ready to get started?

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Abstract Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide With Tips & Examples

Sumalatha G

Table of Contents

step-by-step-guide-to-abstract-writing

Introduction

Abstracts of research papers have always played an essential role in describing your research concisely and clearly to researchers and editors of journals, enticing them to continue reading. However, with the widespread availability of scientific databases, the need to write a convincing abstract is more crucial now than during the time of paper-bound manuscripts.

Abstracts serve to "sell" your research and can be compared with your "executive outline" of a resume or, rather, a formal summary of the critical aspects of your work. Also, it can be the "gist" of your study. Since most educational research is done online, it's a sign that you have a shorter time for impressing your readers, and have more competition from other abstracts that are available to be read.

The APCI (Academic Publishing and Conferences International) articulates 12 issues or points considered during the final approval process for conferences & journals and emphasises the importance of writing an abstract that checks all these boxes (12 points). Since it's the only opportunity you have to captivate your readers, you must invest time and effort in creating an abstract that accurately reflects the critical points of your research.

With that in mind, let’s head over to understand and discover the core concept and guidelines to create a substantial abstract. Also, learn how to organise the ideas or plots into an effective abstract that will be awe-inspiring to the readers you want to reach.

What is Abstract? Definition and Overview

The word "Abstract' is derived from Latin abstractus meaning "drawn off." This etymological meaning also applies to art movements as well as music, like abstract expressionism. In this context, it refers to the revealing of the artist's intention.

Based on this, you can determine the meaning of an abstract: A condensed research summary. It must be self-contained and independent of the body of the research. However, it should outline the subject, the strategies used to study the problem, and the methods implemented to attain the outcomes. The specific elements of the study differ based on the area of study; however, together, it must be a succinct summary of the entire research paper.

Abstracts are typically written at the end of the paper, even though it serves as a prologue. In general, the abstract must be in a position to:

  • Describe the paper.
  • Identify the problem or the issue at hand.
  • Explain to the reader the research process, the results you came up with, and what conclusion you've reached using these results.
  • Include keywords to guide your strategy and the content.

Furthermore, the abstract you submit should not reflect upon any of  the following elements:

  • Examine, analyse or defend the paper or your opinion.
  • What you want to study, achieve or discover.
  • Be redundant or irrelevant.

After reading an abstract, your audience should understand the reason - what the research was about in the first place, what the study has revealed and how it can be utilised or can be used to benefit others. You can understand the importance of abstract by knowing the fact that the abstract is the most frequently read portion of any research paper. In simpler terms, it should contain all the main points of the research paper.

purpose-of-abstract-writing

What is the Purpose of an Abstract?

Abstracts are typically an essential requirement for research papers; however, it's not an obligation to preserve traditional reasons without any purpose. Abstracts allow readers to scan the text to determine whether it is relevant to their research or studies. The abstract allows other researchers to decide if your research paper can provide them with some additional information. A good abstract paves the interest of the audience to pore through your entire paper to find the content or context they're searching for.

Abstract writing is essential for indexing, as well. The Digital Repository of academic papers makes use of abstracts to index the entire content of academic research papers. Like meta descriptions in the regular Google outcomes, abstracts must include keywords that help researchers locate what they seek.

Types of Abstract

Informative and Descriptive are two kinds of abstracts often used in scientific writing.

A descriptive abstract gives readers an outline of the author's main points in their study. The reader can determine if they want to stick to the research work, based on their interest in the topic. An abstract that is descriptive is similar to the contents table of books, however, the format of an abstract depicts complete sentences encapsulated in one paragraph. It is unfortunate that the abstract can't be used as a substitute for reading a piece of writing because it's just an overview, which omits readers from getting an entire view. Also, it cannot be a way to fill in the gaps the reader may have after reading this kind of abstract since it does not contain crucial information needed to evaluate the article.

To conclude, a descriptive abstract is:

  • A simple summary of the task, just summarises the work, but some researchers think it is much more of an outline
  • Typically, the length is approximately 100 words. It is too short when compared to an informative abstract.
  • A brief explanation but doesn't provide the reader with the complete information they need;
  • An overview that omits conclusions and results

An informative abstract is a comprehensive outline of the research. There are times when people rely on the abstract as an information source. And the reason is why it is crucial to provide entire data of particular research. A well-written, informative abstract could be a good substitute for the remainder of the paper on its own.

A well-written abstract typically follows a particular style. The author begins by providing the identifying information, backed by citations and other identifiers of the papers. Then, the major elements are summarised to make the reader aware of the study. It is followed by the methodology and all-important findings from the study. The conclusion then presents study results and ends the abstract with a comprehensive summary.

In a nutshell, an informative abstract:

  • Has a length that can vary, based on the subject, but is not longer than 300 words.
  • Contains all the content-like methods and intentions
  • Offers evidence and possible recommendations.

Informative Abstracts are more frequent than descriptive abstracts because of their extensive content and linkage to the topic specifically. You should select different types of abstracts to papers based on their length: informative abstracts for extended and more complex abstracts and descriptive ones for simpler and shorter research papers.

What are the Characteristics of a Good Abstract?

  • A good abstract clearly defines the goals and purposes of the study.
  • It should clearly describe the research methodology with a primary focus on data gathering, processing, and subsequent analysis.
  • A good abstract should provide specific research findings.
  • It presents the principal conclusions of the systematic study.
  • It should be concise, clear, and relevant to the field of study.
  • A well-designed abstract should be unifying and coherent.
  • It is easy to grasp and free of technical jargon.
  • It is written impartially and objectively.

the-various-sections-of-abstract-writing

What are the various sections of an ideal Abstract?

By now, you must have gained some concrete idea of the essential elements that your abstract needs to convey . Accordingly, the information is broken down into six key sections of the abstract, which include:

An Introduction or Background

Research methodology, objectives and goals, limitations.

Let's go over them in detail.

The introduction, also known as background, is the most concise part of your abstract. Ideally, it comprises a couple of sentences. Some researchers only write one sentence to introduce their abstract. The idea behind this is to guide readers through the key factors that led to your study.

It's understandable that this information might seem difficult to explain in a couple of sentences. For example, think about the following two questions like the background of your study:

  • What is currently available about the subject with respect to the paper being discussed?
  • What isn't understood about this issue? (This is the subject of your research)

While writing the abstract’s introduction, make sure that it is not lengthy. Because if it crosses the word limit, it may eat up the words meant to be used for providing other key information.

Research methodology is where you describe the theories and techniques you used in your research. It is recommended that you describe what you have done and the method you used to get your thorough investigation results. Certainly, it is the second-longest paragraph in the abstract.

In the research methodology section, it is essential to mention the kind of research you conducted; for instance, qualitative research or quantitative research (this will guide your research methodology too) . If you've conducted quantitative research, your abstract should contain information like the sample size, data collection method, sampling techniques, and duration of the study. Likewise, your abstract should reflect observational data, opinions, questionnaires (especially the non-numerical data) if you work on qualitative research.

The research objectives and goals speak about what you intend to accomplish with your research. The majority of research projects focus on the long-term effects of a project, and the goals focus on the immediate, short-term outcomes of the research. It is possible to summarise both in just multiple sentences.

In stating your objectives and goals, you give readers a picture of the scope of the study, its depth and the direction your research ultimately follows. Your readers can evaluate the results of your research against the goals and stated objectives to determine if you have achieved the goal of your research.

In the end, your readers are more attracted by the results you've obtained through your study. Therefore, you must take the time to explain each relevant result and explain how they impact your research. The results section exists as the longest in your abstract, and nothing should diminish its reach or quality.

One of the most important things you should adhere to is to spell out details and figures on the results of your research.

Instead of making a vague assertion such as, "We noticed that response rates varied greatly between respondents with high incomes and those with low incomes", Try these: "The response rate was higher for high-income respondents than those with lower incomes (59 30 percent vs. 30 percent in both cases; P<0.01)."

You're likely to encounter certain obstacles during your research. It could have been during data collection or even during conducting the sample . Whatever the issue, it's essential to inform your readers about them and their effects on the research.

Research limitations offer an opportunity to suggest further and deep research. If, for instance, you were forced to change for convenient sampling and snowball samples because of difficulties in reaching well-suited research participants, then you should mention this reason when you write your research abstract. In addition, a lack of prior studies on the subject could hinder your research.

Your conclusion should include the same number of sentences to wrap the abstract as the introduction. The majority of researchers offer an idea of the consequences of their research in this case.

Your conclusion should include three essential components:

  • A significant take-home message.
  • Corresponding important findings.
  • The Interpretation.

Even though the conclusion of your abstract needs to be brief, it can have an enormous influence on the way that readers view your research. Therefore, make use of this section to reinforce the central message from your research. Be sure that your statements reflect the actual results and the methods you used to conduct your research.

examples-of-good-abstract-writing

Good Abstract Examples

Abstract example #1.

Children’s consumption behavior in response to food product placements in movies.

The abstract:

"Almost all research into the effects of brand placements on children has focused on the brand's attitudes or behavior intentions. Based on the significant differences between attitudes and behavioral intentions on one hand and actual behavior on the other hand, this study examines the impact of placements by brands on children's eating habits. Children aged 6-14 years old were shown an excerpt from the popular film Alvin and the Chipmunks and were shown places for the item Cheese Balls. Three different versions were developed with no placements, one with moderately frequent placements and the third with the highest frequency of placement. The results revealed that exposure to high-frequency places had a profound effect on snack consumption, however, there was no impact on consumer attitudes towards brands or products. The effects were not dependent on the age of the children. These findings are of major importance to researchers studying consumer behavior as well as nutrition experts as well as policy regulators."

Abstract Example #2

Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women’s body image concerns and mood. The abstract:

"The research conducted in this study investigated the effects of Facebook use on women's moods and body image if the effects are different from an internet-based fashion journal and if the appearance comparison tendencies moderate one or more of these effects. Participants who were female ( N = 112) were randomly allocated to spend 10 minutes exploring their Facebook account or a magazine's website or an appearance neutral control website prior to completing state assessments of body dissatisfaction, mood, and differences in appearance (weight-related and facial hair, face, and skin). Participants also completed a test of the tendency to compare appearances. The participants who used Facebook were reported to be more depressed than those who stayed on the control site. In addition, women who have the tendency to compare appearances reported more facial, hair and skin-related issues following Facebook exposure than when they were exposed to the control site. Due to its popularity it is imperative to conduct more research to understand the effect that Facebook affects the way people view themselves."

Abstract Example #3

The Relationship Between Cell Phone Use and Academic Performance in a Sample of U.S. College Students

"The cellphone is always present on campuses of colleges and is often utilised in situations in which learning takes place. The study examined the connection between the use of cell phones and the actual grades point average (GPA) after adjusting for predictors that are known to be a factor. In the end 536 students in the undergraduate program from 82 self-reported majors of an enormous, public institution were studied. Hierarchical analysis ( R 2 = .449) showed that use of mobile phones is significantly ( p < .001) and negative (b equal to -.164) connected to the actual college GPA, after taking into account factors such as demographics, self-efficacy in self-regulated learning, self-efficacy to improve academic performance, and the actual high school GPA that were all important predictors ( p < .05). Therefore, after adjusting for other known predictors increasing cell phone usage was associated with lower academic performance. While more research is required to determine the mechanisms behind these results, they suggest the need to educate teachers and students to the possible academic risks that are associated with high-frequency mobile phone usage."

quick-tips-on-writing-a-good-abstract

Quick tips on writing a good abstract

There exists a common dilemma among early age researchers whether to write the abstract at first or last? However, it's recommended to compose your abstract when you've completed the research since you'll have all the information to give to your readers. You can, however, write a draft at the beginning of your research and add in any gaps later.

If you find abstract writing a herculean task, here are the few tips to help you with it:

1. Always develop a framework to support your abstract

Before writing, ensure you create a clear outline for your abstract. Divide it into sections and draw the primary and supporting elements in each one. You can include keywords and a few sentences that convey the essence of your message.

2. Review Other Abstracts

Abstracts are among the most frequently used research documents, and thousands of them were written in the past. Therefore, prior to writing yours, take a look at some examples from other abstracts. There are plenty of examples of abstracts for dissertations in the dissertation and thesis databases.

3. Avoid Jargon To the Maximum

When you write your abstract, focus on simplicity over formality. You should  write in simple language, and avoid excessive filler words or ambiguous sentences. Keep in mind that your abstract must be readable to those who aren't acquainted with your subject.

4. Focus on Your Research

It's a given fact that the abstract you write should be about your research and the findings you've made. It is not the right time to mention secondary and primary data sources unless it's absolutely required.

Conclusion: How to Structure an Interesting Abstract?

Abstracts are a short outline of your essay. However, it's among the most important, if not the most important. The process of writing an abstract is not straightforward. A few early-age researchers tend to begin by writing it, thinking they are doing it to "tease" the next step (the document itself). However, it is better to treat it as a spoiler.

The simple, concise style of the abstract lends itself to a well-written and well-investigated study. If your research paper doesn't provide definitive results, or the goal of your research is questioned, so will the abstract. Thus, only write your abstract after witnessing your findings and put your findings in the context of a larger scenario.

The process of writing an abstract can be daunting, but with these guidelines, you will succeed. The most efficient method of writing an excellent abstract is to centre the primary points of your abstract, including the research question and goals methods, as well as key results.

Interested in learning more about dedicated research solutions? Go to the SciSpace product page to find out how our suite of products can help you simplify your research workflows so you can focus on advancing science.

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Critical Writing Program: Decision Making - Spring 2024: Researching the White Paper

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Research the White Paper

Researching the White Paper:

The process of researching and composing a white paper shares some similarities with the kind of research and writing one does for a high school or college research paper. What’s important for writers of white papers to grasp, however, is how much this genre differs from a research paper.  First, the author of a white paper already recognizes that there is a problem to be solved, a decision to be made, and the job of the author is to provide readers with substantive information to help them make some kind of decision--which may include a decision to do more research because major gaps remain. 

Thus, a white paper author would not “brainstorm” a topic. Instead, the white paper author would get busy figuring out how the problem is defined by those who are experiencing it as a problem. Typically that research begins in popular culture--social media, surveys, interviews, newspapers. Once the author has a handle on how the problem is being defined and experienced, its history and its impact, what people in the trenches believe might be the best or worst ways of addressing it, the author then will turn to academic scholarship as well as “grey” literature (more about that later).  Unlike a school research paper, the author does not set out to argue for or against a particular position, and then devote the majority of effort to finding sources to support the selected position.  Instead, the author sets out in good faith to do as much fact-finding as possible, and thus research is likely to present multiple, conflicting, and overlapping perspectives. When people research out of a genuine desire to understand and solve a problem, they listen to every source that may offer helpful information. They will thus have to do much more analysis, synthesis, and sorting of that information, which will often not fall neatly into a “pro” or “con” camp:  Solution A may, for example, solve one part of the problem but exacerbate another part of the problem. Solution C may sound like what everyone wants, but what if it’s built on a set of data that have been criticized by another reliable source?  And so it goes. 

For example, if you are trying to write a white paper on the opioid crisis, you may focus on the value of  providing free, sterilized needles--which do indeed reduce disease, and also provide an opportunity for the health care provider distributing them to offer addiction treatment to the user. However, the free needles are sometimes discarded on the ground, posing a danger to others; or they may be shared; or they may encourage more drug usage. All of those things can be true at once; a reader will want to know about all of these considerations in order to make an informed decision. That is the challenging job of the white paper author.     
 The research you do for your white paper will require that you identify a specific problem, seek popular culture sources to help define the problem, its history, its significance and impact for people affected by it.  You will then delve into academic and grey literature to learn about the way scholars and others with professional expertise answer these same questions. In this way, you will create creating a layered, complex portrait that provides readers with a substantive exploration useful for deliberating and decision-making. You will also likely need to find or create images, including tables, figures, illustrations or photographs, and you will document all of your sources. 

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The Difference Between White Paper Abstracts and Summaries

Updated: March 08, 2011

From my experience, an abstract is concentrated information gleaned from a white paper that is used on an external source.

Examples of an abstract would be:

  • A brief overview of white paper placed on a landing page
  • An online article, blog post, or third party reference describing what is in the white paper
  • An online document library with a brief description of the white paper and why you should download and read it

In each example (and several others) the abstract appears outside of the actual framework of the white paper document.

In comparison, a summary is where concentrated information gleaned from a white paper that is used internally within the referenced white paper.

Examples of a white paper summary would be:

  • An executive summary at the beginning of a white paper
  • A concluding summary at the end of a white paper
  • The end of a case study summarizing key benefits gained from the implementation of the solution

In each example the summary appears inside of the actual framework of the white paper document.

The problem occurs when the two terms are used in the place of each other. When the label "abstract" is used instead of a "summary" and vice-versa, reader confusion is sure to follow.

Now I'm sure the world isn't going to end if you happen to label your executive summary as an abstract, but if you produce several white papers as part of your business marketing plan, consistency becomes an important element that retains reader interest and keeps them coming back for more.

With that said, most business readers are used to the term "summary" to reference a concentrated information section of a white paper.

So why swim against the tide and risk greater reader confusion?

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Navigating Capability-Based Planning: The Benefits, Challenges, and Implementation Essentials

February 8, 2024 • white paper, by anandi hira and william nichols.

Capability-Based Planning (CBP) defines a framework that has an all-encompassing view of existing abilities and future needs for strategically deciding what is needed and how to effectively achieve it. Both business and government acquisition domains use CBP for financial success or to design a well-balanced defense system. The definitions understandably vary across these domains. This paper endeavors to consolidate these definitions to provide a comprehensive view of CBP, its potential, and practical implementation of its principles.

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COMMENTS

  1. Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

    An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes: an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;

  2. How to Write and Format a White Paper: The Definitive Guide

    1. Title (accurate but enticing) 2. Abstract (including the Problem Statement) 3. Background (may be detailed and technical or broad and high-level, depending on audience) 4. Solution (the 'ta-da' moment of the white paper) 5. Conclusion (the summary of findings) 6. References (using correct industry format) What is a white paper?

  3. White Paper: Purpose and Audience

    The Purpose of a White Paper. Typically, the purpose of a white paper is to advocate that a certain position is the best way to go or that a certain solution is best for a particular problem. When it is used for commercial purposes, it could influence the decision-making processes of current and prospective customers.

  4. Writing Policy Briefs and White Papers

    A white paper is a document used to inform readers on a particular topic/issue with the intention of using authoritative knowledge and research to argue for a specific solution. Standard format of a white paper Abstract - overview of main points Problem Statement - explicitly states the issue the paper will address

  5. How to Write an Abstract

    Step 1: Introduction Step 2: Methods Step 3: Results Step 4: Discussion Keywords Tips for writing an abstract Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about abstracts Abstract example Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed. Example: Humanities thesis abstract

  6. How to Write and Format a White Paper (With Examples)

    In the world of marketing, a white paper is a long-form piece of content. The term "white papers" originated in England as government-issued documents. One famous example is the , commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1922. Today, the term is most commonly applied to "deep dive" style publications.

  7. Writing a White Paper

    A white paper is a deeply researched report on a specific topic that presents a solution to a problem within an industry. It is usually written by a company to illustrate their knowledge and expertise through facts and evidence; however, it should not advertise or endorse a company's product. Why write a white paper?

  8. How To Write a Whitepaper Document

    1. Audience 2. Expertise 3. Problem-Based and Solution-Focused White Paper Preparation Research Read Other White Papers Use a Mind Map White Paper Format Choose an Accurate Title Abstract Problem Statement Background Solution Conclusion References Final Thoughts

  9. How to Write a White Paper in 10 Steps (+ Tips & Templates)

    Feb 09, 2023 For businesses, a proven way to improve authority and establish thought leadership in your niche is to publish insightful and valuable content. One of the best ways to do that is with a white paper. White papers can help move the needle for your sales team.

  10. The Writing Center

    Format - White papers focused on policy may range from 5 to 50 pages depending upon the complexity of the issue and the detail required. (A marketing white paper, on the other hand, may be just one page long.) While white papers can include elaborate visual elements, many government white papers are produced using text only.

  11. How To Write and Format a White Paper in 9 Steps (Plus Tips)

    Abstract: An abstract is a short snippet of what your white paper discusses. Problem statement: The problem statement is where you state the problem that you want to address in your white paper. Background: The background section of your white paper depicts information that explains any background information related to the problem.

  12. Abstracts

    An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline. An abstract of a social science or scientific work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work.

  13. How to Write a White Paper (With Help From AI)

    The simplest definition of "white paper": A brief, but detailed, document explaining the ins and outs of a particular topic, problem, or solution pertaining to an organization's work, but written for people outside of that organization. A white paper is more in-depth and authoritative than a blog.

  14. The Writing Center

    An abstract is a 150- to 250-word paragraph that provides readers with a quick overview of your essay or report and its organization. It should express your thesis (or central idea) and your key points; it should also suggest any implications or applications of the research you discuss in the paper.

  15. A Guide to White Papers: Definition, Format and Titles

    A white paper, also known as a whitepaper, is an informative document that presents research and expert knowledge about a particular recommendation or solution. These documents ‌help the reader in making a decision, solving a problem or understanding an issue. White papers are text-heavy and typically contain at least 2,500 words.

  16. How to Write an Abstract for Your Paper

    An abstract is a self-contained summary of a larger work, such as research and scientific papers or general academic papers. Usually situated at the beginning of such works, the abstract is meant to "preview" the bigger document. This helps readers and other researchers find what they're looking for and understand the magnitude of what's discussed.

  17. APA Abstract (2020)

    An APA abstract is a comprehensive summary of your paper in which you briefly address the research problem, hypotheses, methods, results, and implications of your research. It's placed on a separate page right after the title page and is usually no longer than 250 words.

  18. How to Write a Research Paper Abstract in 2024: Guide With Examples

    JAN 2, 2024 How to Write a Research Paper Abstract in 2024: Guide With Examples Share by Imed Bouchrika, Phd Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist Jalalian (2012) states that writing an abstract is a vital part of any academic paper. Though it prefaces the whole research, it is the last section of an academic paper that researchers write last.

  19. White Paper Structure -- The Elements of a Great White Paper

    The abstract or executive summary — You may be tempted to put your conclusion at the end, but a white paper needs to grab the reader immediately. Include direct, pithy statements of your position to engage the reader.

  20. 10 Amazing WhitePaper Examples (& Useful Tips To Stand Out)

    Abstract; A white paper's abstract gives the reader an overview of what they would get from the document. This should spark their curiosity and compel them to read more. Problem statement; The white paper's problem statement identifies the subject matter. To ensure that the reader understands the problem, it must be explained in the white paper ...

  21. Abstract Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide With Tips & Examples

    A well-written, informative abstract could be a good substitute for the remainder of the paper on its own. A well-written abstract typically follows a particular style. The author begins by providing the identifying information, backed by citations and other identifiers of the papers. Then, the major elements are summarised to make the reader ...

  22. Researching the White Paper

    Instead, the white paper author would get busy figuring out how the problem is defined by those who are experiencing it as a problem. Typically that research begins in popular culture--social media, surveys, interviews, newspapers. Once the author has a handle on how the problem is being defined and experienced, its history and its impact, what ...

  23. The Difference Between White Paper Abstracts and Summaries

    From my experience, an abstract is concentrated information gleaned from a white paper that is used on an external source. Examples of an abstract would be: A brief overview of white paper placed on a landing page An online article, blog post, or third party reference describing what is in the white paper

  24. How To Write an Abstract in 7 Steps (With an Example)

    1. Write your paper Since the abstract is a summary of a research paper, the first step is to write your paper. Even if you know what you will be including in your paper, it's always best to save your abstract for the end so you can accurately summarize the findings you describe in the paper. 2. Review the requirements

  25. Navigating Capability-Based Planning: The Benefits, Challenges, and

    February 8, 2024 • White Paper. By Anandi Hira and William Nichols. ... Abstract. Capability-Based Planning (CBP) defines a framework that has an all-encompassing view of existing abilities and future needs for strategically deciding what is needed and how to effectively achieve it. Both business and government acquisition domains use CBP for ...

  26. Response to the UK's March 2023 White Paper "A pro-innovation approach

    Abstract. Here, we provide a response to the UK Government's March 2023 white paper "A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation". We challenge the white paper's claims that it puts forward a balanced, pragmatic, proportionate, contextualised, and agile model that leverages the capabilities and skills of existing regulators to foster AI innovation.