3 min read
min read
August 22, 2023

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

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

Table of contents

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. 

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
Adobe White Paper

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.

Screenshot of The Aspen Institute’s publication library. The organization shares a lot of original research in white papers.

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.
You can upload PDFs or paste text into Wordtune Read for quick, succinct summaries of lengthy documents.

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)
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix

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.

Wordtune Spices makes it easy to fill simple gaps in your research.

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.

This page from a white paper by GoGuardian uses a pull quote, bullets, bold text, and an image to stay visually engaging.

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.

Wordtune Read pulled out main points from GoGuardian’s white paper, which could then be used to craft a one-paragraph summary — or even promotional content for social or other platforms.

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
  • Blog posts

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.

Wordtune Editor offers recommendations for both casual and formal tones.

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.

Share This Article:

Looking for
Fresh content?

Thank you!
Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.