Writing Assignment 5: White Paper for an External Audience

Summary of the Assignment:

  • Task:  In this paper, you will write a document that provides information that an external audience can use to inform a decision. 

We have read various white papers in the class this semester.  White papers can be any one of the following types: o technical papers o business benefit papers o advocacy papers

  • hybrid technical/business papers

The CANRIGHT document that is provided in the class in LEO describes all four of these types of white papers.  

  • Length:  1300-1600 words
  • Graphics: at least three graphics, one of which has to be original
  • Format in Citing and Listing Sources:  APA
  • Number and Sources:  at least five sources, at least one of which has to be obtained through OneSearch

Brief Description of the White Paper:

In preparing for this assignment, you will want to review the following video:

“White Papers: An Introduction to the Genre and Its Expectations,” from the Purdue OWL You may take any of the following approaches:

  • a general white paper to an external audience – written to individuals in a particular industry or field of study, but not an organization you are a part of.  The white paper could address a problem you are attempting to solve in the organization or to inform an external audience about a relevant trend.
  • a white paper promoting a new product or service to potential customers.  This is an example of a white paper to an external audience, but it features different rhetorical considerations than the typical white paper written to an external audience does.

Both options are discussed in the Purdue OWL video mentioned above.  

Please note: You will not be writing a white paper to your boss or to superiors in the company for which you work.  

That type of paper would be an internal white paper.  If you take WRTG 394, you can write that type of paper.  For WRTG 393, we ask for a white paper to an external audience.

Strategies to Consider for the White Paper:

Please follow these guidelines:            

  • have a focused topic.  Please see the sample white papers from previous students for examples of how previous topics have been developed for this paper.
  • write to a reasonably focused and identified audience  
  • A white paper to an external audience can have a fairly broad audience, but the paper should focus on a particular problem that the audience is experiencing.

For example, you could write a white paper on better ways of training employees to detect phishing scams.  The audience would be a broad range of managers and IT professionals. However, the problem they all share would be clear: Phishing emails have become a problem for cybersecurity in many companies.

You could write a white paper on better ways of teaching English grammar online to high school students.  The audience would be a broad range of English instructors and principals of high schools, perhaps parents of high school students as well.  However, the problem they all share would be clear: Current approaches to teaching grammar to high school students in an online format are not working as they should.

  • integrate thorough research
  • do not make a “hard sell” to the audience about what action it should take.  Your white paper is designed to inform an audience of a possible solution to a problem.  The Purdue OWL video mentions this principle.  This is one reason the video refers to the white paper as a backgrounder report.

How to Organize the White Paper:

Please include the following sections in your white paper:

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Previous Approaches
  • New Findings
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • In the Executive Summary, summarize your research and your purpose.  The executive summary should be a stand-alone document.  It should be written in such a way that a busy executive could read the executive summary and know exactly what the paper is about without reading the rest of the paper.
  • In the Introduction, you lay some groundwork for your readers for the details that will be introduced in the white paper. At a minimum, you need to define key terms in this section.  You might also share an anecdote or illustration to describe why this topic is important.
  • In the Previous Approaches section, you will describe the approaches or strategies that are currently used for the issue.  For example, if you are writing a white paper about a

new way to train employees on how to detect and ward off phishing scams, you would review what training procedures are being conducted now by most companies to help them detect and ward off phishing scams. You could show the challenges or problems that the current training features.  You might show that employees are still falling prey to phishing scams despite this training, or that employees find the training uninspiring, boring, and routine.

In this section of the white paper, your use of sources will be very important.  You should integrate research to show that the problems you have identified exist.  For example, in the situation described above, you would need sources to give evidence that employees find training ineffective.

  • In the New Findings section, you will describe a new approach to addressing the problem you have identified.  

For example, if you are writing a white paper about a new way to train employees on how to detect and ward off phishing scams, you would show why a new approach to training employees on phishing scams would be more effective than the current approaches.  Perhaps the current approaches are boring online tutorials, and you are proposing exciting onsite training sessions complete with scenarios, role-playing, and group work.  

You would want to integrate research to show that your new approaches might be superior. For example, you might cite a study that indicates that online tutorials are boring and that employees want more interaction. The more research, the more persuasive your argument will be. 

  • In the Conclusion section, you briefly review what the problem is, how the research shows that is is a problem, and what the potential new approach is.  
  • In the References, you will list your sources that you cited in the paper.  You will list them in APA format.  Please note that the lectures on white papers that you have viewed and examples of white papers you may have read may not have used APA format.  You will be using APA format in this assignment.

You are required to have at least five sources for your paper.  In addition, at least one of them is to have been acquired through UMGC Library OneSearch.

Length of the Paper:  

Your white paper should be 1300-1600 words in length.  Again, you are required to use at least five sources, with at least one of them being acquired through UMGC Library OneSearch.


Your white paper should incorporate at least three graphics. Graphics can include tables, charts, or graphs showing some research findings.  They can also be images that are relevant to the topic of the white paper.

At least one of the graphics must be original.  Original graphics can include photos taken by you or tables, charts, or graphs developed by you. 

For example, using the situation described previously, you could integrate the following:

  • a table that illustrates what percentage of companies use online tutorials to train their employees on phishing attacks
  • a graph that features how training on phishing has increased while successful phishing attacks have also increased, thus demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the training.  
  • an image of employees clicking routinely through an online tutorial on phishing.  

To see examples of graphics used in white papers, see the Purdue OWL video, “White Papers: An Introduction to the Genre and Its Expectations,” at the 3:27 mark, at the 5:29 mark, at the 6:58 mark, at the 7:01 mark, at the 7:11 mark, at the 7:43 mark, and at the 7:58 mark.  

Due Date:

Your instructor will notify you of the due date.  You will write a first draft, your instructor will comment on the first draft, and you will submit a second draft using the comments as your guide.

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