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What makes a 'White Paper'?

What makes a 'White Paper'?

What makes a 'White Paper'?

I just downloaded the 'White Paper' entitled 'Mishimoto Automotive'.
Disappointed is a word that springs to mind.
Surely there is more to the term 'White Paper' than is fulfilled by a sketchy, one-page advertisement.

Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity

RE: What makes a 'White Paper'?


white pa·per, noun
noun: White Paper; plural noun: White Papers; noun:

a government or other authoritative report giving information or proposals on an issue.
From Wikipedia:
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. The initial British term concerning a type of government-issued document has proliferated—taking a somewhat new meaning in business. In business, a white paper is closer to a form of marketing presentation, a tool meant to persuade customers and partners and promote a product or viewpoint. White papers may be considered grey literature.

Sometimes its possible to do all the right things and still get bad results

RE: What makes a 'White Paper'?

Ideally, a white paper conveys some useful technical information, but there's nothing that prevents someone from calling advertising pap a "white paper," not unlike trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear. If everyone were honest and forthright, half of the government would need to be laid off.

I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

RE: What makes a 'White Paper'?

One answer to your question would be that they bleach the hell out of the wood pulp before they make the paper stock. In the case of what you downloaded, maybe they should have bleached the hell out of it after printing. Then, at least you would have ended up with a sheet of white paper. Take a look at many of what used to be good engineering magazines, with some real engineering content, thought and writing; most of them have become filled with cheap advomercials, being passed off a serious technical writing and thought. It seems to be directed at inexperienced people who couldn’t engineer their way out of a paper bag which was open at both ends. Take a look at a good share of the internet, and you see a bunch of crap being written and regurgitated poorly, buy a bunch of dim-whits who want to claim to have been published, but have very slim claim to any real engineering knowledge and experience. You damn-well better read and vet this junk carefully because nobody else is. It’s the real ‘wild west’ in most of the publishing and writing world these days. They have to fill space, not particularly meaningfully, and have member or subscriber numbers to up the price for ad space, that’s all that has meaning to them. There is less and less intent to, or interest in, publishing real meaningful material. Most of it’s free and isn’t worth that.

RE: What makes a 'White Paper'?

I think I have not seen a useful white paper in 30 years. They have all been vague accounts of how pleased some customer was with some product; and please call the sales rep for help with your problem.

RE: What makes a 'White Paper'?



If it's on the internet it has to be true.
On a serious note, a real white paper is actually useful and provides valuable information on a particular subject. With the internet it doesn't even have to be presented on paper anymore. Given how easy it is to just post something on the internet you need to take EVERYTHING you read or see on the internet with a grain of salt, check the source of the information and get 3-4 opinions/sources to have any confidence that what you find is accurate and valuable.

There is no shortage of internet trolls out there with the sole intent of trying to make you believe something that isn't right.


RE: What makes a 'White Paper'?

A good technical white paper first defines a specific problem that exists, and then describes a solution to the problem based on solid data and analysis. The hard part with white papers is doing a good job describing the proposed solution in just a few pages.

A good technical white paper requires quite a bit of work. If the OP was disappointed with the quality of the white paper he downloaded for free, he should consider it was only worth what he paid for it.

RE: What makes a 'White Paper'?

It would seem that 'caveat emptor' remains good advice.
Thanks to tbuelna for the definition. It gives a standard to look for.

Thanks to all who contributed.

Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity

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