Someone who recently requested a copy of my “How to Write a White Paper: A White Paper on White Papers,” asked: “What is the difference between a white paper and a report?”
I will attempt answer this question by first looking at what reports and white papers share in common. They both:
- Tend to be longer forms or writing
- Are often heavy on text and contain few graphics
- Might include examples or applications
Before I mention the differences, first let me explain a few things.
There are lots of different types of reports, including:
- Analyst reports
- Industry reports
- Analytical reports
- Book reports (the oddball of this list)
Some reports examine data from studies while others take a critical look at a specific topic. Reports usually tend to be highly informative and may include opinions and projections. Reports are generally written by member organizations, like IEEE, Gartner Group or the Society for Technical Communication.
So how do white papers differ from reports?
- Include both informative AND persuasive information
- Usually are written by a company or individual for promotional purposes
- Often are used directly in a sales capacity (as a lead generator or leave-behind piece)
- Argue a very specific position
- Discuss processes in detail
- Often examine benefits of a solution
In summary: Reports simply report the facts, where white papers sell a particular point of view. A report is much closer to an article. It includes information and facts about topics and usually does not attempt to sell any one idea or concept. White papers add the persuasive element by pointing readers down a very specific path and have a clear motive in mind.
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