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Quick Tip: Case studies vs white papers

You can include a case study in a white paper.

But you can’t include a white paper in a case study. 

Remember the key differences between these formats:

  • A case study tells the story of one happy customer
  • A white paper describes a better way to solve an industry-wide problem

A case study usually runs 1,000 to 1,500 words, while a white paper runs three or four times that long.

So you can see the scope and coverage of each document is quite different.

How to use a case study in a white paper

The story of a happy customer can be an effective proof point in a white paper.


Here’s how to do that:

1. Boil down a case study to about 50 words for just the key results.

2. Tuck one or more of these mini-case studies into a white paper.

You may want to set these apart as sidebars.

< Here’s an example. See how this sums up the whole story in a few numbers?


To find out more about this technique, see my article “How to use a case study inside a white paper.”

Why you can’t use a white paper in a case study

For one thing, you can’t sum up a whole white paper in 50 words.

In so few words, you can barely even say what it covers. You can’t begin to build an argument.

And no one reading a 1- or 2-page case study wants to be referred to another 6- or 8-page document. That just doesn’t fit the flow of a story.

So in other words, you can use a story inside an essay.

But you can’t use an essay inside a story. Get it?


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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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