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Tips on white paper sources

When you search for white paper sources, any company can claim they’re the best.

But finding the evidence to prove that can be tough.

Doing research to turn up the right nuggets of proof gives your white paper more authority.

Strong evidence strengthens your claims and proves that your white paper is more than one vendor’s opinion.

Every persuasive white paper contains strong proof for any claims.

Think like a lawyer

Throughout your research, my advice is to think like a lawyer… but not some polite lawyer in a tailored suit in an air-conditioned office.

No, you have to think like a mad-dog, street-fighting mongrel with red eyes and sharp teeth and absolutely no interest in a win-win.

As you assemble your sources, always picture the other side’s lawyer trying to chew up your evidence and spit it out.

mean barking dog with red eyes

Building an open-and-shut case

When you think like a lawyer, you want to build a case so tight that no judge can question it and no jury can resist it.

You need an argument so tight it leaves the other side gasping for air.

And that means:

  • Digging up a mountain of evidence
  • Grilling subject matter experts from the white paper sponsor
  • Scrolling past the first screen of Google search results

That can mean getting out from behind your desk and hiking over to the nearest city or college library. There, you can consult a reference librarian to access tough-to-find journal articles or locate a relevant association to contact for an expert witness.

(Finished your white paper? Now send your client your list of sources.)

letters SOURCE with mouse to show white paper sources

Where to find sources for a white paper

You may think you can use any source under the sun in any white paper.

But some sources are far better than others: more credible, more authoritative, and more persuasive.

The following table lists many sources you could draw on for a white paper—from analysts to Wikipedia—along with some brief notes on each source.


AnalystsYesAs long as they're credible
AssociationsYesAs long as they’re credible and established
BlogsSometimesAs long as they're credible
BooksYesBest to use classics in the field or titles published after 2000
ConsultantsSometimesMake sure they’re impartial
ForumsNoNo credibility, usually anonymous
Go-to experts UsuallyMake sure they’re impartial
Government reportsYesUsually have authority
Industry reportsUsuallyMake sure they’re factual
MagazinesYesBest published in the last five years
NewspapersSometimesStick to well-known papers, best published in the last two to three years
ProfessorsYesUsually have authority
Sources inside the companyYes for research, No for quotesGood for background, but don’t quote them directly: they are clearly biased
Trade magazinesYesBest published in the last five years
WebsitesSometimesMake sure they're credible
White papers from other organizationsYesThe more recognized the source, the better
White papers from other vendorsSometimes The more recognized the vendor, the better; but do not send prospects to your competition
White papers from the same companyNoNot convincing, and could create a circular argument
WikipediaNoWikipedia is a secondary source; use it to find primary sources


Of course, this table is only a guideline. Make sure to evaluate every source carefully using my TARP method.

With experience, you will know when you come across a piece of solid evidence to help make your case.


Book cover for White Papers for Dummies

This article is an excerpt from White Papers for Dummies by Gordon Graham.

With dozens of tips on planning, producing, and promoting effective white papers, this is the most comprehensive guide to this topic ever published.

Click the cover to order White Papers For Dummies today!

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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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  1. […] similar to how professors (and That White Paper Guy!) frown on papers that cite Wikipedia as a source. It’s a highly useful online reference, but it […]

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