Tips on 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 creates affinity with the reader, strengthens your claims, and proves that your white paper is more than one vendor’s opinion.

Tips On White Paper Sources

Throughout your research, my advice is to think like a lawyer… and 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 big teeth and no interest in a win-win.

As you work, always picture the other side’s lawyer trying to poke holes in your argument.

If someone can ask, “Says who?” or “Oh yeah?” or “Prove it!” you’ve got a gap in your research that you better patch before it’s too late.

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.

That means digging up a mountain of evidence.

That means grilling subject matter experts and executives from the company sponsoring the white paper.

That takes reading past the first screen of Google search results to see what else may be there.

And that can mean hiking over to the nearest city or college library to consult the reference librarians.

That can mean pulling up tough-to find journal articles, or locating a relevant association to contact for an expert witness.

Finding sources for a white paper

You may think you can use any source under the sun in a white paper, but that’s not strictly true.

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.

Source Acceptable? Notes
Analysts Yes As long as they’re credible
Associations Yes As long as they’re credible and established
Blogs Barely Use only if you have no other sources
Books Yes Best to use classics in the field or titles published after 2000
Consultants Sometimes Make sure they’re impartial
Forums No No credibility, usually anonymous
Go-to experts Usually Make sure they’re impartial
Government reports Yes Usually have high authority
Industry reports Usually Make sure they’re factual
Magazines Yes Best published in the last five years
Newspapers Usually Stick to well-known papers, best published in the last two to three years
Professors Yes Usually have high authority
Sources inside the company Yes for background, No for quoting Good for background, but don’t quote them directly: they are clearly biased
Trade magazines Yes Best published in the last five years
Websites Not usually Be careful quoting from any website
White papers from other organizations Yes The more recognized the organization, the better
White papers from other vendors Sometimes The more recognized the vendor, the better; but do not send prospects to your competition
White papers from the same company No Not convincing, and could create a circular argument
Wikipedia No Wikipedia is a secondary source; use it to find primary sources

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

With dozens of tips and best practices for planning, producing, and promoting effective white papers, White Papers for Dummies is the most comprehensive guide to white papers every published.

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About Gordon Graham

Author of close to 300 white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, from tiny startups to 3M, Google and Verizon. Also wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50 5-star ratings on Amazon. And Gordon was recently named 2019 Copywriter of the Year by AWAI.

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