White Paper, Working Paper, Full Report

A white paper (working paper) or full report is a technical paper that combines expert knowledge and research into a document that argues for a specific solution or recommendation. The white paper allows the reader to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. Papers may include preliminary results of research that have yet to be tailored for publication in a professional journal. It provides an opportunity to publish results quickly, especially when it is a topic currently receiving significant attention in the field. Full reports provide an opportunity to describe the study's method in detail, so others may replicate the research. It also provides significant background to the topic as well as a strong justification for study.

General Rules

  • Lead with a topic or problem that your readers want solved so they continue reading for the solution or recommendation.
  • Tell the story of the study using visual aids when possible (use figures or infographics).
  • Clearly explain the results and make recommendations or identify solutions.

Recommendations for Format

Begin with the bigger picture, provide background information, detail the methods, and lead a reader through the results to the proposed solution or specific position/implication. The format should make sense and guide the reader. White papers and full reports follow a general format.


A brief summary of the research, results, and position/implications.

Introduction/Literature Review:

May be written as two separate sections.

  • Identifies the importance of the research and what is or is not already known.
  • Establishes the need for the research and rationale for the study.


Describes participants, instruments, and other study details.

  • This may have several subheadings (research questions, participants, data set, etc.).
  • Include enough detail for someone outside of the project to replicate the study.
  • Detail informed consent, confidentiality of data, sampling method, reliability, validity, and survey design as appropriate.
  • If known, describe participants' demographics.
  • Address limitations and/or problems during data collection, if any.
  • Detail process for data analysis.


Detailed interpretation of major findings.

  • Provides data/support/answers to research questions or hypotheses.
  • Organize the results section around the research hypotheses, purposes, or questions.
  • In quantitative research, this section may be brief but includes several tables and will include discussion of statistical significance.
  • In the narrative, only address the important data from each table.
  • Provide descriptive statistics before inferential statistics.
  • In qualitative research, this section is lengthy and describes major themes from the data to include participants' quotes and or observations.


Presents the researcher's interpretation.

  • Discuss the study's strengths and limitations.
  • Provide the specific implications of the findings and detailed suggestions for future research and/or practice.
  • Refer to previous research/literature, and discuss if the current study is consistent/inconsistent.


  • Use plain language to explain the complex issues in a straightforward manner.
  • Should be free of jargon but use technical language in describing methods and results.

Graphic Design and Layout

When able, utilize a graphic designer to develop figures, tables, and final products. Common layout and design rules for a white paper include:

  • The use of clear and precise headings and subheadings in large font throughout.
  • Utilize graphics (charts, graphs, diagrams, and tables) to increase readability.
  • Ensure that all data figures and tables indicate statistical significance, have clear axis labels, and include detailed titles to explain the graphics.