If you’ve ever read research papers and white papers and thought they were kind of the same thing, well, this article is here to say otherwise. As similar as they may look in structure, these two papers have their own distinctions. It is important as a consumer to understand how these two differ from each other. Therefore, in this article, we will present the key differences between a white paper and a research paper.
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We define research papers as academic papers published in journals that contain results of original research or an evaluation of research conducted by others with the overarching aim of contributing to a body of knowledge. These are often reviewed by scholars with experts in different fields of science and technology. Research papers are usually written in order to prove or disprove a theory, demonstrate research results, and show new discoveries. Research papers show the strength and weaknesses of their proposition in a transparent manner as it provides evidence in a logical framework. Publishing research papers usually takes a long time as it requires peer reviews.
White papers show outlines on a particularly complex issue and tackle the best solution to that particular problem. They are more focused on solving industry problems presented through a technical discussion. White papers are typically used to advocate for a certain position or product and are often utilized in marketing to influence a customer’s purchasing decision. It is meant to impact customers in one conclusive direction that favors the company but it is presented in a factual and logical manner.
The people behind research papers are academic scholars who are knowledgeable in that certain fields of the discussed topics. They are mostly engineers, scientists, doctors, surgeons, and postgraduate students among others. Their written works are backed by various sources written by other experts on the same topic. For research papers, knowing the author who publishes the research is important for credibility and their professional experience is also of key importance. Future references for research papers must include the author.
In contrast, in-house company staff, subject matter experts, or writers under contract for example are the ones who are responsible for writing white papers. It is important to understand that white papers focus more on the company or its product rather than the author. White paper authors may or may not have background information regarding a topic, and they often produce content through research. They are solely hired by companies for the purpose of creating the document. Hiring technical writers is becoming an industry norm and would be both beneficial and profitable to sponsoring companies.
Since research papers are mainly written for information and education, their main readers are those who are in the academic field like students, professors, researchers, and scientists. It is presented through scientific publications, lectures, conferences, and interviews.
White papers are targeted at potential customers to attract more interested buyers on a certain product, service, or brand and therefore, potentially increase the company’s profits. It is mainly used to impact the reader’s decision into adhering to the product or approach that the paper is supporting.
In essence, a research paper analyzes a perspective or argues a point backed up with the ideas and information of other credible people. It presents the results of a study or lengthy experiment without any bias in order to contribute to the overall scientific body of knowledge.
White papers, on the other hand, are used to advocate a specific good or trade name. It directs the reader to make a specific decision using facts and logic. They are widely used for commercial purposes and could influence the judgments of current and prospective customers.
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A research paper is written to present facts and results backed by credible data from other experts in the field and is meant to add to the overall knowledge on that specific topic, to encourage future research, or just clarify a certain fact.
A white paper, on the other hand, is written with the intent to persuade the reader to reach a specific conclusion and if that reader does reach that desired conclusion, it is considered a sale or profit. A white paper may not outrightly contain a sales pitch but the content is carefully crafted so as to influence the reader in a certain way that profits the company that publishes it.
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