What is a White Paper?

By Deane Barker on April 20, 2006

White paper: I’m thinking about writing a white paper to help with marketing, and I got to wondering why they were called “white papers.” Turns out, the term predates computers by quite a while. The Wikipedia article linked above cites a 1922 example by Winston Churchill.

A white paper can be an authoritative report on a major issue, as by a team of experts; a government report outlining policy; or a short treatise whose purpose is to educate industry customers. It is called white paper because it was originally bound in white.

Being a political science major, you think I would have heard of this. But until now, I only looked at white papers as a computer industry thing.

I suck.