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ENGL 202D: Effective Writing: Business Writing (Ringle)

White Paper Assignment

Typically, white papers are used to propose a solution to a problem. They usually start with a big-picture view of an issue’s context and then lead readers to a specific proposal for a solution.  The audience for a white paper can be a specific business or multiple companies that have problems or needs requiring solutions. You may or may not know your audience personally, but in order to persuade your audience you must understand and focus on their needs. If you can research and address problems that your readers want to solve, they will read your white paper for a solution. Otherwise, your white paper may not be read. It is important to use audience analysis in order to understand your reader’s concerns and emphasize the reader benefits of your solution, rather than focusing on your own interests, opinions, or needs.

Your Assignment

For this assignment, you will first identify and describe a current or anticipated problem in a business or industry in which you have worked in the past, or a business or industry you hope to join after graduation. You will then propose a thoughtful, persuasive solution to that problem. You will present the problem and solution in the form of a white paper.

Your white paper should be 3-5 double-spaced pages (minimum of 3 full pages) with 12-point font and 1-inch margins.  The works cited page does not count toward the length requirement. You should organize your white paper carefully and use clear, specific headings so that busy readers can scan the document effectively. The white paper is worth 200 points towards your final grade.

Prewriting

Prior to our class visit to the library you will complete a prewriting assignment. The assignment is a short list of three problems, one of which you will select as the topic for your white paper. This list will be due at the start of next class.

Sample topics:

  1. Hospital cafeterias often lack nutritious, locally-sourced food options
  2. Some law schools misrepresent the job placement statistics of their graduates in their marketing materials
  3. Lower-cost restaurant franchises are failing to meet the needs of patrons with food allergies

Note: You may not use the sample topics provided in this assignment sheet for your own white paper.

After submitting your list, you should do some preliminary research on each problem in order to determine what kinds of sources are available. Based on your preliminary research, select the problem you feel you will be able to write about most successfully. 

Format and Contents of Final Paper

Your white paper must contain all of the following parts:

  1. Heading: Your name, the class, the assignment and the word count.
  2. Title: This should be a descriptive title (not “White Paper”).
  3. Introduction/Summary: This section should provide a brief overview of the problem you have identified and the solution you will propose.  It should be a preview of the information contained in each section of your paper.  This helps busy readers quickly grasp the main point and easily navigate the document.  Remember, the introduction is just a preview; it should be precise and clear, but it should save specific details for later sections.
  4. Problem/Background: This section should clearly and firmly state the current or anticipated problem you have identified. Be sure to explain the significance of the problem and its consequences—why is this issue important?

After stating the problem, you need to provide background information about it to help readers make their decision based on a clear understanding of the facts.  You also need to demonstrate your own expertise on the subject so that readers will perceive your solution as credible.  Explain what is known about the problem and what caused it.  Explain the consequences of the problem.  Describe what is likely to happen if nothing is done.  Describe previous attempts to solve the problem and explain why they were not successful.

Specific evidence is very important in this section, and you will need to do research.  If you haven’t actually worked for the business or industry you are writing about, you will need to do the background research necessary to identify a current or anticipated problem, and then to pose a sound solution.  Even if you are or have been employed at the business or industry in question, you will need to demonstrate a familiarity with the details, statistics, data, etc. that are relevant to your argument.  Provide examples of the problem’s negative impacts.  When possible, use numbers, statistics, and/or concrete facts:  How much revenue has been lost?  How many work hours have been wasted?  How have public relations been damaged?  How has customer satisfaction been decreased?  Make sure to properly cite your sources for this information using MLA in-text citations.  Also, make sure your evidence is appropriate to your argument—don’t identify a problem that you witnessed once at a single McDonald’s restaurant and try to claim that it is a problem that constantly plagues the entire fast food industry (unless you have concrete facts to support such a claim).

  1. Solution: This section should propose and defend your solution to the problem.  Again, be specific.  Why is this the best solution?  What steps will be required to implement it?  How will it improve the situation?  How will people be able to judge, measure, and evaluate its effectiveness?  You should acknowledge any drawbacks to your recommended solution and address any objections your readers might have.
  2. Conclusion: This section should briefly wrap up your paper by summarizing the main arguments and making a final, firm case for your solution.  You should avoid repeating phrases and sentences from earlier in your paper.  Find an original, succinct way to sum up your argument.
  3. Works Cited: At the end of your paper, make sure to include a list of all the sources you used when writing the paper (you must use at least three sources).  Remember, you need to cite a source even if you don’t quote directly from that source—sources that you paraphrase or take data from must also be cited.  Use MLA format for both your works cited page and your in-text citations.  For information on MLA format, see pgs. 162-68 of Business Writer’s Handbook.
  4. Visuals: You may use visuals (such as charts, tables, and graphs) in your white paper, but you are not required to do so.  If you do use visuals, make sure they are easy to interpret, professional in appearance, clearly captioned, and relevant—don’t use visuals simply to fill space.

Grading/Assessment (Value: 200 pts.)

I will grade your paper according to both mechanics and content.  I’ll ask myself some of the following questions:  Is the paper well-organized, well-formatted, and easy to navigate?  Does the author demonstrate a clear understanding of the business or industry and its needs?  Does the author demonstrate a clear understanding of the problem and its context?  Is the solution reasonable and persuasive?  Does the author support his/her claims with sensible reasons and valuable evidence?  Is the writing clear of grammatical problems and spelling errors?  Are the sources credible and cited clearly in the text?  Is the works cited page complete, accurate, and properly formatted?