How to Cite White Papers by a Professional Editor

Very briefly, a “white paper” is a government document, though the term has been refigured to include several types of marketing documents as of late. Originally, governments in the UK and the US used the phrase “white paper” to explanations of government policies and regulations. As of late, however, white papers also refer to explanations and descriptions of products offered by various companies and corporations, as they describe and explain new products, offering readers information about new products, what they offer, and how to provide sales on such new products for companies interested in selling the new product. In many instances, white papers that take a marketing twist on the original definition refer to software products that could be extremely valuable to many kinds of companies.

Please, however, do not misunderstand what a white paper is. Commonly, a white paper is a deeply researched and explicitly targeted report that attempts to explain a product (in the case of a white paper that is generated from a business) or a policy (especially from white papers that explain government policies).

In citing white papers while you are editing your thesis, it is important to keep in mind what exactly you’re citing, but to also remember that almost any style of citations requires only three pieces of information: (1) Author or organization or government agency name; (2) Title of the document (or, in this case, the white paper): The title is usually places in italics, like this is; and (3) the publication information for the white paper being cited, which commonly includes the city of publication and the office charged with publishing the white paper. In fact, these three pieces of information are what most any citation style requires. It’s just that, depending on the citation style, the way in which these three pieces of information are presented changes dramatically. This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re editing your thesis or dissertation.

In APA, in citing a white paper, you’re essentially citing a government document and/or a private document, in which case, the following information is needed, in this order:

Author or, if none, the organization. (Year of publication). Title of the document  (And any more specific publication information). City of Publication: Publisher.

The reason APA wants their citation in this manner is because it is the year of publication that’s important to those who study in the social sciences.

MLA requires similar information, though they might call a white paper “published conference proceedings,” in which case, MLA asks you to cite the document in this way:

LastName, FirstName, ed. Conference Title that Includes Conference Date and Location. Place of publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Print.

MLA, in contrast to APA, values what the author has written, which is why the year of publication does not take such a prominent place.

In Chicago Style, citing a white paper depends on whether or not the document comes primarily from an author, or primarily from a government agency. If the document comes from, or is authored by one or more people, be sure to include the following information:

Author or Agency organization name.Title of the white paper. City: Place of publication, date.

Now, if the white paper is presented by the government, the citation information changes only slightly. For a white paper or report presented by the government, present the information in the Reference or Bibliography page in this way:

Branch of Government. Subcommittee. Title of thewhite paper title. (Publication information, such as issue and page numbers). City: Office of publication, date.

Happy researching! Happy citing!

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1 Comment

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One response to “How to Cite White Papers by a Professional Editor

  1. I was wondering about that. (Tried your email & couldn’t get you.)

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