A white paper is a report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. A white paper is the first document researchers should read to better understand a core concept or idea.
The term originated in the 1920s to mean a type of position paper or industry report published by some department of the UK government.
Since the 1990s, this type of document has proliferated in business. Today, a business-to-business (B2B) white paper is closer to a marketing presentation, a form of content meant to persuade customers and partners and promote a certain product or viewpoint. That makes B2B white papers a type of grey literature.