Using sources in white papers is a way to add depth and credibility to the messages you wish to share. Sources can contribute to white papers in any number of ways, whether that involves paraphrasing something they’ve written or said, sharing data they’ve published, or including an excerpt of something they’ve written.

Sources in white papers add evidence

It’s one thing to make a claim in your white paper, because a reader may or may not believe you. When you add material from sources that prove your contention, you begin to build a much stronger case. If a car salesperson told you a particular model was the best in its class, you probably wouldn’t believe them, but if they backed it up by showing you that a major consumer magazine or website said the same thing, you’d be more likely to accept the claim.

Sources in white papers add credibility

There’s nothing wrong with a white paper that does nothing more than present your organization’s opinion. However, your opinion is more credible when you support it by including quotes and information from others, particularly those who are seen as authorities on the subject. When readers see that your position matches that of the authorities you quote, they’ll place more trust in your white paper and its contentions.

Is using sources a form of plagiarism?

Some organizations worry about using sources in white papers because they believe doing so involves committing plagiarism. Actually, it’s only plagiarism if you use the source’s content word-for-word or you claim their quotes as your own work. As long as you quote only part of their words or paraphrase what they’ve written and cite them as the source, you’ll be fine.

Do you need footnotes and a bibliography?

While writing in the academic and scientific worlds generally demand the use of footnoting and bibliographies, white papers for marketing and other business purposes generally don’t need to use those formalities. Footnotes can actually make it more difficult to read a white paper, so instead of footing, it’s generally easier to cite the source within the sentence, such as: In his comprehensive study of radish production, Radishes of the World, Dr. D. A. Dinglehorpf says, “Spiral cutting is generally a less-wasteful technique.”

As for bibliographies, they can be helpful in two ways. First, they provide a reminder that the messages delivered in your white paper are backed by independent sources and evidence, so they become more credible. Second, they make it easier for readers who want more details to find additional sources for that information.

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