White Paper

A White Paper is a work in progress. It’s a snapshot of where your research project stands at a particular moment. It’s also a useful repository for all your notes about the topic as your gather them.

As such, White Papers tend to be informal and of uneven quality. Instead of demonstrating a careful, organized, persuasive pattern of thinking, they show the chaos of research as it develops—chaos that dissipates like morning fog as your work proceeds to reveal a beautiful day. But murky at first.

If yours looks like mine (Why We Will Always Have Polio), it will be loosely organized into sections you will further develop with additional research and composition. For example:

Content Descriptions

  • The 2014 Syrian Polio Outbreak
  • The Resurgent Measles Threat
  • Thanks to the Anti-Vaxxers
  • Dangers of Measles
  • The How and Why of Polio
  • The Effectiveness of Vaccination
  • Counterintuitivity of Vaccination
  • Historic Eradication Efforts
  • The Eradicability of Polio
    • Impediments to Eradication
    • Single-Day Efforts
  • Counterintuitive Setbacks
  • The Nagging Autism Case

I’ve had more time to work on my White Paper than you have, so I have more categories than you might have by Sunday, but still, loose organization under headings is the best approach to this work.

Don’t cut and paste your Proposal + Sources material and think you’ve produced a White Paper. Instead, you need to start to actually shape the ideas in your sources to make claims of your own. As you continue to work on your project, you’ll return to this White Paper often for updates. It should always reflect the best and most organized version of your paper-in-progress.

In addition to the categorized research findings, you’ll need three (3) other sections, again finding models for them in my own White Paper.

1. Working Hypothesis 1

Here you’ll detail in precise language an argument you believe could be supported by material you have already found or expect to find.

1a. Working Hypothesis 2

To demonstrate that you haven’t hardened your position and are willing to consider alternate findings, declare a second hypothesis the research might support.

2. Topics for Smaller Papers

Since as part of the semester’s work, you’ll produce short arguments that stand on their own but contribute to your overall research, begin to identify what those papers might look like.

Explain How a Term or Category is Understood or Misunderstood, Used or Misused, how Related things differ, or how Unrelated things are similar
(Definition/Classification Argument)
See the Model for an example of an argument of this type.

Explore a Causal Relationship Essential to your research
(Cause/Effect Argument)
Again, see the Model for an example.

Reveal a Counterargument to be flawed
(Rebuttal Argument)
There’s no example of this argument type in the Model. If there were, it would be, for example, a stinging attack on the argument that personal freedom to opt out of vaccination trumps the public health necessity of virtually universal vaccination.

3. Current State of the Research Paper

Describe in a brief paragraph how you’re feeling so far about the progress you’ve made, how your opinions have changed (or solidified), and what you anticipate will be your eventual outcome.


  • DUE: TUE FEB 07 (11:59 am MON FEB 06).
  • Publish your assignment in two categories: White Paper and the category for Your Username.
  • Give your post the title White Paper–Username, substituting your own username, of course.
  • Read the Model White Paper carefully and follow its methods.
  • Of course, yours will not be as complete as the Model, but it should contain all the categories of material:
    • Organized Content descriptions
    • Working Hypotheses
    • Topics for Smaller Papers
    • Current State of the Research
  • You will receive a preliminary grade for this assignment, but you’ll be required to continue to expand and improve it for the rest of the semester, as it will always reflect the current state of your research. It will be, in fact, an open window onto your paper, the place where you collect and analyze your research and draft your paper.
  • Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
  • Minor (Non-Portfolio) Assignment

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
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