Types of Research and Information Documents – I

Research and information documents give useful insights on a specific point or data to understand the bigger picture of the subject. These documents are broadly categorized into three types as mentioned below based on their basic purpose –

  1. Analytical documents
  2. Informational documents
  3. Summary documents

This is the first part of the article that talks about the analytical documents.

Analytical Documents or Papers

These documents involve lot of research and analysis about an issue or a subject that will have a considerable impact on a fairly large section of people. These documents are used in various fields such as politics, business, and science. Green Paper, White Paper, Purpose Paper, and After Action Report come under this category. A brief description of each of the type is as below-

Green Paper

The Green Paper is usually used by the Government. It is strictly aimed at stimulating discussion on an issue among the public or the interested parties to get the consensus. Once the consensus is reached, a green paper may result in a White paper, which is a basis of a bill. It is only a first-draft document and does not represent the final policy. It will accept modifications in the process of consultation and debate.

The purpose of the Green paper is to have a robust debate over the issue in order to throw light on all the aspects of the issue that may finally results in a flawless policy. It prepares the ideal ground for a fruitful discussion.
A green paper usually presents a range of ideas (usually listed) that are unbiased and objective as it is meant to invite all the interested individuals or organizations to contribute views and information.

White Paper

A white paper is an authoritative work that addresses a problem(s) and recommends a solution. In some cases, White Paper follows Green Paper. Unlike Green Paper, a White Paper is also often used in business and technical subjects apart from politics. A White Paper provides an in-depth analysis of a subject, technology, trend, product or a process. White papers are predominantly informational rather than promotional material. A White paper educates and guides readers and helps to understand the issue clearly and completely.

We can divide white paper into three types based on their purpose in the fields they are circulated.

Government White Paper – Usually follows a Green Paper. White paper represents the policy and future course of action by the Government on an issue. It precedes a bill in the house to make a law.

Marketing White Paper – A white paper has become a standard marketing tool today. Here White Paper is used to inform and bring awareness on how a particular product or service can solve a problem benefiting the customer. It analyses a gap (need) in the market, what should be done, discusses several alternatives, technology/process underlying the alternatives, and guides towards the best alternative to serve the need of the customer.

A marketing White Paper answers why a particular product or service is better than competitors’ substitute products.

Technical White Paper – Discusses about a particular technology in all the dimensions. It is an informational instrument offering an overview of standards, feasibility, how a technology works, intricacies, results, issues, solutions – its importance, use and implementation, and benefits.

After Action Report (AAR)

An After Action Report (AAR) is a process of retrospective analysis of the execution of a project and its success generally done by the person behind the project. The AAR is done as part of performance evaluation and improvement. Earlier, AARs were usually used by Defense and Science communities. Modern-day examples of AARs include project evaluations in business, and retellings of large gaming sessions in computer games.

AAR focuses on lessons learned from an incident. It is complete only when it gives recommendations for improvements, as it is important for decision makers to plug the holes.

The structure of a general AAR is as follows-

  1. Project Overview
  2. Goals and objectives
  3. Events synopsis
  4. Analysis of outcomes
  5. Analysis of critical tasks performance
  6. Conclusions
  7. Recommendations

Position Paper

A position paper presents an opinion or stance about an issue. Position papers are used in many fields such as politics, academics, science, business, law, and social organizations to give out their opinion or policy towards and issue. Position papers are often biased as it presents only one side of the issue like in a debate. It tries to convince or influence the audience to agree with the argument.

The position paper is published to generate support on an issue. It describes a position on an issue and the rational for that position.

A position paper should have-

  • Evidence to support the argument, such as statistical facts
  • Authoritative and highly reliable references

The common aspect of analytical papers is in depth research, detailed analysis and clear presentation. Analytical paper helps us to understand a problem and its backdrop comprehensively and guides through several alternatives towards a more optimum solution to the problem.

In the second part of the article, we will discuss about the Informational documents.