Professional Communication: Innovation White Paper

Professionals constantly communicate technical information, like terminology and processes, to various audiences: (1) non-expert clients to (2) peers who share similar training to (3) managers whose skill sets may or may not overlap with the professionals working on a project.

For this paper, you will choose an innovation from the last 15 years in your field and write a short “white paper” about it. “White paper” has an extensive definition, which has changed over time and place and discipline (just google “white papers” and read all the various explanations), but for our purposes, we’re going with a very general definition. (I encourage you to research and read white papers in your own field to become familiar with the conventions and expectations you might need to know in the future.) White papers can be used within an organization for the purpose of informing peers as well as externally to educate clients or the public. Our version of a white paper will be an objective explanation of an innovation in your field—its history, its current state, and a current detailed example of it. Technical language is usually defined within the context of the paper, with key terms getting longer explanation.

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Structure of the Innovation White Paper
The Innovation White Paper will have three sections, each designated by an appropriate subheading. You may use second-level subheadings as needed.

Section 1: History of the Innovation

In this section, the writer will explain why the innovation was developed — what problem or situation did the innovation solve?

This section will succeed by being specific – claims such as “society needed” or “manufacturers wanted” are too general.

For example, what specific computing situation drove the development of Web 2.0? (if you’re interested, check out (Links to an external site.) for an answer)

Section 2: The Current State of the Innovation

In this section, the writer will explain how the innovation works as currently practiced. This is a general explanation of the process, emphasizing principles of operation.

For example, how does Web 2.0 work in general? (if you’re still interested in an answer, read the article linked above)

Section 3: Detailed Example of the Innovation

In this section, the writer will show how the innovation is applied by carefully explaining an example of it in action.

For example, how is Web 2.0 explained in a specific example? (To see an example, click on the link above and read the section “Netscape vs. Google”)


The goals of this assignment are to (1) communicate effectively to a mixed audience, (2) use credible sources to support your work (3) explain how the innovation relates to contemporary issues related to your field, (4) create figures appropriate to a communication task.

Other Instructions

The paper must have at least the three sections designated above and a title.

Each section must have at least one figure/image created by the writer that is appropriate to that section. The image must be labeled and captioned.

See the “Smart Art” options in Word for lots of templates supporting this task, use image-making software to manipulate images and text (PowerPoint is easiest for the least tech-savvy), use a snipping tool (default on most Windows computers)

More figures may be used. These may be published images or ones created by the writer. Make sure to cite images correctly.

The paper must have at least 6 high quality sources, with a minimum of 2 unique sources per section.

“High quality” means sources from academic journals and highly rated trade publications (such as the magazines published by professional organizations). General-use, public sources are NOT allowed, except for images (see instruction #2 for image requirements). Each instance of a low-quality source will result in a 5% reduction in grade.

Include both in-text citations as needed and a References list in APA format.

Stylistically, the paper is written in the 3rd person, for a mixed audience. Technical language is allowed, but important terms should be defined more extensively as this kind of paper is meant to inform and educate.

Do not use the second person (you/your/you’re).

Expand important terms using one or more of the extended definition strategies discussed in Technical Communication: parenthetical/sentence (as needed), graphics, examples, partition, principle of operation, comparison/contrast, analogy, etymology.

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