The Position Paper

An issue paper (sometimes called a “white paper”) is a staff report to a decision-maker which provides an assessment of everything that is readily available about a particular problem. It is not an in-depth analysis, nor does it require extensive data gathering. It is, rather, a systematic first phase which provides the foundation for further analysis.


An issue paper should focus on four key questions:


Generally speaking, a white paper follows a standard format:

Depending on the situation and the problem, this format may be modified as long as the four key questions are dealt with. While “Recommendations” are important, the process by which they were derived is equally important in a white paper. While the “Executive Summary” is not always listed as part of the format, it is good practice to include it in any policy paper.


For more detailed information, refer to: Quade, A.S. (1975) Analysis for Public Decisions. NY: Elsevier.



2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 16 April 2004