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How Does a Case Study Differ From a White Paper?

Jim Szopinski asks, “What is the difference in content between a white paper and a case study?

Great question, Jim! You’d be surprised how often this question comes up.

Let’s start this answer with a definition of a case study.

This is a bit technical, but here we go:

Case study refers to the collection and presentation of detailed information about a particular participant or small group, frequently including the accounts of subjects themselves. A form of qualitative descriptive research, the case study looks intensely at an individual or small participant pool, drawing conclusions only about that participant or group and only in that specific context,” as explained by Colorado State University’s online writing guide.

In other words, case studies typically examine a specific company and its experience with a product or service. They often include quotes from a key person at that company and are designed to help prospects see an example of how a solution worked for someone else.

Sample titles might include:

  • How Microsoft Streamlined Their Internal Communications
  • Enhancing Worker Productivity: Wal-Mart’s Story

Case studies typically start with an explanation of the specific problems faced by the study participant. They go on to introduce the reasons for selecting the ultimate solution and the final outcome.

Here is a specific example of a case study WhitePaperSource produced.

Now to your question: What is the difference between white papers and case studies?

Where a case study focuses on a very specific case example, a white paper tends to NOT include details about how specific customers have benefited from a product or solution.

Rather, the white paper will examine general business problems and how to solve them (or describe processes). A case study can be used in conjunction with a white paper, typically as a follow-up sales piece.

The core elements of a case study include:

  • The specific problem
  • Why solution X was selected
  • The results

The core elements of a white paper include:

  • General problems faced by readers
  • A discussion of the solution
  • Business benefits

Finally, both white papers and case studies both are very powerful marketing tools.

YOUR ACTION: Visit my blog and tell me what you think.

About the author: Michael Stelzner is the author of the book Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged, founder of WhitePaperSource and author of nearly 100 white papers.

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