22 December 2020

How to Cite Sources in a White Paper [3 Easy Options]

White papers are great tools to demonstrate that your SaaS company is an expert in your industry. Using data and insights of your own, as well as from other leaders in the industry, bolsters the credibility and authority of your white paper. However, it’s crucial to know how to cite sources in a white paper properly so you don’t get into trouble. 

As a savvy SaaS marketer, you likely already know that it’s unethical to pass information from other sources off like it’s your original work. But, you may be unsure exactly how to show your readers where the information came from. Let’s break down 3 easy options.

How to cite sources in a white paper for SaaS

1. Include links in your text

The easiest way to cite sources in your white paper is to simply hyperlink arguments and research from other websites back to the original content. That way, your readers can find out where you got your information from, and dig into the original source if they want to continue their own research.


The image is a screen capture showing an example of an in-text hyperlink being used to cite the original online source of the information.

In the above example from our blog post on the 3 Best B2B Lead Magnets for SaaS Marketers, the text referring to a statistic about opt-in rates links back to the original source, Marketing Insider Group. It’s as easy as that!

2. Use direct quotes

When you’re considering how to cite sources in a white paper, sometimes the best thing to do is to quote an expert directly, especially if you can’t paraphrase their words better yourself. 

In this case, copy the words as written—don’t change them in any way—and paste the quote directly into your white paper. Put quotation marks around the copied text and add the source’s name at the end. Then, link the source’s name to the piece of content where they were originally quoted. 


A screen capture of a direct quote accredited to content marketer Neil Patel. The quote reads "You absolutely need to repost content on LinkedIn if you want to take full advantage of the Pulse algorithm".

In the above example from our blog post on Promoting Content on LinkedIn: 6 Tips for SaaS, the quote is attributed to Neil Patel, with a link back to his original article

3. Take the “credit where credit’s due” approach

As is often the case, you may not be the only person to cite a particular source in your SaaS white paper, especially if it deals with a popular topic. Perhaps you came across a great study or data set in a news article.

If you’re wondering how to cite sources in a white paper in that instance, it’s simply a matter of citing both sources, instead of just one. Give the article where you found the information a shout-out for introducing the concept to a wider audience, then cite the study itself. 


 “When designing a white paper, it’s important to think about how color will impact your readers. As <Digiday> reported this week, a <BrandTales survey> found the color red can increase sales by 576%.”

In the above fictitious example, you would link the publication’s name (Digiday) to the original article since that’s where you found the information. Then, you would link directly to the survey on the BrandTales website.

What about other ways to cite sources?

When you’re exploring how to cite sources in a white paper, you might be tempted to use more formal citation styles, like MLA, APA and Chicago styles, which you may (or may not!) remember from writing essays in high school and college. 


The image is a screen capture of a section of the online version of the Chicago Style Guide. It describes how to cite website sources in footnotes or endnotes. The content in the image can be accessed via the link in the caption.

The above example from the Chicago Manual of Style details how to cite web content in either a footnote or an endnote. 

Some bloggers and magazines use footnotes or endnotes, as seen in this example from AdAsia Magazine. But often, this kind of citation is seen as old-fashioned.

A screen capture of a numbered list of footnotes at the bottom of a blog published by AdAsia Magazine.

While this detailed process is favored in academic circles, there’s no need to be this formal in your SaaS marketing collateral. Keep it simple when citing sources in your white papers.

What’s next?

Now that you’re comfortable with how to cite sources in a white paper, it’s time to learn 5 white paper design best practices

This is the seventh post in an 9-part series called the Ultimate Guide to Writing a White Paper for B2B SaaS.

Get help from the experts in B2B SaaS white papers

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Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads her team in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and blog posts for high-growth SaaS companies like ClickUp, Calendly and WalkMe. Connect with Emily on Linkedin

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