Within the scientific literature, a working paper is a scientific or technical paper produced by researchers to share ideas about a particular topic or obtain feedback from a selected readership, particularly groups of researchers or relevant scientific communities. It is in this regard that a working paper is also called a discussion paper.
Take note that working papers are also research papers. They typically contain a hypothesis and/or research questions, a description of methodologies, and preliminary findings. However, they are not yet regarded as a complete work due to the absence of review.
Remember that the difference between a working paper and a research paper, a thesis or dissertation, or a journal article centers on completeness. The former is still incomplete, and its findings and conclusions are not entirely reliable due to the lack of feedback.
In most cases, working papers are also preliminary papers. It is a pre-publication version of a journal article, a book chapter, or an entire book. Remember that its purpose is to present an idea and gain feedback from a target audience before completing the entire research work and submitting it to peer-reviewed journals, organizers of a conference, or editors of a publishing house.
Organizations such as the United Nations, professional organizations or associations, academic institutions, government agencies or offices, and other non-government organizations also use the term “working paper” to describe research papers intended to stimulate discussions about a research topic and policy.
However, it is also important to distinguish this document from so-called white papers, which are authoritative reports prepared by a government agency or a non-government entity to inform target readers about a complex issue and explain their position on the matter.