The best paper for printing your thesis (and which paper to avoid!)

Resumates offers an online, self-serve self-serve thesis binding tool for professional results without breaking the bank. Simply upload you thesis and specification for easy printing and binding.

Outside of your bound version, most universities have certain quality standards for printing thesis and dissertations for formal submission. As the physical embodiment of your academic achievement, your thesis is expected to stand the test of time. Most universities agree that thesis paper needs to be of archival quality, white, and with some cotton composition. Universities tend to have some varying requirements for paper on certain criteria, such as the paper weight (i.e. thickness) of your thesis paper, so you will need to confirm if there are certain unique requirements specific to your university.

Archival-quality paper simply means that the paper it is long-lasting, and won't yellow over time. To ensure archival quality, look for paper that is advertised as "acid-free," and contains some amount of cotton composition. Acid-free paper simply means that some of the naturally occuring acids in wood pulp were neutralized during the paper production process. Cotton composition in paper improves the durability of the paper, and also elevates the quality in terms of how the pages of your thesis feel. You'll want both elements to be found in paper for the quality that you want when printing your thesis. 

Best paper to print your thesis

Resumates surveyed 15 major U.S. academic institutions, ranging from Ivy League universities, large state schools, and smaller liberal arts colleges, to identify the best paper to print your thesis. We found that there are really two types of paper appropriate for printing your thesis: 20 lb and 24 lb archival-quality cotton paper. The best choice for you will depend on your specific university, and perhaps certain nuances such as whether there is a requirement for the amount of cotton (e.g., 25% vs 100% cotton composition).

For universities that require a student thesis to be printed on 20 lb archival quality paper, we recommend two Southworth's varieties: 100% or 25% Cotton, below. Southworth doesn't always advertise their paper as acid-free, if you were to take a quick check on their website they are indeed archival-quality and acid-free. We tend to also like the strong cardboard packaging of Southworth's products, which help keep each sheet crisp during shipping.



Of the universities that require a student's thesis to be printed on 24 lb archival quality paper, we noticed that many carried Strathmore's 100% cotton business stationary. As you may expect, 24 lb paper will be slightly heavier than 20 lb paper so you can expect your printed thesis to be a bit ticker. If given the choice, you may consider whether you prefer the more substantial feel of thicker paper over the sleeker form of a thinner book.

Which paper types not to print your thesis

We have come across a few universities that have unusual requirements for thesis printing. In our research, we only encountered one university that suggested using linen paper - Cal Tech (Editor's note: our guess is that Cal Tech probably meant to require "cotton" instead of linen, so we believe this one outlier was likely erroneous). In most cases you should look for smooth-textured paper, often referred to as smooth, bond, or "wove", when printing your thesis. Further, we only encountered one university that accepted a paper weight other than 20 lb or 24 lb paper; San Francisco State University accepts either 16 lb or 20 lb archival-quality paper. While 16 lb paper is considered to be more ecofriendly, we caution against using such thin paper for you final thesis.

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