If I’m honest, I only ever had to bind a small handful of assignments for submission, so I never really gave it too much thought. But as I started talking to more different students in different positions, I realised there were actually some important decisions to make when it comes to binding major pieces of work like a thesis or dissertation. So I asked invited BachelorPrint, a popular printing company, to share their take on the options, and what’s going to work best for you. Enjoy!

William, Exam Study Expert Founder

You’ve finally made it:

All those hours in the library, all that time bashing away at your keyboard; your big paper is nearing completion. You’ve done your proofreading, and all that remains is to choose the right printing and binding for your thesis or dissertation.

There are three things to think about:

  • What’s the best thesis binding option?
  • What print settings should I choose?
  • Where should I get it printed?

Let’s walk through each of these in turn.

What’s the best binding option for my thesis?

For a big project or thesis, you can’t just stick a staple in it and hope for the best. Your institution might have specific submission guidelines that dictate how your research paper should be bound, which you’d be well-advised to check.

There are four main binding options:

  • Leather
  • Thermal
  • Softcover
  • Spiral

Each method of binding a thesis, dissertation or research paper is best for different reasons, as we’ll explain.

Overview of thesis binding options

Choosing the right option can be confusing, so we’ve put together a handy overview of binding options for your thesis or dissertation, showing you which type of project each is suitable for, how many pages the binding type can accept, what options you have for the cover, and how they compare on cost:

Overview of four main binding options for theses, dissertations and research papers, showing their advantages / disadvantages
Source: https://www.bachelorprint.co.uk/types-of-binding/

Leather binding: go classy

Leather bound thesis

Leather binding is the highest quality binding option for your thesis: perfect for major final research papers such as dissertations, or your Bachelor’s or Master’s thesis. Some print shops will let you emboss the cover with your title and institutions logo, or add finishing touches such as a bookmark or corner protectors to make your submission really stand out.

Thermal binding: go versatile

Thermal binding for thesis

Thermal binding is the most versatile of all bindings. It’s perfect for smaller research projects, but can handle page counts of up to 450 pages too, more than any other bind type. It has a transparent front cover, which immediately brings the title of your thesis to the forefront. The back is often a leather-effect cover, for a quality finish.

Softcover binding: go creative

Softcover binding for thesis

If you want your dissertation to stand out and look more creative, then we suggest going for a softcover binding. This gives you the option of designing the cover the way you want to. Different fonts, logos, pictures or totally wild designs – when you choose softcover, you can let your creative juices flow!

But go easy on the clipart and don’t let it get too cluttered – you still want to keep a professional-looking finish. In principle, you can use softcover binding for any type of final paper, but the page limit of 300 makes it less suitable for really big projects.

Spiral binding: go low-cost

Spiral binding for research paper

Spiral binding is the simplest and cheapest option, perfect for smaller research projects and term papers. There are two different types of spirals available – plastic and metal – with plastic spiral bind machines often being found in university / college libraries.

Spiral binding is less suitable for larger submissions such as dissertations and theses as page count is often restricted, and with plastic spiral binding in particular, the plastic binding can interfere with a smooth page turn, making for a less polished reading experience.

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    What print settings should I choose for my thesis?

    Settled on a binding option for your thesis? Great. Now you just need to choose how the interior pages are going to appear.

    There are four main things to think about here:

    1. Black and white or colour

    Printing in colour can be more expensive, but will definitely help your research paper to stand out, and may be particularly important in some fields like laboratory science or art history where colour is an essential component of your figures.

    Be careful with to avoid gratuitous use of colour in your finished document – overdoing the colour can start to look a little cheesy!

    2. Single or double-sided

    Opting for double-sided keeps the finished document slimmer, (and is kinder on the planet!) though bear in mind it isn’t necessarily cheaper.

    Examiners and assessors sometimes prefer single-sided so they can make notes on one side of the page, so check your institution’s submission guidelines – they often specify whether you must print on both sides of the paper or just one.

    3. Paper thickness matters

    Paper thickness is measured in “grams per square metre” – “gsm” or “g/m²”.

    A higher gsm means a thicker paper and a more premium feel, but typically at a higher price.

    Some print shops default to 80gsm. This can cause “bleed-through” when printing double-sided, which is where whatever is printed on the reverse of the page is visible from the front of the page, cheapening the overall feel of your submission.

    You’ll see some improvement on bleed-through by upgrading to a thicker paper at 100gsm.

    If you’re printing a major submission double-sided, especially if it’s got a lot of ink-heavy figures, you’d be best off opting for a premium 120 gsm paper.

    4. Thesis printing and binding: delivery time!

    Finally, make sure it arrives in time! At BachelorPrint, we offer free 24-hour express delivery as standard on all orders.

    Where to go for thesis binding?

    For morning-of-deadline printing and binding panics, you’re left with no alternative than to take your finished thesis, paper or dissertation to your local print shop. Most university towns will have one – though even a physical shop may have a limit on how quickly they can turn a document round, especially if it’s long and you need multiple copies.

    So try and plan ahead if you can.

    If you’re ready a day or more before the deadline, consider saving yourself some time (and money!), and getting access to a wider range of options through an online provider such as BachelorPrint.

    At BachelorPrint, we offer:

    • Free express shipping as standard: place your order by 9am (Mon-Thurs) for next-day delivery by 6pm the following day.
    • A 3D preview of your binding and “look-inside” function, so you know exactly how the finished print is going to look.
    • A wide range of print and bind options at student-budget-friendly prices!

    Good luck!

    Whatever options you choose for your binding and printing, and wherever you go to get the job done, we’d like to wish you all the best with your thesis!

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