Paper sheet material has a high toughness and a low yield stress so that linear elastic fracture mechanics is inappropriate to measure its fracture resistance. Experiments have been conducted on single edge-notched tension SE(T) specimens using the J-integral analysis but there are difficulties in identifying the crack initiation, and the Jc value at 0.2 mm crack growth as required by ASTM E813-89 depends on the slope of the JR-curve which may be affected by specimen size and geometry effects. To overcome these problems the essential fracture work concept is applied to paper and an experimental technique developed to evaluate the specific fracture energy using deeply double-edge notched tension DE(T) specimens containing different ligament lengths. With this technique the fracture resistance of papers from hardwood and softwood pulps, the effects of level of bonding and recycling can be compared. It is recommended that the essential fracture work method be used for quality control of paper by the pulp and paper industry.