Back-to-Basics tutorial: X-ray diffraction of thin films

George F. Harrington, José Santiso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (SciVal)


X-ray diffraction (XRD) is an indispensable tool for characterising thin films of electroceramic materials. For the beginner, however, it can be a daunting technique at first due to the number of operation modes and measurements types, as well as the interpretation of the resultant patterns and scans. In this tutorial article, we provide a foundation for the thin-film engineer/scientist conducting their first measurements using XRD. We give a brief introduction of the principle of diffraction and description of the instrument, detailing the relevant operation modes. Next, we introduce five types of measurements essential for thin film characterisation: 2 θ/ ω scans, grazing-incidence scans, rocking curves, pole figures, and azimuth scans (or ϕ scans). Practical guidelines for selecting the appropriate optics, mounting and aligning the sample, and selecting scan conditions are given. Finally, we discuss some of the basics of data analysis, and give recommendations on the presentation of data. The aim of this article is to ultimately lower the barrier for researchers to perform meaningful XRD analysis, and, building on this foundation, find the existing literature more accessible, enabling more advanced XRD investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-163
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Electroceramics
Issue number4
Early online date13 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge D. Klotz and H.L Tuller for critically reading the manuscript. GFH acknowledges support from The Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST) through its Center of Innovation Program (COI Program, grant number: JPMJCE1318) and the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (WPI-I2CNER), supported by MEXT, Japan. ICN2 is funded by the CERCA programme/Generalitat de Catalunya and by the Severo Ochoa programme of the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (MINECO, grant no. SEV-2017-0706). The datasets generated during and analysed during the current work are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


  • Back-to-Basics
  • Guidelines
  • Methodology
  • Thin films
  • Tutorial
  • X-ray diffraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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