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The effects of key deposition parameters on NiO-Py and NiMn-Py bilayers have been systematically investigated, which include the: 1) effect of annealing; 2) partial pressure of N2 during permalloy deposition; and 3) presence or absence of Ta buffer layer. The 7% N2 partial pressure induced (200) growth, whereas its absence during Ni81Fe19(Py) deposition induced (111) growth. The presence of Ta in conjunction with N2 partial pressure controlled the growth and orientation of the exchange-bias layer. Lorentz microscopy was used to investigate the magnetic-domain reversal mechanisms and a high-resolution electron microscopy was used to correlate microstructure with magnetic behavior.