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In order to obtain a high resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of a resist pattern, it is necessary to use a relatively large electron dose, but many resists change in size and shape when irradiated. The dimensional stability of several common resists as a function of electron dose and electron energy has been investigated. An optimum dose, which is a compromise between resolution and radiation damage can be chosen. It is shown that the optimum dose should be used when inspecting radiation sensitive materials, because a micrograph taken at too high a dose will be distorted, but may not exhibit obvious signs of damage.