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The thermal conductivity and diffusivity of free‐standing silicon nitride (Si‐N) films of 0.6 and 1.4 μm in thickness are measured. A new experimental technique, the amplitude method, is proposed and applied to measurement of the thin‐film thermal diffusivity. The thermal diffusivity is determined by three independent experimental approaches: the phase‐shift method, the amplitude method, and the heat‐pulse method. Good agreement among the measured thermal diffusivities obtained by the three methods indicates the validity of the amplitude method. High‐resolution electron microscopy studies show a large quantity of voids in the 1.4 μm Si‐N films. In contrast, very few voids are found in the 0.6 μm films. This difference may be responsible for the measured lower conductivity of the 1.4 μm Si‐N films as compared to the 0.6 μm thin films. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.