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Ion velocity distribution functions were measured using Doppler-shifted laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy in an electron cyclotron resonance discharge in argon. The influence of the magnetic field configuration on the distributions was studied by making measurements with different magnetic field configurations. Results of a two-dimensional hybrid model of the discharge were used to help interpret the measured data. The results from the experiment and the simulation indicated that the magnetic field configuration had a strong influence on the ion velocity distribution functions. From the simulation it was concluded that the magnetic field configuration determined the axial distributions of plasma potential and electron density, and how these plasma parameters determined the ion velocity distribution function in the downstream region of the discharge.© 1997 American Institute of Physics.