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Radio frequency magnetron plasma sputtering deposition is a fairly complex deposition method. Deposition of the film is influenced by the energetic bombardment of several species, like energetic electrons, neutrals, ions from the sputtering target and the plasma, and ultraviolet light. In this work we study the origin and the degree of (preferential) resputtering of species from a calcium phosphate ceramic film during the deposition process. We found that negatively charged oxygen is mostly responsible for the resputtering phenomena that occur. The degree of resputtering was determined by comparing the amount of material deposited behind and at the position of an aperture, which was positioned between the sputtering target and the substrate. The degree of resputtering can be derived, because the material behind the aperture is almost completely protected from bombardment by negatively charged oxygen. We found that at low Ar pressure, more than half of the material deposited is resputtered, preferentially P. Resputtering of the coating decreases with an increase in Ar pressure. An explanation for this may be that more negatively charged, energetic oxygen is ejected from the target at low Ar pressure, while at high Ar pressure more neutral, less energetic, oxygen is ejected. The former gives a higher resputtering rate. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.