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Current conduction mechanisms have been studied for three representative films, namely, silicon-rich, nearly stoichiometric and nitrogen-rich silicon nitride films, prepared by rf glow-discharge decomposition of silane and ammonia with nitrogen dilution. Ohmic conduction has been observed for all the films at low electric fields. The dominance of Poole–Frenkel conduction at intermediate fields and Fowler–Nordheim conduction at high fields has been observed both for the nitrogen-rich and the nearly stoichiometric films. However, for the silicon-rich films, the Poole–Frenkel conduction mechanism dominates both for the intermediate as well as the higher fields. This study indicates that the silicon-rich films have the highest density of traps and the nitrogen-rich films have the lowest, which may be ascribed to the effect of nitrogen dilution. © 2001 American Vacuum Society.