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We present a methodology for the quantitative estimation of nitrogen in ultrathin oxynitrides by means of time of flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). We consider an innovative approach to TOF-SIMS depth profiling, by elemental distribution of single species as sum of peaks containing such species. This approach is very efficient in overcoming matrix effect arising when quantifying elements were distributed in silicon and silicon oxide. We use XPS to calibrate TOF-SIMS and to obtain quantitative information on nitrogen distribution in oxynitride thin layers. In the method we propose we process TOF-SIMS and XPS data simultaneously to obtain a quantitative depth profile. © 2002 American Vacuum Society.