This article provides detailed information on the instrumentation and principles of the scanning electron microscope (SEM). It begins with a description of the primary components of a conventional SEM instrument. This is followed by a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the SEM compared with other common microscopy and microanalysis techniques. The following sections cover the critical issues regarding sample preparation, the physical principles regarding electron beam-sample interaction, and the mechanisms for many types of image contrast. The article also presents the details of SEM-based techniques and specialized SEM instruments. It ends with example applications of various SEM modes.