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Reliability issues have hampered the adoption of ferroelectric thin films by the microelectronics industry. One of these is imprint, an important problem affecting the performance of ferroelectric non-volatile memories. This paper presents the effects of the low temperature pyrolysis step on the chemical and physical properties of SrBi2Ta2O9 films. A comparison of the hysteretic properties and composition profiles shows that control of the oxidising conditions during pyrolysis is critical to the dielectric properties. Data from this work and from the literature have been used to construct a model that explains the origin of surface depletion and segregation, self poling and as-grown imprint in ferroelectric films.