This work aims at attaining a more complete understanding of the principles governing resistive contrast imaging (RCI) of copper/low-k interconnects used for dielectric breakdown studies in a nanoprober scanning electron microscope (SEM) system. RCI is employed in such in situ dielectric breakdown studies to facilitate the localization of interconnect defect sites related to various stages in the degradation process of the low-k dielectric material. This work shows that RCI is suitable for detecting high-resistance sites, like opens, in copper/low-k interconnects. Moreover, RCI demonstrates potential in locating defects that lie deep in the test structure and are, thus, not detectable by SEM. A model is also proposed to explain the formation of RCI images of specific interconnect test structures with complex layout.