Aluminium-doped ZnO (AZO) thin films were deposited by remote plasma sputtering of a ZnO:Al2O3 98:2 wt.% ceramic target in a pulsed DC configuration. The target power was kept constant at 445 W and the RF plasma power was varied between 0.5 and 2.5 kW. The as-deposited AZO thin films exhibited an optimum resistivity of 6.35 x 10-4 .cm and optical transmittance of 92 % at a RF plasma power 1.5 kW. The thin film microstructure, chemical composition, and residual stress were investigated using SEM, RBS, XPS and XRD. Accurate determination of the chemical composition and correct interpretation of GIXRD data for AZO thin films are a particular focus of this work. The AZO layer thickness was 500 - 700 nm and Al content in the range of 2.3 - 3.0 at.%, determined by RBS. The AZO thin films exhibited a strong (002) preferential orientation and grain sizes between 70 and 110 nm. The (103) peak intensity enhancement in GIXRD is proven to be a result of the strong (002) preferential orientation and GIXRD geometrical configuration rather than a change in the crystallite orientation at the surface. XPS depth profiles show preferential sputtering of O and Al using a 500 eV Ar+ beam, which can be reduced, but not eradicated using an 8 keV Ar150+ beam. The preferential sputtering can be successfully modelled using the simulation software TRIDYN. A plasma power of 1.5 kW corresponds to a highly ionised plasma and various microstructural and compositional factors have all contributed to the optimum low resistivity occurring at this plasma power. The grain size exhibits a maximum in the 1.25 - 1.5 kW range and there is improved (002) orientation, minimising grain boundary scattering. The highest carrier concentration and mobility was observed at the plasma power of 1.5 kW which may be associated with the maximum in the aluminium doping concentration (3.0 at.%). The lowest residual stress is also observed at 1.5 kW.