Amino acids, when used with ceria based slurries, yield high selectivity in shallow trench isolation chemical mechanical polishing (CMP). However, the presence of impurities in the abrasives also plays a role in determining the selectivity. Experiments were performed with two different ceria abrasives, one with high purity and the other with controlled lanthanum doping. Various amino acids were evaluated in order to identify the nature of interaction between the additives and the abrasives. The abrasives were further characterized using transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and X-ray photo-electron spectroscopy. The removal rate results show that glycine and proline are sensitive to the La doping in the ceria abrasive whereas the other amino acids studied suppress the nitride removal irrespective of the purity of the abrasives. Thermo-gravimetric analysis shows that the extent of adsorption of glycine or proline on ceria depends on the presence of La doping, whereas the other amino acids adsorb equally well on ceria abrasives with or without La doping. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.