Second-harmonic scanning optical microscopy (SHSOM) is performed on electric-field poled silica-based waveguides. Two operation modes of SHSOM are considered. Oblique transmission reflection and normal reflection modes are used to image the spatial distribution of nonlinear susceptibilities in the sample surface plane and in depth. It is shown that the spatial resolution in normal reflection mode can be better than 1 µm for second-harmonic images. A simple qualitative description of this operation mode is suggested and found to be in good agreement with the results obtained. Advantages and limitations of the two operation modes when used for SHSOM studies of poled silica-based waveguides are discussed. The influence of surface defects on the resulting second-harmonic images is also considered. ©2000 American Institute of Physics.