Abstract Zinc oxide thin films with low resistivity have been deposited on glass substrates by Li–N dual-acceptor doping method via a modified successive ionic layer adsorption and reaction process. The thin films were systematically characterized via scanning electron microscopy (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), X-ray diffraction, ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometry and fluorescence spectrophotometry. The resistivity of zinc oxide film was found to be 1.04 Ω cm with a Hall mobility of 0.749 cm 2 V −1 s −1 and carrier concentration of 8.02 × 10 18 cm −3. The Li–N dual-acceptor doped zinc oxide films showed good crystallinity with prior c-axis orientation, and high transmittance of about 80% in visible range. Moreover, the effects of Li doping level and other parameters on crystallinity, electrical and ultraviolet emission of zinc oxide films were investigated.