The mechanism involved during solution doping process has been systematically investigated by correlating the soot characteristics and solution parameters with the amount of rare earth (RE) incorporated in the core of optical fiber. Experiments show that the amount of RE incorporation may be controlled with better precision by adjusting Al ion concentration in the soaking solution. A model has been developed on the basis of cooperative adsorption mechanism correlating different parameters in the overall process. Theoretical estimation shows good agreement with the experimental results and can be used to predict the extent of RE incorporation for any composition if the soot layer characteristics are known. © 2008 Optical Society of America.