Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

3: The Vocabulary of Analytical Chemistry

If you leaf through an issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry, you will soon discover that the authors and readers share a common vocabulary of analytical terms. You are probably familiar with some of these terms, such as accuracy and precision, but other terms, such as analyte and matrix may be less familiar to you. In order to participate in the community of analytical chemists, you must first understand its vocabulary. The goal of this chapter, therefore, is to introduce you to some important analytical terms. Becoming comfortable with these terms will make the material in the chapters that follow easier to read and understand.

Thumbnail: Colonies of fecal coliform bacteria from a water supply. Source: Susan Boyer. Photo courtesy of ARS–USDA ( Fecal coliform counts provide a general measure of the presence of pathogenic organisms in a water supply. For drinking water, the current maximum contaminant level (MCL) for total coliforms, including fecal coliforms is less than 1 colony/100 mL. Municipal water departments must regularly test the water supply and must take action if more than 5% of the samples in any month test positive for coliform bacteria.