# 6: Obtaining and Preparing Samples for Analysis

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When we use an analytical method to solve a problem, there is no guarantee that will obtain accurate or precise results. In designing an analytical method we consider potential sources of determinate error and indeterminate error, and we take appropriate steps—such as reagent blanks and the calibration of instruments—to minimize their effect. Why might a carefully designed analytical method give poor results? One possible reason is that we may have failed to account for errors associated with the sample. If we collect the wrong sample, or if we lose analyte when we prepare the sample for analysis, then we introduce a determinate source of error. If we fail to collect enough samples, or if we collect samples of the wrong size, then the precision of our analysis may suffer. In this chapter we consider how to collect samples and how to prepare them for analysis.

• 6.1: The Importance of Sampling
If the individual samples do not represent accurately the population from which they are drawn—a population that we call the target population—then even a careful analysis will yield an inaccurate result. Extrapolating a result from a sample to its target population always introduces a determinate sampling error. To minimize this determinate sampling error, we must collect the right sample.
• 6.2: Separating the Analyte From Interferents
When an analytical method is selective for the analyte, analyzing a sample is a relatively simple task. For example, a quantitative analysis for glucose in honey is relatively easy to accomplish if the method is selective for glucose, even in the presence of other reducing sugars, such as fructose. Unfortunately, few analytical methods are selective toward a single species; thus, we must separate analytes from interferents.
• 6.3: General Theory of Separation Effiiciency
The goal of an analytical separation is to remove either the analyte or the interferent from the sample’s matrix. To achieve this separation we must identify at least one significant difference between the analyte’s and the interferent’s chemical or physical properties. A significant difference in properties, however, is not sufficient to effect a separation if the conditions that favor the extraction of interferent from the sample also removes a small amount of analyte.
• 6.4: Classifying Separation Techniques
We can separate an analyte and an interferent if there is a significant difference in at least one of their chemical or physical properties, such as size, mass or density, the ability to form complexes, a change in physical state, a change in chemical state, or the ability to partition between phases.

This page titled 6: Obtaining and Preparing Samples for Analysis is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by David Harvey.