When we use an analytical method to solve a problem, there is no guarantee that our results will be accurate or precise. In designing an analytical method we consider potential sources of determinate error and indeterminate error, and take appropriate steps to minimize their effect, such as including reagent blanks and calibrating instruments. Why might a carefully designed analytical method give poor results? One possibility 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 while preparing 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 our precision may suffer. In this chapter we consider how collecting samples and preparing them for analysis affects the accuracy and precision of our results.
Thumbnail: An example of pipettes and microplates manipulated by an anthropomorphic robot (Andrew Alliance). Image used with permission (Cc BY-SA 3.0; Pzucchel).