What are sources of error in a chemistry lab?


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Errors in the chemistry lab can arise from human error, equipment limitations and observation errors. Some other sources of errors include measurement values that are not well defined and inconsistent experiment techniques.

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What are sources of error in a chemistry lab?
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Human errors, such as measuring incorrectly, inadvertently contaminating a solution by dropping another substance into it, or using dirty instruments, are examples of how making a simple mistake affects the experiment. Equipment limitations also cause errors if instruments are not calibrated properly or if an instrument is unable to take a measurement because of calibration limitations. For instance, a digital scale that only measures up to three decimal places is a potential limitation if a more exact measurement is needed. Instruments that are not calibrated for the conditions of the experiment also cause errors.

Taking measurements during an experiment is another source of observation errors. For instance, a thermometer dipped into a hot liquid to take a measurement causes the temperature of the liquid to cool slightly. Although the drop in temperature is likely to be slight, the drop in temperature is, nevertheless, the effect of an observation error.

Not all measurement values are well defined, which means that some items have a range of values rather than a single value. For instance, the mass or thickness of a piece of paper varies. It is important to be able to distinguish between the items that have variable values and the items that have definite values when conducting an experiment. It is possible to mistake an item with a variable value as an error.

Finally, inconsistent sampling techniques also cause errors. Every time an experiment is done, each step must be repeated the same way as it was previously. If this does not happen, different results are likely.

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