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Analytical Chemistry 2.0

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The Chemistry of Inversion ( by Raymond Bryson ( used under a CC-BY license (

Description: Analytical chemistry is more than a collection of analytical methods and an understanding of equilibrium chemistry; it is an approach to solving chemical problems. Although equilibrium chemistry and analytical methods are important, their coverage should not come at the expense of other equally important topics. The introductory course in analytical chemistry is the ideal place in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum for exploring topics such as experimental design, sampling, calibration strategies, standardization, optimization, statistics, and the validation of experimental results. Analytical methods come and go, but best practices for designing and validating analytical methods are universal. Because chemistry is an experimental science it is essential that all chemistry students understand the importance of making good measurements.

Author: David Harvey (DePauw University)

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Analytical Chemistry 2.0 by David Harvey (DePauw University) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

1. Reviewed by: Michael Judge
  • Institution: Red River College
  • Title/Position: Instructor, Red River College, Life Sciences Dept.
  • Overall Rating: 3.7 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

At over 1000 pages, this textbook is extremely comprehensive and covers not only the typical aspects of analytical chemistry that are commonly found in most texts, such as gravimetry and titrations, but also many related concepts, including the statistical treatment of data and quality systems. The text is well written and well organized, and follows a suitable approach by introducing less complex aspects of the subject first and then building on this foundation to lead to more complex topics.

The author has obviously put an enormous amount of effort into writing this voluminous text and appears quite knowledgeable in most aspects of the subject matter. There are numerous practice problems along with answers in each section, which is very helpful to both the student and instructor. In addition, the text contains many “sidebar” notes that add informative observations to keep the material interesting and to suggest further study. Worked examples and figures increase the reader’s ability to comprehend some of the subject matter.

Having said that, it is important to note the shortcomings of the text in order to allow the effort that has been expended to produce the current version to be put to the best possible use. My main impression on reading through the material was that the author concentrated greatly on the theoretical aspects of the subject matter and especially on the mathematical and statistical basis of acquiring and processing data, but at the expense of introducing students to the details of many important aspects of the subject. In my opinion, analytical chemistry is first and foremost a practical science, as it requires significant skill and great attention to detail to obtain the high levels of precision and accuracy that are associated with modern day chemical analysis. It therefore surprised me that this text in many cases eschews discussion of the physical or practical aspects of analysis in favour of more complex discussions of the theoretical underpinnings. The theoretical basis of each aspect of analytical chemistry is important, of course, but at some point students must know how to do chemical analysis.

As an example, considering how frequently employed pipetting techniques are in analytical chemistry and how crucial they are, the text spends very little time on pipetting (less than half a page out of 1000 pages). There are no diagrams to assist the student in learning the proper hand positioning or the appropriate use of the various types of suction bulbs. There is only a very brief discussion of Eppendorf-type pipettes, even though they are very widely used in almost every analytical laboratory.

In the same manner, some of the chapters, especially those regarding chromatography, tend to omit important details. One has the feeling that these chapters were intended more as a brief overview of the subject rather than as a means for students to actually learn about the topic in detail. As an example, the table listing standard gas chromatography stationary phases omits 5% phenyl/95% dimethyl, which is a very common phase. As well, the various types of column internal diameters and the effects and benefits of each type are not addressed, even though this is an important topic. The different types of capillary columns (such as WCOT and PLOT) are noted very briefly, but the specialized applications of each type of column is not mentioned, leaving the reader to wonder why there might be different types and what the respective advantages of each type is. The section on detectors for gas chromatography omits several important, albeit less commonly used, detectors, such as the NPD and PID types.

Similarly, mass spectrometry, an extremely important aspect of modern day analytical chemistry, is given only a very brief half page overview.

As noted above, the text is often heavy on statistical treatments, sometimes (in my opinion) presented at a level exceeding that required by the second year student for whom this textbook might otherwise be intended. With regard to the chapter on statistics, although the chapter is well written and comprehensive, the author attempts to cover such a wide range of statistical information that it reads like a stand-alone statistics textbook. For this reason, I would suggest that it would be preferable to address only the most basic aspects of data analysis (such as measures of central tendency) in this text and have students use a dedicated statistics textbook for their study of more advanced statistical concepts.

The other deficit associated with trying to pack so many statistical tests into this book is that each test is sometimes not discussed in as much detail as might be desired. As an example, the text introduces the two-tailed t test to compare a mean from analysis with a true value. I have always felt that this is a potentially misleading test, because a large s value can decrease the experimental t value, thus allowing one to pass the test even with a significant difference between the experimental and true values. That is, poor precision can compensate for poor accuracy. The text does not address this important limitation of the text, although it does mention that an extremely small value of s can compromise the test.

The chapter on calibration could be rearranged. The discussion of linear calibration curves comes after several examples in which calibration curve equations are used, which is somewhat confusing to the reader. In addition, the discussion of linear regression is somewhat complex for an introductory text. The majority of first or second year students may find this discussion difficult to follow and would benefit from a less in-depth approach that simply introduces them to the concept of using the familiar “y = mx + b” equation to describe a calibration curve.

The entirety of Chapter 6 essentially represents material that would be found in an introductory General Chemistry textbook. Including this information here is not necessarily a bad thing but perhaps contributes to the somewhat intimidating size of this text. This material could be greatly reduced or even omitted without affecting the utility of the text as an analytical chemistry resource. It would be even more helpful to break up this information and present it in conjunction with the ensuing discussion of gravimetric procedures, acid/base titrations, etc.

The text does not have an index, although in the electronic form (either PDF or on-line) one can use the “Find” function to locate specific terms or keywords.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

I was unable to find any blatant technical errors, biases or inaccuracies. However, in some cases I disagreed with information provided in the text. These instances generally occurred when the author was providing directions that are perhaps more a matter of opinion. As an example, the direction to use Reagent Grade chemicals to make primary analytical standards is not necessarily the best approach, in my opinion, since there are grades that are much more pure and are typically better suited to applications in chemical analysis. As another example, the statement that one can purchase a gas chromatograph for several thousand dollars might mislead a student since it would be almost impossible to find a decent instrument for this cost. Other errors (typos, etc.) are discussed below.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The references to specific approaches to using the Excel and R software programs will eventually become obsolete as these software programs are updated.

The references to prices of various analytical instruments will eventually become outdated due to inflation.

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The text is generally well written and accessible and avoids jargon for the most part.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The text generally appears consistent throughout.

Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The text is generally divisible and can be read in small sections. Hyperlinks and other features allow the reader to navigate more readily.

Modularity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

Generally, the book flows in a logical manner from one topic to the next. However, in some cases, concepts are introduced before they are fully defined, which I feel is not the best practice. In the discussion on solid phase extraction, for example, the term “C18” is used but is not defined. This term is subsequently defined (to a limited extent) in a subsequent table but the reader is not referred to this definition. Similarly, in the section on gas chromatography, the terms “capillary column” and “packed column” are used before they are defined or explained. In a few cases, material seems to be introduced out of order. As an example, the section on filtration does not discuss standard gravity filtration using filter paper. Rather this is discussed in detail in the later section on gravimetric methods.

Organization Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

The text is free of display or navigation issues. However, While it is certainly beneficial to insert images in the text to keep the material interesting, some of the images appear superfluous and perhaps somewhat random with regard to their usefulness to a student being introduced to analytical chemistry. As an example, the detailed photographic images of a microwave digestion unit (Figure 7.12) are of limited usefulness. As well, the series of coloured flasks that appear on p. 165 are not of much help to the reader. Other images could be increased in size or quality to increase their usefulness.

Finally, with all due respect to the author, the front cover is somewhat garish and “busy.” It would be preferable to use a simple type to provide the title and associated information and to dispense with the numerous images pasted around the title.

Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

The text could benefit from additional proofreading. While reading through the text, I found several errors. Examples include:

The equation at the top of page 21 is missing the “micro” symbols (μ).

There are some typographical errors, such as the first sentence on p. 28 “To fill a transfer pipet suction use a rubber bulb…”

The heading on page 829 “Stationary Phases for Gas-Liquid Chromatography” should read “Liquid-Liquid” rather than “Gas-Liquid.”

That I was able to find these errors quite easily on a single initial examination leads me to believe that there are a number of other errors as well.

Grammar Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

There are no issues with cultural relevance.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

Chemistry is largely the same regardless of the country in which it is practiced, hence it is difficult to frame a chemistry text in a Canadian context. I suppose, if one wished, the textbook could be amended to include more Canadian content by way of using Canadian-specific examples in the practice problems. For example, “The concentration of phosphate in Lake Winnipeg is …”

In summary, this is an enormous book that perhaps tries to do too much in some areas but not enough in others. One might even consider breaking it up into two books: analytical chemistry and statistics for analytical chemistry. With regard to the sections on instrumental analysis (chromatography, etc.) it should either be made clear that these are only brief overviews of these topics or these sections could be dispensed with entirely and students can instead use one of the many textbooks that deal exclusively with instrumental analysis.