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Dr. Lavelle said in class that we won't have to worry about third order reactions, but for first and second order reactions, you can plot the data given to you on a graph or examine the rate law. If a graph of ln[A] vs. t shows a straight line with a negative slope, you know that it is a first order reaction; by examination, when the orders of each reactant add up to 1 in the rate law, then the reaction is a first order reaction. Similarly, if a graph of 1/[A] vs. t yields a straight line with a positive slope, then the reaction is second order; if the sum of the orders of the reactants in the rate law equals 2, then the reaction is second order.
Another way to look at this is to consider how a rate changes as a reactant's concentration changes. If you add more of a reactant and the rate does not change it is a zero order reaction. If you double the concentration and the rate doubles, it is a first order reaction. If you double the concentration and the rate quadruples, it is a second order reaction. This pattern would then continue with any other order
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