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Reaction mechanism are the sequential elementary reactions that occur from reactants going to products. Reaction intermediates are formed in one step and then consumed in a last step of the reaction mechanism. The slowest step in the mechanism is called the rate determining step or rate-limiting step.
Think of a reaction mechanism as the sum of all the elementary steps that lead to the overall reaction. Understanding the step by step process of a reaction helps find the slowest rate determining step which can be used to determine the rate law.
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