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When processing experimental data, and calculating an uncertainty value in multiple steps, should intermediary uncertainties be used to a certain number of significant figures or kept to the full precision allowed by the calculator/computer?

I have a number of measured values and their associated uncertainties, and I have processed this data to give me a final value and uncertainty without ever limiting significant figures in either the values or uncertainties at each step. Is this the correct way to go about this?

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Do the calculation at the computer/calculator precision then quote result with the appropriate number of significant figures. Yes that is correct procedure. Otherwise you could introduce rounding error.

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  • $\begingroup$ @user43836 You should read the post linked by Kyle Kanos in the comment to your post that explains why you should not be doing it in "multiple steps" if possible. $\endgroup$ – baldrik Apr 3 '14 at 16:42

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