In This Chapter
Defining mechanism problems
Seeing the do’s and don’ts of mechanism problems
Distinguishing mechanism from synthesis questions
Seeing common mistakes in drawing mechanisms
Organic chemists want to know what reagents convert one kind of molecule or functional group into another. But they also want to know how reactions happen. They want to know what exactly happened when they scooped different chemicals into a flask that converted the starting materials into the product. If organic chemists know how a reaction happens, they can more easily optimize reaction conditions (the solvent, temperature, acidity, reagent amounts, and so on) that allow the reaction to proceed most efficiently. The mechanism of a reaction shows how a reaction takes place.
By understanding the mechanism of a reaction, chemists also get a better understanding of how reactions work, and they’re better informed about when a new reaction is likely to succeed or fail. A reaction mechanism is the detailed stepwise process that uses arrows to show how electrons ...