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<section begin=glossary />

Risk assessments should always be done for a purpose. When the purpose is identified and kept clear in mind and preferably explicated and made public, it helps to guide the process in producing a desired kind of assessment product. The primary purpose is to improve societal decision making by providing good descriptions of chosen parts of reality for the use of the decision-makers. Proper identification of the purpose of risk assessment crucially affects the assessment process and the content and essence of the final product. See also Purpose and properties of good assessments and Purpose determines the structure of environmental health assessments. The purpose of a variable is to describe a particular piece of reality.<section end=glossary />