This Primer covers the foundations of spectroscopy at a level suitable for first year chemistry undergraduates. Mass spectrometry, and X-ray diffraction, along with traditional spectroscopic techniques: i.r., n.m.r. and u.v. -visible spectroscopy are covered. The essential physical principles of each method are introduced, and many examples of spectral analysis provided. Problems, and further reading are also included. This Primer is designed to reflect the recent advances in the use of spectroscopic and diffraction methods, not only for obtaining an analysis of elements and groups present in a molecule but also for establishing the arrangement of the constituent atoms. These developments have had a profound effect by increasing scientific knowledge in the fields of chemistry and molecular biology, reflected in the elucidation of the structure and function of a wide range of compounds including drugs, proteins and enzymes, and nucleic acids.