Sample decomposition is a fundamental and integral step in the procedure of geochemical analysis. It is often the limiting factor to sample throughput, especially with the recent application of the fast and modern multi-element measurement instrumentation. The complexity of geological materials makes it necessary to choose the sample decomposition technique that is compatible with the specific objective of the analysis. When selecting a decomposition technique, consideration should be given to the chemical and mineralogical characteristics of the sample, elements to be determined, precision and accuracy requirements, sample throughput, technical capability of personnel, and time constraints. This paper addresses these concerns and discusses the attributes and limitations of many techniques of sample decomposition along with examples of their application to geochemical analysis. The chemical properties of reagents as to their function as decomposition agents are also reviewed. The section on acid dissolution techniques addresses the various inorganic acids that are used individually or in combination in both open and closed systems. Fluxes used in sample fusion are discussed. The promising microwave-oven technology and the emerging field of automation are also examined. A section on applications highlights the use of decomposition techniques for the determination of Au, platinum group elements (PGEs), Hg, U, hydride-forming elements, rare earth elements (REEs), and multi-elements in geological materials. Partial dissolution techniques used for geochemical exploration which have been treated in detail elsewhere are not discussed here; nor are fire-assaying for noble metals and decomposition techniques for X-ray fluorescence or nuclear methods be discussed. ?? 1992.