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In the context of increasing hardware and software automation in the process of crystal structure determination by X-ray diffraction, and based on conference sessions presenting some of the experience of senior crystallographers for the benefit of younger colleagues, an outline is given here of some basic concepts and applications of symmetry in crystallography. Three specific examples of structure determinations are discussed, for which an understanding of these aspects of symmetry avoids mistakes that can readily be made by reliance on automatic procedures. Topics addressed include pseudo-symmetry, twinning, real and apparent disorder, chirality, and structure validation.

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