Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) measurements have been made of over 3000 sand-sized grains of quartz. Analysis at this scale highlights the variability in the luminescence sensitivity and the dose saturation characteristics of individual quartz grains. Using a new instrument capable of measuring single grains it is feasible to routinely measure the equivalent dose from many hundreds of grains from each sample. Analysis of such datasets requires assessment of the uncertainties on each equivalent dose since these may vary significantly. This paper assesses the significance of signal intensity, dose saturation characteristics and instrument uncertainty in equivalent dose calculation. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.