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Montessori High School - Refugee Camps: 4b. Primary vs. Secondary Sources

A guide to doing research on refugee camps and related topics.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

When evaluating the quality of the information you are using, it is useful to identify if you are using a Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary source. By doing so, you will be able recognize if the author is reporting on his/her own firsthand experiences or relying on the views of others.

Source Type Examples
A primary source is a first person account by someone who experienced or witnessed an event. This original document has not been previously published or interpreted by anyone else.
  • First person account of an event
  • First publication of a scientific study
  • Speech or lecture
  • Original artwork
  • Handwritten manuscript
  • Letters between two people
  • A diary
  • Historical documents, e.g., the Bill of Rights
A secondary source is one step removed from the primary original source. The author is reexamining, interpreting and forming conclusions based on the information that is conveyed in the primary source.
  • Newspaper reporting on a scientific study
  • Review of a music CD or art show
  • Biography
A tertiary source is further removed from the primary source. It leads the researcher to a secondary source, rather than to the primary source.
  • Index to articles
  • Library catalog