For your final paper, you are going to have to explore your topic through various lenses. You will need both "popular" sources and "scholarly" sources. What is the difference? And when do you need to use which kind of source?
When you're looking at a website or other online source, it's important to remember that not all sources are equal in terms of quality or content. What could make a suitable source for one project, could be inappropriate for another. Always consult with your librarian or professor before using open online content.
The questions below are a critical lens for you to use when evaluating web sources for your academic work. You don't have to answer every question, but try to cover all of the broader, bolded questions.
Who wrote the source? Can you find an author or authors listed on the site?
What kind of background does the author have? Try Googling their name - what other kinds of things have they written?
Is there an institution, organization, or corporate entity that is behind the website? What interests might they have?
What is the source about?
How does the source's topic or content align with their mission and identity?
When was the source written?
Can you find a date anywhere on the website, or on the particular article or source you're looking at? Remember, an "updated" date at the bottom of a webpage does not necessarily mean that all content was updated as of that time.
What is the URL of the website you're on? Sometimes, you can tell more about a website based on the end of it's address (e.g. .edu, .com, .net, etc).
Think back to the author of the source, if you found one. What possible motivation could they have for writing the source?
Does the source have a clear message? Does that message align with the author/websites' intentions?
How did you find the source?
How is the source getting its message across?
Scholarly vs. Popular
Scholarly materials are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars using scholarly or technical language, include full citations for sources. Scholarly items are often refereed or peer reviewed. Book reviews and editorials are not considered scholarly articles, even when found in scholarly journals.
Popular materials are often written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience using language easily understood by general readers. Popular items rarely give full citations for sources, are written for the general public, and tend to be shorter than scholarly materials.