Longer essays may also contain an introductory page that defines words and phrases of the essay's topic. Most academic institutions require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other porting material in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. This scholarly convention helps others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of facts and quotations the author uses to support the essay's argument and helps readers evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student's ability to present their thoughts in an organized way and is designed to test their intellectual capabilities.
Part of the confusion involves the mishmash of mainstream magazines, newspapers, blogs, and literary journals that all publish short nonfiction. It’s great to have more venues now, but journalistic editors and literary editors assess nonfiction features differently. I’m always thinking of provocative titles and leads, about cluing in readers quickly to the focus of a feature. While I appreciate the emotional wallop of good flash fiction and memoir, the literary compression that’s so much a part of flash can undercut clarity of purpose and meaning in nonfiction.