As part of the process of developing and evidencing claims made, statistics, arguments, ideas, research questions and hypotheses, suitable references need to be located and cited otherwise the essay will look like it has stolen ideas from other people. However, online references should be examined for appropriateness because some forms are more reliable, valuable, valid, authentic and accurate than others.
Papers to be published in an academic journal or in an edited book go through a peer review process, where the paper is distributed among experts in the area of the subject matter and is scrutinised for accuracy, relevance, coherence, and reliability. One reason to be careful when selecting online sources to reference in an essay is because the majority of Internet published material, such as personal websites, blogs entries, discussion groups and wikis do not go through the peer reviewing process therefore they are susceptible to hosting inaccurate, unreliable, invalidated material. If these sources are used, then the students are likely to be criticised for generating ideas that have been developed through sources that lack substance.
Claims, recommendations, ideas and suggestions within academic journal articles and chapters of edited books are evidenced by either a substantial analysis and evaluation of existing literature, through carrying out an extensive experiment or investigation, or both. There is, therefore, a universally accepted academic writing style and tone as well as structure for presenting research in written form. On the Internet, however, formal writing structure is replaced with a more casual style and approach to writing; additionally, there are a lot of opinionated, subjective writings that lack methodology and presentation of evidence for any claims or ideas made by the author, Therefore if a piece of online writing does not contain any references, or does not contain any sort of explanation of how ideas formed, then it is likely to be opinionated and subjective therefore might not be accurate and certainly not reliable or validated. Web resources that usually come under this sort of scrutiny are blogs, wikis, discussion posts, personal websites as well as personally made videos and presentations. The ease of the web has made web content creation that much easier: everyone has opinions and appear willing to publish those opinions no matter how relevant or accurate they are.
Online publishing has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years by academics and knowledge professionals because of the ease of which virtually anyone can set up a website or blog and publish their ideas, regardless of any methodology or evidence that back their claims and ideas. Everyone has a voice, everyone has an opinion and either through the written word or videos, everyone has been given the right to voice their opinions regardless of accuracy or relevance. The only web sources that are deemed reliable are those produced by any academic, military or Government institution, as well as personal blogs and websites set up by experts, professionals and academic researchers.