Most of your courses will require that you write papers. Some will be "journal type" writing and some will be research papers when you incorporate the research and ideas of others to help support your points. Some of you will actually publish some of your papers in various theological journals. In both cases, your papers should be professional academic quality.
Any use of information without proper documentation of the source is considered plagiarism. The term "source" includes not only published primary and secondary material (e.g. Raymond Brown, in An Introduction to the New Testament, summarizing the ideas of Augustine is considered a secondary source), but also information and opinions gained from other people. Consequently, your documentation might include citations not only from books and journals, but also from class lectures and interviews.
Often students inadvertently use the works of others without correctly citing the source of the information. Remember, when you use someone's ideas you must give credit to that source. If you are using the author's exact words, use quotation marks around the passage and then, using the appropriate documentation style, give the full citation information. These mistakes are usually unintentional, but are nonetheless plagiarism.
In your research papers, you must document any information that is not "common knowledge" or that you did not know before your investigation of the subject. Information that could have been obtained from a number of sources is termed "common knowledge." This sort of information might be something such as "Jesus was tried before Pontius Pilate." Because you are writing for a specific audience (the seminary community) you can assume a certain level of shared common knowledge.
When the information is not common knowledge then you must tell the reader where you got this information. This is referred to as documentation. Documentation styles vary, but generally classes in the counseling programs require APA (American Psychological Association) and theology courses suggest Turabian/Chicago. Ask your professor which documentation style you should use.
Other problems can arise when summarizing material. Even when you put the author's ideas in your own words, it is necessary to give the source information. Sometimes when a writer summarizes and correctly documents the source, the summaries are too similar to the original: phrases and groups of words from the original text might not be rewritten in the writer's "language" but retain too much of the original author's style. This is considered plagiarism as well.
Plagiarism is not only unethical but also illegal. Depending on the professor, a paper may receive a failing grade or the student may receive a failing grade for the course.