School of Psychology

Research participation scheme - a guide for students

All students on first and second year psychology courses must collect a set number of research hours over the course of the year.

As a psychology student, you must complete your participation in order to gain a proportion of your marks. Participating in research is is one of the best ways to learn how real research is done. You will be able to learn first-hand how experiments and surveys are designed and get to use specialised equipment and software. You'll also be contributing to the work that goes on in the department.

On this page, you will find information about your responsibilities and rights as a participant. Please make sure you familiarise yourself with this information.

Your requirements

Research participation is worth 10% of your overall mark for both the research skills courses you take in your first year (Psychology as a Science and Analysing Data). This amounts to five hours of participation in the autumn term and five hours in the spring term.

In second year, research participation is worth 5% of your mark for each research module you take (Discovering Statistics and Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods). This amounts to two and a half hours of participation in the autumn term and another two and a half hours in the spring term.

You must complete the required partipation in its entirety. You will receive no marks at all if you fail to complete the required participation, even if you are only 15 minutes under the required total.

Participation usually means taking part in studies for researchers in the School of Psychology, although you may also count volunteering as a research assistant towards your total if you have permission from the faculty member in charge of the study. 

If you find you're unable to participate in studies (for example, for accessibility reasons), you may carry out unpaid research assistance work instead. In this case, you should email the Sona admin team to opt in to this scheme, and we will add you to a list of students who will have access to these opportunities. These will be listed on Sona, but will only be visible to those who have made it clear they can't participate in experiments. Please note: we will never ask you to justify why you can't participate in studies, but we ask that you only choose this option if participation genuinely isn't possible for you.

Usually, at least 25% of the studies you participate in must be in person, i.e. in a lab or experiment room, not online. We are currently allowing exceptions to this rule due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. 

You are responsible for organising your own participation, and for turning up for every study you schedule. Failure to arrive for experiments may result in your being penalised (see No-shows).

Ethics and guidelines

Psychologists must agree to a strict code of ethics in their research (you can find details of this on the British Psychological Society website).

Participants in research studies must give informed consent to take part, must not be coerced into participating, and must be free to withdraw at any time. All the studies you take part in will adhere to these guidelines. At the end of each study you should be given the chance to ask questions, not just about the aims of the research but also about the methodology, equipment, etc. You cannot be penalised for deciding to withdraw your data.

As above, you are also free to arrange research assistance instead of participation if you wish. In this case it is up to you to approach faculty members and ask if you can work for them.

Only researchers who are authorised to use the scheme can award you credits. Master’s and third-year undergraduate students doing their projects are not allowed to give you research credits (although you are very welcome to take part in these studies anyway, as they often involve prizes or freebies as incentive instead). Studies for which you are paid money cannot be counted towards your credit total, nor can research undertaken in other Schools or departments. Please note this is not "extra credit", it is an essential component of your course.

Participating in research is a great way to learn how research happens. Therefore, the research you take part in, or the research assistance you do, should be educational to you as well beneficial to the research taking place in the School.


Participation is managed via a website called Sona.

When you begin your degree course in Psychology, an account for Sona will be created for you and login details will arrive in your university email. Your username and password will be the same as your Sussex login. If you don't have an account, you must contact the Sona admin as soon as possible; not having an account is no excuse for not participating!

When you log in to Sona, you are able to browse available studies and agree to participate by signing up to a timeslot. Participation is measured in credits, with each credit being equal to 15 minutes of time spent participating. You can view your account details and see how many credits you have already accumulated. After you participate, the researcher in charge of the study will add the credits to your profile.

You can find detailed information about using Sona on the Sona student pages.


It is fundamentally important that you turn up to take part in studies you have booked. Failure to attend isn't just rude - it also costs the School money and wastes the researcher's time.

Therefore, if you schedule a study and fail to attend, you will receive a no-show on Sona. You may also receive a no-show if you provide data that is not usable - for example, if you fill in a questionnaire improperly by just clicking "Neither agree nor disagree" right down the middle, or fail to answer attention check questions correctly.

For each no-show, you will lose one credit from your accumulated total. After two no-shows, your account will be locked, your details will be forwarded to the Head of School and your Academic Adviser, and you will need to go through a lengthy process to get your account unlocked again.

You will not be penalised if you cancel the study beforehand, either by cancelling automatically on Sona (which is easy!) or by contacting the researcher with plenty of notice. If you think you have been unfairly penalised (for example, if you were genuinely very ill), you should contact the researcher in charge of the study.

You will also not be penalised for withdrawing your data, as this is your right.