School of Psychology

Using Sona - a guide for participants

Find out about taking part in experiments as part of your Psychology studies using the Sona system.

Research participation forms an important part of your studies in Psychology (see the research participation guide for more details).

This participation is managed using a website called Sona.

On this page, you will find information on how to use Sona to manage your own research participation and sign up for studies.

Setting up your account

When you begin your undergraduate studies in Psychology, an email will be sent to you with your Sona account details. Log in as soon as possible and change your password to a secure one. Please note that while your username is likely to be the same as your Sussex one (e.g. abc12), Sona is not run by Sussex, so you should use a different password.

If you've lost or forgotten your password, there is a Forgotten password link on the Sona front page. If you still can't log in after trying this, contact the Sona admins as soon as possible.

If you're not a Psychology student but would like the opportunity to participate in experiments for cash, you can request an account by emailing the Sona admin team.

The first time you log in, you will be required to complete a short Pre-screen questionnaire. This consists of basic questions, concerning things like handedness and gender. You can decline to answer any question.

After this you will be taken to your personal homepage. From this page you can view your credit total, see your upcoming appointments, and perform administrative tasks like changing your password, which you should do the first time you log in.

Signing up for studies

When you are logged in to Sona, you will see the option to View available studies. Click the button to see what's available.

All currently available studies (that you are eligible for) will appear. To find out more about a study, click the Timeslots available button next to it.

You will see information about the study - what it involves, what the aims are, how long it takes, and so on. If you would like to participate, you can click the option marked View time slots for this study.

You'll see all the times the researcher is running their study. Pick one that works for you and book it by clicking the green button marked Sign up.

You will receive an email confirmation of your signup, including the time and place of the study. You'll also receive a reminder the day before.

If you subsequently realise you can't attend the timeslot you've chosen, you can easily cancel your appointment by viewing your scheduled timeslots and clicking the cancel button. The cancellation deadline will usually be 24 hours before the study takes place for in-person studies, although this may vary. If you need to cancel closer to the time, you may be able to by contacting the researcher directly. If you fail to cancel, or simply don't turn up, you will be penalised - see No-shows.

Getting credits

After you have taken part in a study, the researcher running the study will grant you the agreed number of credits. These will appear on your profile page in Sona, so you will be able to keep track easily of how many more you need.

If a researcher doesn't grant your credits immediately, don't panic! It's easier for researchers to do this in batches, so you may have to wait a few days if they're testing a lot of people.

If you've waited a while and still don't have your credits, you should contact the researcher in charge of the study to find out why. Please don't contact the admins unless you're having trouble getting an answer from the researcher.

No-shows

If you fail to attend a study that you've booked without cancelling or contacting the researcher, you will receive a No-show.

For each no-show, you will lose one credit from your accumulated total.

After two no-shows, as well as losing credits, you will have your Sona account locked. You will receive an email with instructions, and will need to contact your academic adviser in the process of getting your account unlocked again.

Paid participation

Anyone over the age of 18 can sign up as a paid participant. You do not need to be a member of the university. Almost all our research for which you can be paid will require you travelling to the university, so paid participation may not be suitable for those who don't live nearby (although you are welcome to sign up anyway in case online paid studies are advertised).

Psychology students are also welcome to be paid participants, although paid studies can't be counted towards your credit total.

You can find out more about being a paid research participant here.

Frequently asked questions

General queries

  • Is it compulsory to take part in experiments?
    If you're a Psychology undergraduate, then it is compulsory to collect the required amount of course credit. The normal, and easiest, way to do this is through research participation. However, in exceptional circumstances, you may choose to opt out of participation and instead work as an (unpaid) research assistant for an equivalent length of time, if there is work available for you to do. In this case, it is your responsibility to contact researchers in the department to see if they have work available, and your responsibility to make sure you carry out enough hours. The researcher/s in question must then inform the Sona administrator of any work you do, so that the credits can be added to your Sona record.

  • Why do I need to participate in research?
    Taking part in research is one of the best ways to learn about how real psychology research works, so it's an important part of your course -- it helps you to learn about working in psychology. The research and assistance you can take part in will almost always teach you something interesting and important! Moreover, being a research participant is enormously beneficial to the work taking place in the School.

  • Are the studies ethical?
    All studies go through a process of ethical approval before participants are recruited. This ensures that you will be treated fairly, have the experiment explained to you, be debriefed afterwards, and allowed to withdraw from the study if you want to (including during or after your participation). It also ensures that the data you provide will be treated confidentially and used appropriately. If you are unsure, you can contact the researcher in charge to find out exactly how your data will be used.

Account

  • My Sussex login doesn't work for Sona.
    Sona isn't run by Sussex, so your Sussex login details won't work. If you're a Psychology student you should already have an account created, but you can request a password reset if you've forgotten it on the Sona login page.

  • I didn't receive login details.
    If you're a Psychology student, login details are sent out to your university email address when you begin your studies. You can use the Forgotten password link on Sona for a reminder if you've lost this email - your username will usually be your Sussex one. If you think your details haven't been sent, then you should contact the Sona admin team at the earliest opportunity.

  • I don't want to participate any more. Can I remove myself from Sona?
    If you're a Psychology student who is required to participate in studies for course credit, then you must remain on the database so that we have a record of your acquired credits. Your account will be made inactive when you leave your course. If you're a paid participant, we can deactivate your account any time you like - just email us to request this.

Studies

  • There aren't enough studies for me to participate in.
    It is your responsibility to check Sona regularly and find studies to participate in. It is very rare for a student to fail to get enough credits because of a lack of studies. If you are especially worried, remember that you can also contact faculty members to arrange research assistance.

  • Why don't I see the same studies as other participants?
    There are lots of reasons for this! Some studies won't be available if you've taken a similar one before, or might require that you participated in an earlier version. Your answers on the prescreen may mean you are ineligible for some studies. You might have filled your allowance of online studies: at least 25% of the studies you participate in must be in person. Additionally, the studies you see will always appear in a random order, so your list will look different to other students'.

  • What happens if I can't attend a scheduled study?
    Up until a certain point before the study, usually 24 hours in advance, you should be able to cancel participation on Sona at no penalty. If you're cancelling close to the timeslot, you should contact the researcher and ask to cancel. Please make an effort to cancel, rather than just not showing up (see No-shows).

  • Can I also participate for cash?
    Yes! You can't count these towards your course credit total, but we are always looking for extra participants for paid studies, so you are very welcome to take part in these.

Credits

  • What are credits?
    One credit is equal to 15 minutes of time spent participating in a study or volunteering as a research assistant.

  • I've collected all my credits - do I need to do anything?
    No. The Sona admin team will submit these to the course convenors after the end of term. If you've collected enough credits, you can relax!

  • I've participated in a study but haven't been given credits.
    In the first instance, you should contact the researcher in charge of the study to ask why your credits have not been awarded. Allow a few days for credit awards, as researchers may not always grant credits immediately (for instance, if they are testing other participants).

  • I got extra credits one term - can I carry them over to next term?
    Unfortunately, no, this is not possible. You will still need to complete the minimum account in your next term.

  • Can I get extra credit for going above my total?
    No - although you are welcome to participate more than necessary, as it is a good way to experience psychology research and learn about the subject.

  • I got 15 out of my 16 required credits - can I have partial marks?
    No - you need to meet the minimum requirement to get your marks.

  • I took part in an experiment for money but haven't had credits.
    Paid studies cannot be counted towards your credit total (as this would mean you were being rewarded twice).

  • When is the deadline for collecting credits?
    This is usually the final day of term. This varies each year, so check the University's term dates page if you're not sure.

No-shows

  • What is a no-show?
    This is when you are scheduled to participate in a study but do not attend. When this happens, you will be penalised one credit from your participation record. After two, your account will be locked.

  • I participated, but I was given a no-show - what can I do?
    Contact the researcher in charge of the study to find out why. This might be a mistake, or it might be that you didn't carry out the study properly (e.g. you ticked "neither agree nor disagree" for every item on a survey).