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, the Sona admin team will contact you with details on how to access the system, usually both by email and on Canvas. If you are unable to access the system, you should contact the Sona admin team at the earliest opportunity.

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.

To log in, go to the Sona main page, and click the "University of Sussex login" button. This will redirect you to a page where you should input your usual Sussex details.

Screeenshot of green button reading "University of Sussex login"

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.

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.


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

You may also receive a no-show for deliberately providing bad data. For example, if you click "neither agree nor disagree" for every option on a questionnaire, indicating that you didn't read the questions and simply rushed through the survey so receive credits, you may be given 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 studies?
    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 some circumstances, students may find they aren't eligible for studies or are unable to participate for accessibility reasons. If you come into this category, you may engage in unpaid research assistant work for an equivalent length of time instead. To do this, you will need to email the Sona admin team to opt in to this scheme. Once you've been added to the scheme, you'll be able to see research assistant opportunities advertised on Sona alongside regular experimental participation. 

  • 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.


  • My Sussex login doesn't work for Sona.
    You'll need to have your account created and activated. If you're a psychology undergraduate this should happen at the start of your first year, but if you think you haven't received details, you should contact the admin team as soon as possible.

  • I didn't receive login details.
    At the start of each academic year, we create new accounts for Sona, and we will advertise that this has been done via the Canvas pages for your course. We won't email you a login, as Sona uses the same sign-in details as other campus services (eg email, Canvas, etc). If, once accounts have been created, you find that you aren't able to log in, please email the admin team

  • 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.


  • 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 opt into the research assistance scheme. We recommend checking regularly from the start of term onwards. 

  • 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 under normal circumstances. 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.


  • What are credits?
    One credit is equal to 15 minutes of time spent participating in a study or volunteering as a research assistant. Please note that credits are only of use to psychology undergraduates, and can't be used for "extra credit" in other schools.

  • 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 19 out of my 20 required credits - can I have partial marks?
    No - you need to meet the minimum requirement to get your marks.

  • I took part in a study 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 teaching. This varies each year, so check the University's term dates page if you're not sure. Credits will be awarded on your acacemic record at some point after the deadline (as with marked work).


  • What is a no-show?
    This is when you are scheduled to participate in a study but do not attend, or when you deliberately provide useless data. When this happens, you will be penalised one credit from your participation record. After two, you'll lose another and 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).