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Information for Principle Investigators (PIs)

Only current, fulltime faculty members in the Psychology and Child Development Departments may act as a SONA Principal Investigator (PI).  If you do not have a PI account and believe you should, please contact

As a PI, faculty are responsible for overseeing the administration of surveys on SONA and any student (graduate or undergraduate) researchers using SONA to deploy a research study.  Please read all of the following information carefully.


SONA credit units for online and lab studies

SONA credit units for online and lab studies
Minutes Online Units Lab Units
Up to 15 0.5 2.5
Up to 30 1 3
Up to 45 1.5 3.5
Up to 60 2 4
Up to 75 2.5 4.5
Up to 90 3 5
Up to 105 3.5 5.5
Up to 120 4 6

NHSR Studies

If the IRB has designated your study as Not Human Subjects Research (NHSR) and you plan to collect data via SONA, please download and complete this form. Only the faculty PI should complete this form, and they should upload it in lieu of the IRB approval email when they set up the study in SONA.

Download Form

Setting Up A Study in SONA

  1. Select “Add New Study” from the top menu bar, or under the “Add New Study” menu select “+Create a new study”
  2. Select the study type:
    1. a.    If you are creating an online study where you will build the questions directly in the SONA system, select “Online Internal Survey Study.” If your study will be administered through an external survey website, like Qualtrics or Survey Monkey, select “Online External Study.” Choose the “Credit” option if participants will earn SONA credits, the “Paid” option if they will earn money.
    2. If you are creating an in-person study, select “Standard Study” or “Multi-Part Standard Study.” Only use the “Multi- Part” study option if you want your participants to sign up for all parts of your study at the same time. If they will complete Part 1 and then Part 2 will be scheduled later, use the “Standard Study” option. You will be able to use the prerequisite functions to ensure only participants who take Part 1 can sign up for Part 2. Choose the “Credit” option if participants will earn SONA credits, the “Paid” option if they will earn money.
  3. Complete the basic study information. You should enter information exactly as approved on your IRB Proposal.
  4. SONA has a number of features that may be useful for your particular study- e.g., invitation codes that prevent anyone from signing up without the code, the ability for specific researchers to be assigned to specific timeslots, prescreen selection so you can allow only participants who have answered questions on the prescreen a certain way to access your study, and study restrictions or requirements so you can prevent or allow only certain participant to enroll in your study based on what classes they are in or what other studies they have completed. You can set these features up now, but you can make adjustments to these features at any time.
  5. Click “Add Study.” The Study Information page will appear.
  6. If you are ready to start your study, click on “Study Menu” à “Change Study Information”. At the bottom of the basic study information, there is a radio button to “Activate Study?” – click on YES and then SAVE CHANGES.
  7. The study must be approved by the SONA Admin before you can add timeslots.
  • a. Include the following information in your request email: The study name as it appears on SONA (not the name you gave the IRB)
    • ii. The number of IRB-approved SONA participants you want to recruit
    • iii. The IRB-approved time an individual participant will take to complete your study (e.g., 30 minutes)

Please note: SONA admin no longer verifies that you post/use the correct number of participants and credits that were approved by the IRB.  It is YOUR responsibility to make sure you do not violate the terms of your IRB approval.

Activating A Study and Setting Up Timeslots

After you receive approval, you will need to set up timeslots to collect data.  You will need to activate a study for it to be visible to participants.

  • Study menu-> Change study information -> Active study? Select “Yes.”

Studies are automatically deactivated at the end of every quarter. You have to reactivate them each quarter to continue collecting data.

Participants will only be able to sign up for your study when you have created timeslots for them. When viewing a particular study, go to Study menu -> View/administer timeslots.

For online studies:

  1. Select “+Add a timeslot” on the right side of the screen.
  2. For online studies you should only have one timeslot running at a time. Enter the final participation date and time. The latest date/time you should select for this is the last day SONA will be available to participants that quarter. Even if the study is approved by the IRB to run longer than that, participants must complete your study that quarter if they sign up for it, so you should select a date a time no later than 5pm on the day SONA closes that quarter (usually the last day of instruction before finals start, see Important Dates)
  3. Enter the number of participants- usually this is the number of participants you are approved to collect data for by the IRB.
  4. Click “Add this timeslot”

Sometimes participants sign up for an online study early and “squat” on the timeslot all quarter, not taking your survey until the very end. To prevent this, you may want to set up your timeslot so that the final participation date/time is sooner than the end of the quarter- perhaps in one week, or two weeks. Any participants who sign up but don’t complete the study should be given an “Unexcused no show” when you grant credit. After the final participation time/date has passed for that timeslot, you may set up a new timeslot that lasts another week or two and can accommodate the remaining participants you are approved to collect data from. You may repeat this process until all your data is collected. If you do this, remember to only have one timeslot running at a time for online studies! It is confusing to participants if you have multiple timeslots running at once.

For in-person studies:

  1. Select “+Add a timeslot” on the right side of the screen.
  2. For in-person studies you may add individual timeslots, or add multiple timeslots at once. You should look at both options to determine which feature will work best for your study.
  3. You must select the date and time the participant session will start and indicate the number of participants that may sign up for that particular timeslot. This is study dependent, be sure to consult with your PI.
  4. Enter the exact location- building and room number- where the study will take place. Participants need this to know where to go for your study.
  5. If you have selected the ability to assign a specific researcher to a timeslot in the study information, then you can select the researcher who will be responsible for this time slot.
  6. Click “Add This Timeslot”

For in-person studies you may have as many timeslots for participants as you are approved for by the IRB. So if you are approved for 100 participants, you could have 100 individuals timeslots that each allow 1 participant, 10 timeslots that each allow 10 participants, 1 timeslot that allows for 100 participants, or any other combination.

Granting Credit

After a participant has signed up for a study, their default credit status will show as “No Action Taken.” From the participant’s perspective, it shows as “Awaiting action from researcher.” This default status will remain until the researcher takes action. For online studies, some researchers use an automatic credit-granting feature, in which case the researcher does not have to manually grant credit. All in-person studies, and any online studies not using this feature, require researcher action to grant credit.

It is best if you grant credit as soon as you can after a participant has done your study. Researchers must take action on credit statuses before 24 hours after the closing time/date of SONA (see Important dates).  No participant should be left as “No action taken.”  Researchers may select 1 of 3 options:

  1. Grant Credit. Select this if the participant did participate in your study.
  2. Unexcused No-Show: Select this for in-person studies where the participant did not show up for their scheduled slot. Some researchers are now also selecting this if participants fail attention checks in their surveys or are not participating in good faith. This is acceptable as long as it is approved by the IRB and clearly explained in your consent form. Students who receive 2 Unexcused No-Shows are prevented by SONA from signing up for more studies. This is to be fair to researchers, whose time may be wasted by a participant who doesn’t show, and to be fair to other participants who do show up.
  3. Excused No-Show: Select this if the participant should not be granted credit, but should not be penalized for some reason. It could be that the participant contacted the researcher to inform them they couldn’t make it and they rescheduled for another timeslot. They would be excused from this timeslot, and granted credit in another after they participated. There may be other reasons as well- use this assignment when no credit should be granted but it shouldn’t possibly prevent participation in the future.

The final date to assign credit to participants is 24 hours after all studies end on the last day of the semester.  If you have not assigned credit to your participants, they will automatically receive credit, which will count against your study usage time.

Important Dates:

Studies are only allowed to occur during weeks of scheduled class meeting times (NOT during breaks between semesters or finals week).  All studies should be posted during regularly scheduled course semesters.

SONA research studies take place during Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters (not Winter intersession).

  • First day for student participation on SONA:
  • First day of classes
  • Last day for student participation on SONA:      
  • Last day of classes, 5pm
  • Final day to assign credit to SONA participants:
  • 1 day after the last day of classes, 5pm (e.g., Saturday following the last Friday class)
  • Deadline for students to assign SONA credits to courses:
  • 2 days following the last day of classes, 5pm (e.g., Sunday following the last Friday class)
  • Time for Instructors to download course credit reports:
  • 3-7 days following the last day of classes, 9am (e.g., Monday-Friday of finals week)


To enhance study participation as a learning experience, PIs should provide an informative study information handout or page at the end of their study. This may be combined with a “Debrief” if one is required by the IRB, but is also needed for studies that do not require a debrief. The study information should provide the student with basic information about the study goals, hypotheses, methods, and planned analyses so the student can understand their participation experience in a larger study context.

Other Tips

  • The SONA admin team respects your credit decisions. If students contact us to question a credit decision we send them directly to you.
  • Be sure your participant sign-up deadlines and cancellation deadlines fit with your schedule. The default deadlines are 24 hours prior to the study time/date. However, in some cases you may want longer windows, perhaps if you need to communicate with participants beforehand, or if you would need to know more than 24 hours in advance if a participant were going to cancel.
  • For those using Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, or some other external software system, they often have automatic credit granting features designed for SONA. You should check with the help and guides posted by those services (these are usually easily found by Googling). SONA does not provide troubleshooting information for those other products.
  • For survey studies, many researchers are now employing attention checks and other measures to ensure participants are taking their study seriously. With IRB approval you may opt to not grant credit to participants who fail these measures. We encourage researchers to do this. It does mean you cannot use automatic credit granting.

Student Researchers

PIs are responsible for managing student researchers using SONA on the PI’s behalf.  Please ask your student researchers to check with you first regarding questions about using SONA before contacting the SONA Administrator.