SONA and Research Participation

Important Dates

  • SONA System opens January 21, 2020.
  • Last day to do studies is April 29,2020.
  • Last day to make any changes to your credit record is May 4, 2020 at 4pm.
  • Longer prescreen for credit is available from January 21st to February 3rd at 4pm .  Remember to sign up for the study, "Long Prescreen Spring 2020” .
  • See these instructions for information on logging into SONA.
  • If you have any problems contact Sandy Kalmus.

Human Subject Extra Credit

  • Many undergraduate classes offer extra credit through Human Subject studies and will say so on the syllabus. 
  • Please keep your scheduled appointments or cancel 24 hours prior (or as soon as possible if an emergency arises).  3 unexcused no-shows will result in a lock out of the system for the rest of the semester, resulting in loss of credits already earned and the ability to participate in other studies. 
  • If you wish to participate in the long prescreen for credit you must sign up for the study, "Long Prescreen Spring 2020”,  in order to receive credits.  This is optional.  There are no credits for the mandatory demographic study when you first sign up.  In the SONA account, it will say you participated in the prescreen, but that is the mandatory, demographic questionaire.  If you did not sign up for it, you did not participate.   
  • Please verify SONA credits are assigned to the right class. Changes can only be made until May 4, 2020 at 4pm.
  • Credits must be used in the semester they are earned and do not carry over to the next semester.

In the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, there is a great need to have people participate as subjects in research. The department has a reputation for excellence in research and scholarship, as well as in teaching. Student participation in studies conducted by members of the department helps create this reputation for excellence. In fact, much of the research that is taught in psychology courses is based on participation of undergraduate students.Typically students participate in research as part of their courses. Most faculty in our department believe that it is justified to link research participation to enrollment in psychology courses.

While students provide a valuable service by donating a few hours to research, they are receiving something in return. One kind of return is the knowledge they receive from experiencing the role of a subject. Students then know directly what it is like to be a subject and come to understand the context in which psychological data are typically gathered. Also, researchers provide feedback to subjects explaining their studies. Students can learn the hypothesis and designs of the studies in which they have participated. Further, many undergraduates continue on to advance work in which they conduct their own studies in laboratory or special problems courses. Having prior experience as subjects helps them design their own studies.

All faculty and students who desire to do research with human subjects must have this research approved by the university IRB and must comply with department procedures concerning Human Subject research. 

All personnel involved with Human Subject research must complete the CITI IRB Human Subjects Training Module. This online training must be completed by all research personnel before a study protocol is submitted on E-protocol.

Research Participation

As psychologists, our understanding of the human mind and behavior is based largely on empirical findings from studies such as those conducted in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. We strongly encourage you to participate in psychological studies for several reasons. First, we believe that you will gain some direct knowledge of the research process. Second, your participation provides an important contribution to the field of psychology. Third, participating in studies may give you an opportunity to earn extra credit in your class.

As part of your undergraduate Psychological and Brain Sciences course experience, we encourage you to obtain some research-related experience. Check your class syllabus to determine what research options are available to you. If you do not wish to participate in research studies, there may be other ways in which you can gain research-related experience such as attending departmental talks by visiting scholars. Please speak to your professor to learn more.

Available to all Psychological and Brain Sciences undergraduate classes that offer Human Subject Study extra credit, is the ability to participate in the "Long Prescreen Fall 2019" online study for 2 SONA credits. (Please note, this is not the same as the mandatory short prescreen you will take upon SONA signup.) You can access this study by logging into SONA and signing up for the "Long Prescreen Fall 2019". Like all experiments involving human subjects, participants are free to withdraw and you may freely decline to respond to any particular questions.  

There are a lot of reasons to choose to participate in the Long Prescreen. It takes about an hour, is easy, and may make you eligible for more study opportunities available only to those who take the "Long Prescreen Fall 2019". This may increase your chances of getting all the extra credit you need. The longer online Prescreen is offered only during the first few weeks of the semester, once it closes, it can not be reopened. The purpose of this longer prescreen online study is to allow researchers to determine who is eligible for their studies and invite them to participate. For example, some researchers are seeking people who speak more than one language; others need people who hold particular beliefs or who have experienced a particular life event.  

The Long Prescreen is completed by signing up in the SONA System for the "Long Prescreen Fall 2019" study.  See these instructions for information on logging into SONA.

How can you sign up for the studies?

All available psychological and brain sciences studies are listed on the SONA System. See these instructions for information on logging into SONA.

If you have any problems, see Sandy in Tobin 511 or contact sgkalmus@umass.edu.

What should you expect from each study you participate in?

  1. Courteous treatment. The researcher should be present at the appointed time and place and should treat their subjects considerately. Failure to be treated courteously should be reported to your instructor or the department chair.
  2. Consent. Subjects must consent to the study procedures. To do this, researchers must obtain written signed consent forms prior to the study. So that subjects are informed concerning what they are consenting to, the researcher must provide a fair and as full an explanation as possible of the procedures before asking subjects to sign. This description should include information concerning any discomfort or risks as well as any benefits to be expected. Researchers also should offer to answer any questions concerning the procedures and mention the right to leave the study (see point 3).
  3. The right to leave any study at any time. Subjects may leave a session at any time and still receive credit.
  4. Informative feedback. Researchers must explain each study to the students that participate. This explanation should be clear and useful. Failures to provide adequate feedback should be reported to your course instructor.

What obligations do students have when they sign up for a study?

  1. Prompt arrival at the session. Students should arrive on time at the session. When students do not show up, the researcher’s time is wasted. Often researchers lose an hour or more every time a subject fails to show up. Of course there are times when it cannot be helped. It is important that you contact the researcher and explain the situation. No-shows are tracked by SONA.
  2. Earning extra credit through Human Subject Studies is a privilege. If you accumulate 3 or more no-shows in a semester, you may lose the privilege to participate in any more studies that semester.
  3. Pay attention to the feedback provided at the end of the study. Making participation genuinely educational is an obligation of students as well as researchers. Feedback is more likely to be interesting if students pay close attention to the researcher’s explanation and ask a few probing questions.