Tips for Using the SONA/Psychology Subject Pool for your Research & Obtaining IRB Approval

Only members of the Psychology and Communication Departments (students, staff, and faculty) may apply to use participants from the SONA/Psychology Subject Pool.

All studies that use the Psychology Subject Pool need to be approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB application must contain a Narrative and all the necessary materials in the Appendix section – a recruitment script for SONA, all the measures the researcher plans to use, a debriefing script if the researcher plans to brief participants after the study, and the consent form. Please review the instructions for how to submit an IRB application and the sample documents (including a sample SONA recruitment script) on the Forms & Samples page of the IRB website.

Confidentiality and Credit Awarded by SONA

If the researcher is using the automatic credit granting for online surveys using SONA and Qualtrics, these data are confidential and not anonymous. When using the automatic credit granting feature, the researcher can look in the participant’s Qualtrics data file and in the participant’s timeslot history on SONA and connect the “id” variable there, which means using that tool makes data confidential. The key is automatically created by SONA and is stored online and is destroyed at the end of the semester. So, once the key is destroyed, the data are anonymous.

However, if when the researcher sets up the study, if they check “yes” to the question “Should survey participants be identified only by a random, unique code,” then the data will be anonymous. If “yes” is checked, when the researcher goes into SONA and looks at their timeslots, they will not see the names of participants who have signed up. Instead, they will only see the randomly generated id that is also in the data file. In this case, there is no way for researchers to link names and those ids. The SONA administrators, however, will see the participants’ names and ids, so they can assure that research credits are properly awarded. As long as the SONA administrators do not have access to the Qualtrics data, they will have identities, but not the data. If the researcher is using this feature, then this should be mentioned in the IRB application so that it is clear to the IRB that data are anonymous.

If the researcher wants participants to reach some criterion (like responding to at least 70% of questions), then the researcher must manually go back in to verify the completion of the criterion and assign credit. Therefore, the researcher would need to tell the participants that their responses are identifiable and that they have to reach some criterion to get credit. Thus, in this case, the data would be confidential and not anonymous.

See Anonymous vs. Confidential for more information on the differences between these two terms.

Compensation and SONA

If the study is worth more than 1 credit, the researcher must address in the IRB application (in the Compensation section of the Narrative and the Consent Form) whether the credit will be prorated or not.