Subject Pool (SONA) FAQ’s for Minors and Objectors

Subject Pool (SONA) FAQ’s for Minors and Objectors

Research Participation Information for Adults

Federal laws restrict participation in experiments and research studies to students who are 18 years of age or older. Some people, described as conscientious objectors, may refuse to participate in research on the basis of religious or moral principles or beliefs. The information below is for people that are not yet 18 years of age and for people that have a conscientious objection to participating in experiments or research studies.

Table of Contents

What are 'Research Alternatives'?

Research Alternatives are on-line tutorials that require students to read about and experience psychological phenomena. Students are required to complete a written assignment as they go through each tutorial. Research Alternatives have deadlines and must be completed by the due date shown in the assignment description.

Why would I choose Research Alternative instead of participating in research'?

  1. You can choose this option if you are over 18 years old, but have an objection to participating in research
  2. You can choose Research Alternatives if you are under 18 years old (What if I turn 18 during the semester)

Signing up for Research Alternatives: What do I have to do?

First, you must go to a special web site called the Subject Pool (http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/) when you arrive, you will log in using your PSU access ID (e.g.,xyz123) and your regular PSU password.  Once you initially log in, you will create your SONA account and answer a few short questions.  You opt to complete the research alternative assignments if you choose “I am over 18, but conscientiously object to participating in research”.  If you are not 18 years old, please see instruction below under “what if I turn 18 during the semester“.

IMPORTANT:  When asked which course you are in, please make sure you indicate your course correctly.  Only students enrolled in PSYCH 100(Introduction to Psychology) and PSYCH 105 (Psychology as a Science and Profession) are required to participate in SONA.  When choosing your course, make sure you choose the correct course and correct section that you are enrolled in.  Sections will be indicated by number, days/time, instructor, and campus (WC for World Campus and UP for University Park/main campus).

NOTE:  If you change course sections of PSYCH 100, you MUST contact the Subject Pool Administrator to have your course status changed.  Otherwise, your credit information could go to the wrong instructor, and may not be counted in your course grade.

Second, You will use the subject pool website (SONA) to access the research alternative:  http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/.

Once on the website, click “VIEW AVAILABLE STUDIES” to see the research alternative assignments.

**NOTE:  there are due dates for these assignments, so check in regularly and adhere to the due dates!**

The research alternative assignments are all handled through the SONA system.  There is no need to hand in a physical copy of your assignment to your instructor.  Credit for the research alternative assignments will be granted once the due date for the assignment has passed.

Why do I have to do it and What am I going to Learn?

What is the best therapy for depression? Do some people really have a photographic memory? Do birds of a feather flock together or do opposites attract? For the most part, the material taught in psychology courses is the product of psychological research. To increase your familiarity with psychological research, all PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105 students are required to participate in research activities sponsored by the Psychology Department. This research participation will count as 3% of your course grade (in other words, if you do not participate in any research activities you lose 3% of the total course points).

Students in some 200-level psychology courses may also get opportunities to participate. Students in these courses should consult the course syllabus to learn how participation will count towards the course grade.

Research participation provides opportunities for students to see and experience the methods and procedures used to study the human mind and behavior. Participation can also help students dispel myths about psychological research (most of it does not involve rats and mazes, inkblots, or hypnosis) and become better consumers and critics of studies reported by the media. Since careers involving scientific psychology require research, participation can also help students preview aspects of psychology as a career.

How do I access research alternatives?

You need to use the Subject Pool web site (http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/) to access research alternatives. You need to sign up for research alternatives to participate and earn course credit. Use the Subject Pool web site (http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/) to make appointments. When you arrive, click on “VIEW AVAILABLE STUDIES.” Click on the name for the option you want to see and then click on “View Time Slots for This Study.” Click on a sign up box to access the research alternative.

When the worksheet opens (Adobe Acrobat Reader required), follow the instructions on the worksheet. Please pay attention to the due dates!

How do I get credit once I complete a research alternative?

Do not hand your completed research alternatives to your instructor or TA. These are completed online, and there is no need for hard copy. Your credit will be updated electronically, usually a few days after the participation deadline. You can check to see if your credit has been updated by using the Subject Pool web site (use the ‘My Schedule/Credits’ link).

Note: The Subject Pool web site tracks your research participation. Your instructor tracks your other course credit separately.

Can I do more than the required number of Research Alternatives for extra credit?

For PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105 students the answer is – YES. Once you have completed 6 hours of participation (6 research alternatives), you are welcome to complete up to 2 more for extra credit. Please see your course syllabus for information about how this additional participation will count towards your course grade.

Missed Research Alternatives

Like many class assignments, research alternatives have deadlines. Information about deadlines is included on the Subject Pool web site. Research Alternatives are reviewed and processed manually (not by a computer), so turning these assignments in on time is important. If you sign-up to participate in a research alternative and do not hand it in, you will be a assigned a “no show.” Students who complete 6 or more research alternatives without getting a “no show” will receive a point of extra credit. 

Please remember, you are required to participate in 6 of the 8 research alternatives available. If you miss too many, you may not be able to complete the participation requirement and earn the full amount of credit.

If you miss a deadline due to extenuating circumstances, please contact the subject pool adminstrator () with an explanation.

What if I turn 18 during the semester?

If you are 17 now, but will turn 18 during the semester you, you have two choices:

  1. You can sign up for and complete the “Research Alternative” assignments.
  2. You can sign up to participate in research, but you will not be able to actually participate in studies until you turn 18 (this option is recommended if you are turning 18 within the first 6 weeks of the semester).