Guidelines for Researchers and Principal Investigators

Roles in SONA

  • Participant: Role for participants
  • Researcher: Role for creating and conducting studies, including appointment management, credit granting, etc.
  • PI (Principal Investigator): Same functionality as the reseacher role but thought of as the person responsible for the study. This person needs not be involved with SONA too much (usually a staff member/post-doc/professor)

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Creating a study

  1. Select Create a new study.
    There is also a study-copy function with which you can duplicate existing studies. When using this function you are also able to change the options from point 2 below (this is useful when converting a credit into a paid study or a online into a lab study or vice versa).
  2. Decide whether you would like to conduct a standard, multi-part or external or internal online study.
    Attention! This selection can not be change later.
    • Decide whether you will reward participants with money or credits (VP-Stunden).
    • IMPORTANT: If you would like to be able to reward participants with either money or participant hours, please select Credits here (otherwise you will be unable to grant credits)!
  3. Provide information about the study (this information can be changed later on):
    • Name of the study (keep it short, you might want to mention your research method here)
    • Abstract (255 symbols): this is shown to your participants at first. Put here the most important information, for example limitations for participation that are not taken into account by a pre-screening procedure (e.g., age). IMPORTANT: If you reward your participants with money, indicate the exact amount here.
    • Description (up to 15 000 symbols): Details of your study. This is optional, you may copy the text from the abstract.
    • Duration in minutes:  !!IMPORTANT !! The duration has to correspond to the number of credits (VP-Stunden). The rule: each half-hour or part thereof will be rewarded with 0.5 participant hour (the minimal unit of credits).
    • Name of PI: Each study has to have a principal investigator (and not more than one).
    • Name(s) of the Researcher(s): Multiple researchers are possible in a study.
    • Approval Code of the Ethics Committee: optional.
    • Visibility of the study (for participants): In order for the study to be visible to potential participants it needs to be "active" and "approved" (in addition there need to be available timeslots in the future). When creating a study it might be best to leave it inactive until everything is properly specified.
      IMPORTANT: From 30/May/2020 the approval of new studies will be done by the SONA team.
    • ADD this Study: Click this button to create the study.
  4. After the study is created, you can check once again all information about the study.
  5. Restrictions (view/modify): Here you may specify restrictions for participation (e.g., native language, vision or hearing problems etc.). The study will  be shown only to those participants who correspond the specified requirements.
  6. Creation of timeslots → Add a TimeslotAdd Mutiple Timeslots
    Timeslots have to be created for lab as well as for online studies (see section below)

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Online studies

It is imortant to create timeslots also for online studies. First, it allows to limit the number of participants and to set a participation deadline. Second, it makes possible to monitor who used the study link to participate via SONA.
We recommend that you ask participants to enter their 4-digit SONA-ID in your online questionnaire platform to be able to verify their participattion and to assign credits (VP-Stunden) in SONA.

SONA is able to communicate with several external online questionnaire systems. Information about this functionality can be found here:

Please also check further information under "Special features for online studies" in the FAQs.

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Inviting participants

Once a week (on Saturdays), SONA sends out a personalised email to all participants with a list of studies for which they could sign up (feature activated on 28/June 2019). The order of this list is randomised. Participants may opt out to receive these emails according to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

It is not necessary for you to send out study invitations! In addition, there is the possibility to send an invitation email for your own study. This should be an absolute exception!

A description of how to proceed in this exceptional case follows. A study-specific email is not being sent as a private person but on behalf of a research project and as part of SONA in general. This means that a number of formal criteria must be met (such as salutation, adequate information, link to the study, your title, name, contact information - see an example below).

  • Select Restrictions
  • Select Invite Qualified Participants
  • Add %FIRST_NAME% , the other names will appear automatically
  • Add important information about the study
  • IMPORTANT: insert the link to the study (under the text field), so that the participants could go to the study directly
  • Select Preview Messages
  • Select Proceed

When you send emails to potential participants, please provide complete contact information including your department or project, address etc. For example:

First and last name
University of Potsdam
Psycholinguistics / H.  XX / R. X.XX
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24-25
14476 Potsdam

Phone: 0331 977 XXX
Fax: 0331 977 XXXX

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After an appointment

It is important to document participation and to do the credit (VP-Stunden) granting in a timely manner. To do so, go in your SONA study to All Timeslots and select  → Modify :

  • If the Participant attended and participated for credits → choose Participated and select the Number of VP-Stunden
  • If the Participant attended and received money for participation →  choose Participated and set the Number of VP-Stunden to "0"
  • If the Participant did not attend but cancelled in time →  choose No Show Excused
  • If the Participant did not attend and also did not cancel prior to the appointment (and/or did not apologise after) →  choose No Show Unexcused (do not use this option for online studies)

→ This is important: If a participant has 3 Unexcused No-Shows, the account of this participant will be automatically blocked from further sign-ups.

As long as timeslots remain "uncredited", you will receive weekly emails with a reminder from SONA.

Even if participants receive a signature from you, all timeslots should be accurately marked as "participated, received XX participant hours" or "un-/excused no-show"! SONA can only efficiently work if the system is constantly updated and all data are actual.


For online studies: For external online studies there is the option of automatic credit granting which means that after successful participation the external platform can communicate with SONA. A number of platforms is supported by SONA  (i.a. Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, LimeSurvey, Unipark, etc.). More information can be found here:

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Completing a study

If a study is completed it should be set to "inactive". This setting is found in the Study Menu under "Change Study Information". Before you do that make sure that all participations are properly documented and that there are no appointments "awaiting action" from the researcher.

In case you do not need your researcher role anymore please contact the SONA team.

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Credits (VP-Stunden)

Granting of credits should be handled as consistently as possible. For each half hour or part thereof participants will receive 0.5 credits (VP-Stunde). If an experimental session took a bit longer than planned, you may adjust the credit value for this session on an individual basis and according to this rule.  

IMPORTANT: Credits (VP-Stunden) are documented in SONA. This documentation is sufficient for students of sport psychology, linguistics (since 19/June/2019) and psychology (since 20/May/2020). Therefore it is not necessary anymore, to document credits for in SONA  registered credits on a separate signature sheet of the participant. Participants that do not participate via SONA such a signature sheet can be obtained from PsychMoodle (under "Versuchspersonenstunden") and should be printed out. Multiple studies fit on one sheet.

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