Skip to main content

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)

To top

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 able to change some of the options from Point 2 below (this is useful when converting a credit into a paid study or an online into a lab study or vice versa).
  2. Decide first what kind of study you would like to create and if a reward is given with credits (VP-Stunden) or money.
    Attention! This selection cannot be changed later. (But you are able to copy the study and change the setting in this process, cf. Point 1)
    IMPORTANT: If both reward options (credits or money) need to be available in your study you need to select "Credits" here (otherwise you will not be able to grant credits)!
    The following study types are selectable:
    • Standard Study: Study in the lab with an appointment
    • Multi-Part Standard Study: Study in the lab with 2, 3 or 4 appointments
      • With multi-part studies it is often easier to create a Standard Study (with one appointment) and to fix the other appointments outside SONA when the participant is present at the first appointment. The reason is that in these multi-part studies the appointments need to be offered for each single part at once, which is complicated and inflexible.
    • Online Internal Survey Study: Online study in which the questions are implemented directly in SONA.
      • Advantage: After a participant has completed all questions the credit granting is done automatically by SONA.
      • Disadvantage: Only certain types of questions and input options are available and there is no branching logic.
      • IMPORTANT: The data needs to be exported/saved on a regular basis because SONA does not guarantee long-term data storage.
    • Online External Study: Here, a link to an external platform is provided on which the online study is implemented.
      • Advantage: You can choose the platform that best suits the needs of the study as well as the experience of the researcher. SONA supports communication with a range of different systems in order to allow automatic credit granting (see informationen here)
      • Disadvantage: You have to make sure that the data on the external platform can be assigned to the participants in SONA. Please pay close attention to the information under "Special features for online studies" in the FAQs.
  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 characters): 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 characters):Details of your study. This is optional, you may copy the text from the abstract.
    • Eligibility Requirements: Here you can define conditions for the participation in the study. These will not be checked by SONA and have to be respected by the participants and the researchers (i.e. students only from the first or second semester). Requirements based on the prescreen questionnaire or on the age should be set under "Restrictions" (see below) or, in case of age restrictions, in the Advanced Study Settings because then SONA will filter out non-matching participants. If there aren't any eligibility requirements you should leave this field empty and delete "None", which is entered by default.
    • Duration in minutes:  !!IMPORTANT!! The duration has to correspond to the number of credits (VP-Stunden). The rule is that each quarter-hour or part thereof will be rewarded with 0.25 credit (the minimal unit of credits). In analogy to the number of credits the duration also needs to be rounded up to the next quarter hour (see also the question "What should be entered as study duration?" in the FAQs). Under no circumstances is it allowed to advertise a study with a short duration ("Only 50 min for 1 VP-Stunde").
    • VP-Stunden (Credits): Enter here the number of credits matching the duration in case it is a credit study.
    • Preparation:  Enter here necessary preparations (i.e. if participants have to bring something to the lab appointment or if they need ear phones for an online study). If there aren't any preparations necessary leave this field blank.
    • Name(s) of the Researcher(s): Standard setting is the person who creates the study. However, multiple researchers are possible for a study.
    • Name of PI: Each study has to have one (and only one) principal investigator. If there is no suitable option available, select "Administrator, System".
    • Ethics committee approval code: Entering information here is optional.
    • Visibility of the study (for participants): In order for the study to be visible to potential participants it needs to be "active" and in addition there need to be available timeslots in the future. While creating a study it might be best to leave it "inactive" until everything is properly specified.
    • Advanced Settings: It might be useful to look at these option, specifically the age restriction and the sign-up and cancellation deadlines.
    • Approval of the study: Newly created studies need to be approved by the SONA team (since 30/05/2020). This approval can be requested via the "Study Information" in section "Study Status" with the button "Send Reqest". Before doing this make sure you've re-checked all settings, especially:
      • Are title, abstract and description informative and correct (don't forget the spell check)?
      • Is the study duration and the number of credits (if applicable) correct and do they correspond?
      • Are participation restrictions (if needed) properly specified?
      • Have you created (at least) one time slot?
      • For online studies: Have you made sure that collected data (in external platforms) can be assigned to SONA participants?
    • 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.
    • If you do not wish to restrict participants we nevertheless recommend to set the age range to 18 – 99 years. This settings is not found under "Restrictions" but in the "Study Menu" under "Change Study Information" at " Age Restriction" in the "Advanced Settings". The rationale behind this is that everybody can register as participant in SONA and this setting ensures that minors do not participate unnoticed in a study.
  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)

To top

Online studies

The title of online studies should always start with "[ONLINE] ", so that it is immediately obvious that this is not a lab study.

It is important to create a time slot for online studies. Think of it as a participation deadline (that starts right away and runs until the specified date). Here you can enter the maximum number of participants. Make sure that this number is really necessary and reasonable (you should not collect more data than needed, which is also a waste of credits). There should only be one active time slot (one with a date in the future) in online studies.
As in lab studies the people who signed up for the online study via SONA are visible in the time slot. If the automatic credit granting function is not used then you should always ask participants to enter their SONA ID in platform/software of your online study so that the data can be assigned to the participant and credit can be granted accordingly.
SONA is able to communicate with a variety of survey and experimental online platforms (for the automatic credit granting function). Information about this functionality can be found here:

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

To top

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

To top

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 to All Timeslots in your SONA study and select  → Modify :

  • If the participant attended and collects credits → choose Participated and select the amount of VP-Stunden
  • If the participant attended and receives money →  choose Participated and – in case of both reimbursement options (credit or money) – set the amount of VP-Stunden to "0" and put in the comment field "received money"
  • If the participant did not attend but cancelled in time →  choose No-Show Excused
  • If the participant did not attend and did not cancel prior to the appointment (and did not apologise after) →  choose No-Show Unexcused (do not use this option for online studies)

→ This documentation 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 the system.  SONA can only work efficiently if is is constantly kept up to date.

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:

To top

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.

To top

Credits (VP-Stunden)

Granting of credits should be handled as consistently as possible. For each quarter hour or part thereof participants will receive 0.25 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 SONA credits on a separate signature sheet. Participants that do not participate via SONA still need such a signature sheet for documentation.

To top