Participant Pool Information

Why do we have a Participant Pool?

The Participant Pool is an essential component of the Department of Psychology’s teaching and research.  Its purpose is threefold:

  1. Enhance the learning opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students through providing opportunities for them to participate in the research process.

  2. Improve public understanding and support for psychological research.

  3. Support the research mission of the Department of Psychology.

Pedagogical Value of Research Participation

Research skills are what sets a university graduate apart in the modern labour force. As research participants, students develop knowledge, understanding, and values that underpin the development of these skills. The experience is meant to contribute to meeting the psychology program’s undergraduate learning outcomes, including disciplinary breadth and depth and methodological understanding.

Learning from experience can be fast and intuitive. In the context of research participation, however, learning likely benefits from expert guidance. Thus, we believe that researchers play a key role in facilitating student participants’ engagement and growth. They enhance the pedagogical value of research participation by encouraging reflection and directing student participants’ attention to key research elements.

Who does the Participant Pool serve?

Student participants, researchers, and instructors are the three groups of stakeholders that the Participant Pool serves. The functioning of the pool requires that the interests of each group are respected and each group meets the expectations of the other groups.




Expect to:

  • Be treated as learners

  • Be fairly compensated for their research participation

  • Have their dignity respected and their questions answered to their satisfaction (see TCPS 2)

Are expected to:

  • Be respectful in their behaviour and communication with researchers

  • Monitor and ensure the accuracy of their research participation credits


Expect to:

  • Have fair access to the participant pool

Are expected to:

  • Be professional and respectful of participants following the ethical guidelines out in TCPS 2

  • Support the learning experience of participants

  • Provide an alternative to research participation for students to earn extra credit that fosters positive attitudes toward research and supports the objectives of the Pool

  • Only use the participant pool for studies approved by the Participant Pool Officer


Expect to:

  • Be free to choose whether to offer research participation for extra credit (Psyc 200-level courses)

  • Receive information about the extra credits earned by their students in a timely manner after the conclusion of classes

Are expected to:

  • Inform students about the pedagogical objectives associated with research participation

  • Inform students about how to participate in the pool

Why should I participate in research?

It's Educational

Research participation will give you first-hand experience with and insight into the inner workings of psychology studies and how data in psychology are generated. This is relevant both for the classes offering credit and upper-year ones. Research participation will also help you think critically about research you are reading about in the media. Finally, it is a great way to determine if you would like to be involved in research projects in other ways – just ask the researcher about opportunities to volunteer or do a special directed lab course (PSYC 299/570/575).

You will receive bonus credit to your final mark

For every half hour of research participation completed, you can increase your final mark in PSYC100 by 0.5%, up to a maximum of 5% (depends on the course, so see your syllabus). Note though that a failing mark would not be changed to a passing mark.

You make research possible

Without student participation, many important questions in psychology may be left unanswered. Many of the studies that you are reading about in your classes were conducted with students just like you. Who knows? Maybe the studies you choose to participate in will find their way into future textbooks.

You also make it possible for your fellow undergraduate and graduate students to complete their degrees, because without the help of students like you, many would not be able to gather the data they need for their theses and dissertations.

Things you need to know

Am I eligible to participate in research for course credit?

If you are a student in Psyc 100, you are eligible to sign up for studies and earn course credit. Students in most Psyc 200-level courses are also eligible. Please check your course syllabus.

How do I sign up for studies?

The following link will take you to SONA, our online Participant Management Software where you can sign up for studies.

What do I need so that I can sign up for studies on SONA?

  1. To be in the Participant Pool, you have to be enrolled in a course offering extra credit for research participation

  2. You will receive your SONA login information in an email around the 3rd week of classes. You must have your student number and SONA password to sign up for studies (Note: this password is NOT your Queen’s email account password). For more details on registration, go to 2:31 of the SONA instructional video.

What is the first and last date I can participate in research for credit?

You can start signing up as soon as you receive your login information. Some research studies are usually already posted the third week of the fall term and new ones are added throughout the year. The last day you can earn extra research credit is the last day of classes for each semester. This cut-off is necessary so that we can distribute the credit information to instructors in a timely manner.

How will research participation affect my grade?

Your final mark will increase by 0.5% for every half hour of research participation you complete. For example, if your mark in a course is a 78%, but you completed two different hour-long studies, your final mark for the course will be a 80%. Thus the grade on your transcript will be an A- instead of a B+. Your instructor will list the amount of extra credits allowed in their course on the course syllabus. For PSYC 100, students can earn a maximum of 5% toward their final course grade. For participating PSYC 200-level courses, students can earn between 2%-5% depending on the course.

If you are enrolled in more than one eligible course, you can complete studies toward each course. However, the same credits cannot be applied to more than one course.

Note that if you are in the on-campus PSYC 100 course, there is a 2.5 credit cap for online studies. This means that of your total of 5 credits, only 2.5 of those credits can be from online studies. There is no cap for in-person studies.

Note that research credit cannot be used to improve a failing mark into a passing mark.

What if I cannot make my research appointment?

We understand that unexpected events do occur, and you may be unable to attend the session you sign up for as a result of extenuating circumstances. Cancel your research appointment in SONA as soon as possible (no later than 3 hrs before the appointment time), so that another student can be recruited to fill your spot. Please contact the researcher via email if you need to cancel an appointment within 3 hours of the appointed time. An “excused no-show” is guaranteed if you contact researchers 3 or more hours in advance of your appointment.

What if I miss my research appointment without first cancelling?

We understand that unexpected events do occur. You should contact the experimenter with a brief explanation. If further appointments are available, and you are able to reschedule, the no-show will be excused. If you are not able to reschedule, but there are clear extenuating circumstances, again the no-show will be excused.

What is the penalty for missing an appointment?

There are no penalties for a missed appointment (either for a study or an alternative assignment). However, after two unexcused no-shows you will not be able to sign up for any more studies and alternative assignments until the end of the semester.

I have reached the limit of two unexcused no-shows. Now what?

If you have reached the limit of two unexcused no-shows you will not be able to sign up for additional studies or alternative assignments until the end of the semester. If there were extenuating circumstances, please contact the researchers first. You can follow up with the Participant Pool coordinator at

You will be automatically granted the ability to sign up for studies to earn research credit the following academic semester.

What is prescreening?

Some research is designed with a particular population in mind, e.g., women, individuals in relationships, etc. Prescreening is a process that allows researchers to reach that population. As part of your SONA registration, you can complete four demographic questions. In addition, during the first week of the fall semester you will be emailed a link to a separate online prescreening questionnaire that contains more than just demographic questions. You can complete the SONA prescreening at any time (for more details, go to 8:45 on the video), but the larger prescreening questionnaire will be due by the end of the drop/add period. If you complete the prescreening questionnaire, you often become eligible for additional studies. The those researchers will contact you directly to find a time to participate. Please note that you will never have to sign up for the offered studies; completing the prescreening questionnaire simply gives you additional opportunities to complete your credits as you prefer (for more details on how to sign up for studies, go to 3:41 of the instructional video).

What if I have a question about a study?

For details on individual studies, such as your eligibility or finding about the results, please contact the researcher in charge listed on SONA or in your letter of information.

Who do I turn to if I have concerns about a study I participated in?

To report any ethical or procedural concerns regarding an experiment or the conduct of an experimenter, follow the instructions from the letter of information you have received (LOI). For the Queen’s University Health Sciences and Affiliated Teaching Hospitals Research Ethics Board (HSREB) call 1-844-535-2988 (Toll free in North America) or For research conducted outside of North America use: 1-613-533-2988. For Queen’s General Research Ethics Board, please call 1-844-535- 2988 (Toll free in North America) or Call 1-613-533-2988 if outside North America. Do NOT contact your course instructor(s); they are not involved in administering the studies.

What if I don’t want to participate in research?

Participation in research is entirely voluntary. If you want to earn credit but don’t want to participate in studies, you have the option of completing an alternative assignment instead.

What is an ‘alternative assignment’?

The “alternative assignment” is an alternative to research participation that offers similar learning benefits. For an alternative assignment, researchers either will offer a walk-through of their experiment (without collecting data from you), or they will have you read an article or blog post, listen to a short podcast, or watch a short video and then answer questions about it. For all on-campus students, alternative assignments are administered in the lab.

Although the length of studies will vary, the alternative assignment will take less time (approximately 30 minutes), so you will earn 0.5% for each alternative assignment that you complete.

How do I sign up for an alternative assignment?

In order to complete an alternative assignment, log on to SONA and then click on ‘studies.’ When you select a study, scroll down to find the ‘Principal Investigator’. Right Click on the mailbox icon on the right side of the screen, and select ‘copy email address’ to copy the Principal Investigator’s email address. Send that PI an email requesting to complete an alternative assignment. To complete more than one alternative assignment, you have to contact different Principal Investigators. You can request to complete an alternative assignment anytime before the last week of classes. Please note that your course instructor is not involved in the administration of alternative assignments.

Each lab offers a single, unique alternative assignment. Thus, you may contact a PI only once per year.

I am a distance student. Can I participate in studies and get extra credit for my online class?

Yes! Look for studies with (ONLINE) in the title. They do not require your physical presence on campus.

I am a distance student. Can I complete alternative assignments?

Yes! Follow the directions under "How do I sign up for an alternative assignment?" above. In your email to the PI, please specify that you are a distance student and that you need to complete the assignment on a computer. Please note that some assignments may not be feasibly completed via a computer, and thus PIs may direct you to other labs. However, there should be plenty of assignments for you to choose from.

Other Questions

Do any courses have restrictions?

Please see your syllabi.

Why is there a limit on the number of unexcused no-shows that I can have?

The participant pool is set up as a learning opportunity for you, a training opportunity for advanced students, and a research resource. When you don’t show up for an appointment for a study or an alternative assignment, you miss a learning opportunity; however, this also disrupts the broader system. It prevents other students for being able to participate in your place and wastes the time and resources of student trainees and researchers. It also contributes to waste of public funds as most research is sponsored by federal funding agencies. These funds pay for equipment, supplies, and researcher salaries. To maintain the integrity of the system, there is a limit of two unexcused no-shows per semester.

If you are interested in participating in research outside of the framework of the Psychology Participant Pool, please contact individual labs or researchers. Notices are posted on billboards in Humphrey Hall.

What if I forget my password?

Go to ‘Forgot your password?’. You will be sent instructions on how to reset your password so you can log in to SONA.

How do I stop the emails and calls I receive about studies?

If you find that the number of emails or calls that you receive excessive, you may opt to have your name removed from the pre-screen list where you provided your contact information. Please email Dr. Lee Fabrigar, at the Department of Psychology. Note that you still can sign up for studies listed on SONA.

What types of studies are available to participate in?

A short description of each study is available on SONA. The studies represent many areas of psychology: social, cognitive, neuroscience, clinical, and developmental. They also employ a wide range of research methods and tools.

Can I participate in a study more than once?

You can participate in a study only one time. Note, however, that some studies have more than one session.

Can I apply the credit I receive for a study to all my courses?

No. You cannot get credit more than once for the same study, i.e., you cannot use the same credit toward more than one course.

How do I check how much credit I’ve earned?

You will be able to get this information from the SONA dashboard. For more information, go to 3:53 of the SONA instructional video or

What if I haven’t received credit for a study?

If you have participated in a study but haven’t received your credit, first contact the researcher in charge of the study (listed on SONA). If that does not resolve the problem, then contact stating your name, student number, the name of the study, and the date you completed it.

Can I sign up for ANY study on SONA?

No – some studies have restrictions, e.g., language background, not in a relationship, etc. It is important that you are mindful of these restrictions. They will be listed in the study description box in SONA. If you are unclear if you are eligible for a particular study, please contact the researcher.

How do I prepare for a research study?

If there is anything special that a study requires, e.g., no sex in the last 24 hours, you will be informed by the researchers. Otherwise, no preparation is required. Researchers appreciate it if you arrive on time and are in good physical and cognitive condition to be engaged with them for the duration of the study.

Am I supposed to receive something at the end of a study?

At the end of a study, you should be “debriefed.” Debriefing can be verbal, on the computer screen, or through a debriefing letter and it should help you make sense of the research experience you’ve had. In some cases researchers may explain in more detail the question they are working on, in others what the variables in the study are, or yet in other cases how the tools they use work. If something picked your interest or raised a question, don’t hesitate to ask. What you receive – or learn – is partly in your hands!

Debriefing is also ethically required when there was deception or the study presents emotional, psychological, or other risks to participants. These risks and deception should be fully explained to your satisfaction .

Do I need to tell my instructor how many credits I’ve earned?

No. For half-year courses, we send the extra credit information to the instructors at the end of the term. For full-year courses, credits are sent at the end of the school year.

Is there an appeal or a grievance procedure?

Yes. Ethical concerns about the research should be directed to the Queen’s Ethics Board that has reviewed the research, HSREB or GREB (see your letter of information). Concerns about credits, no-shows, and other matters concerning the pool should be addressed to the Participant Pool Coordinator at In the case of an unexcused no-show, if there were extenuating circumstances, please contact the researcher first.


Download the Sona app for Apple and Android smart devices:

 Download Sona app for Apple smart devices from Apple Store Download Sona app for Android from Google play

NOTE: This app provides access to Sona Systems for users of the system. Currently it works for participant users only (not researchers). You will need this URL ( for the Psychology Participant Pool Sona site in order to use the app.