Researcher Frequently Asked Questions

Researcher FAQ

Applying to Use the Research Participation Pool

When is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for applications will fall within a month of the start of classes. The exact deadline depends on several factors, and will be announced to the department about a month ahead of time by email. You can also check the deadline on the application page; it will be posted there after the deadline is announced. Late applications will be considered only if additional hours remain to be given out, or later in the term if researchers who are granted hours later determine that they cannot use them.

Can I submit my application early?

Please don't submit an application until I send out the request. As you may imagine, this role requires a lot of paperwork, and it is easier for me to keep track of everything if I receive applications only during a certain period of time. Of course, you are welcome to prepare your debriefing sheet in advance. Thank you.

Are there separate IRB procedures for the research participation pool or should I go through the standard university IRB to get approval?

You should get standard approval from the Pitt IRB. However, you should list the Psychology Subject Pool as one of your recruitment sources. You can list this as a possible source even if you don't already have your project approved, so this should not delay your submission to the IRB. The IRB has a description of our procedures on record (no number is needed).

What if I don't have IRB approval by the application deadline?

You should write that IRB approval is pending. Your study will still be considered for hours along with the other studies.

How can I guarantee that I will get hours when I really need them?

Although there are no guarantees, you increase your chances of getting hours by turning in a completed application with no omissions and no errors, before the deadline. Please follow all submission instructions carefully. I will do my best to allot hours to everyone who needs them, within the limits of what is possible given our class enrollment. You increase your chances of completing your project by having posted hours available for as long as possible during the open period.

Is there a limit to the number of hours I can request?

There is no limit to the number of hours an individual can request, however the hours will be distributed equitably across individuals.

Is there a limit to the number of studies I can submit?

No, but the hours will be distributed equitably across individuals. If you are submitting multiple studies, please consider letting me know the priority of them in the event that not enough hours are available.

What will happen if I am assigned hours?

If your application is approved, you will be sent (a) an official notice that your application has been approved; and (b) instructions on how to use the website associated with our Research Participation Pool.

Research Designs

What if I want to do an online study?

Great! Online studies are fully supported in Sona. Please just be sure to follow your IRB protocol. If you would like, you can use Qualtrics and have it automatically assign credit to participants who complete the survey (see instructions here).

Please remember that even on-line participants must be debriefed; your debriefing should occur online for an online study.

Can I ask pre-screening questions?

As of now, there are two ways to do a pre-screening. One is to have me add multiple-choice questions to Sona that all students will have to answer before they can sign up for studies, and you can set restrictions based on those questions. This is only appropriate for fairly benign, demographic questions. Otherwise, it is best to conduct a pre-screening as you would for a paid study, and use a required signup code in Sona to prevent students who haven't passed the screening from signing up. In this case, you would give information about how to conduct the screening in the description for your study. If you are unsure whether students will need to be compensated for the pre-screening, please contact the IRB. If desired, a screening questionnaire may also be a for-credit "study" on Sona.

Can I include participants under the age of 18?

No participants under the age of 18 can be included unless you have IRB approval to include children. If applicable, this eligibility criterion should be listed as part of your study.

Managing Hours During the Term

I probably won't be starting my project until part way through the semester, but would like to start recruiting subjects as early as possible. Is it okay to start data collection partway through the semester or do I need to have my study approved and ready to go at the beginning of the semester?

Projects need to be submitted by the deadline prior to the beginning of the semester to be assured consideration, but the study can start at any time during the semester. With that said, the sooner you can start your project, the better -- so that students have more opportunities for participation and so that you can recruit more participants!

What if something changes and I can't use my hours?

If there is a change and you will not be able to use your hours, please just let me know so that I can assign them to other researchers.

What do I do if my study is only a fraction of an hour?

Students get one credit hour for each fraction of an hour they participate. Thus, they get 1 credit hour whether they complete 10 minutes or 60 minutes of research. If you have a short study, you may want to consider collecting data for multiple research questions in a single session.

What if I have two studies and want to move my hours from one to another?

Please just email me and let me know so that I can facilitate this.

Recruiting Participants

When does the pool open and close?

The pool opens on the first day of class and closes on the Friday of the last week of classes (see the University's academic calendar for these dates).

How many hours do the students have to do?

Each student must complete five hours of research.

How are studies advertised to students, and how do they sign up?

Students sign up for studies through the Sona System website for the department. Researchers who have an approved study will be assigned a login to the system.

Can I advertise my study in an Intro to Psych class?

No, there is no need to advertise in classes. Out of fairness to all researchers, students should find out about all studies from the Sona system. If students need to be told about a particular study for some reason, please contact me.

Administering Sessions

When do I have to credit the participants?

Participants should be credited immediately after they complete your study. Students get concerned if they cannot see their credits right away, and it can cause problems for the instructors as well. Researchers who fail to assign credits on the same day that participants complete their study may lose the privilege of using the subject pool. Please note that as the researcher of record, you are responsible for making sure that your research assistant(s) credit participants in a timely manner.

What if a participant comes to my study and clearly does not meet the eligibility criteria that I stated on the website?

You should send them away and marked them as "No-Show (Excused)" on Sona. Per the IRB, if the participant is not eligible (and the eligibility requirements are clearly posted), you are not obligated to compensate the person (with credit, or money) if they haven't started your study.

Students are told very clearly (by me) that they should not expect to get credit if they show up for a study and don't meet the criteria. They are also told that they will be screwing up your science if they try to get away with this. If you have multiple instances of this, please review your criteria as stated to ensure that they are clear, and also let me know so that I can try to help stop the problem.

What if I need to cancel a session?

You should cancel the timeslot on Sona and let the participant(s) know. If you are canceling with less than 24 hours' notice, you must award credit to the participant(s) since they did their part in signing up for and preparing for the study. This is the same rule that participants follow when signing up for your studies.

What do I do if I have a problem?

Please send an email to