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Department of Psychology

College of Arts & Sciences


The Department of Psychology's online participant pool, hosted by Sona Systems, is for students enrolled in Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 1310) and any other courses taught by participating instructors. Students must visit the site, create an account, and select the studies in which he or she would like to participate. The site is very secure and data is backed up redundantly and regularly. Participation in studies is voluntary and confidential and alternative assignments exist if a student wants to or is required to earn Sona credit but does not want to or is not able to participate in research (see below).

When the Sona participant account is created, the student should identify the participating course(s) he or she is taking (hold control key to select multiple courses) and the system will store the Sona research credit he or she earns for instructors to use at the end of the semester. If a student is in more than one class that accepts Sona research credit, credits can be moved from one course to another until the end of the semester to enable students to apply Sona research credits where they are most beneficial to the student. ALL credits must be assigned by students to the course(s) they choose by 12:00 noon on the last day of classes each semester prior to final exam week. In winter term, the deadline will be 12:00 noon two days prior to the beginning of spring semester. Failure on the part of the student to sign up for the correct course in Sona or to assign credit to the course(s) they choose will result in the credit NOT being counted by instructors. For students who would like to do alternative research exposure assignments instead of, or in addition to, research participation, or who have questions about Sona, please send an email to .

Instructors or Researchers who are interested in more information about making this option available to their students and/or using Sona to facilitate collection of data for IRB-approved studies should send an email to Dr. Ginni Blackhart at .

If a student is enrolled in an Introduction to Psychology course or another participating course and would like to participate in a study for course credit, click here.

Sona Tutorial



1) All research participation must be completed by 12:00 noon on the Friday BEFORE final exams (this is typically ETSU study day). If you choose to complete alternative assignments, those must be completed by 12:00 noon on the Thursday before final exams (Note: In winter sessions, the deadline for completion of all Sona requirements is 12:00 noon two days prior to the beginning of spring semester).

2) If you are enrolled in an Introduction to Psychology course and want to do an alternative research exposure assignment in lieu of or in addition to doing research participation, please send an email to .

Research Exposure Requirement for Introduction to Psychology Courses

East Tennessee State University
Department of Psychology

"Participating in a research activity by volunteering in a research study or by writing a short research paper as part of a course requirement relates to favorable perceptions of psychology and research, greater knowledge of procedures associated with participation, and [about] ... demographic and situational variables [involved in research]. College students who volunteered to participate in a research study were more satisfied with their experiences than those who wrote papers as a part of their research activity" (Bowman & Waite, 2003, p. 102).

It is a common and long-standing practice among university psychology departments to have research participant pools which draw from introductory psychology classes and written research assignments as alternatives to participation, and evidence demonstrates that students derive educational benefits from these experiences (e.g., Bowman & Waite, 2003; Britton, 1979; Coulter, 1986; Davis & Fernald, 1975; King, 1970; Landrum & Chastain, 1995; Miller, 1981; Sieber & Saks, 1989). Through participation in research, students become more familiar with research methods and can contribute to research outcomes. When students choose to become research participants, the data they provide furthers various scientific endeavors, helping to fulfill the scholarly purpose of a department. Publication or other presentations of research results, enhances the reputation of a department, in turn enhancing the reputation of a University, and this conveys additional benefit to faculty, staff, and students of the University. Also, students may wish to become involved in the conduct of research in preparation for graduate school or other professional roles, and this early exposure to the process helps provide a framework from which to better understand the future research they will help to conduct as laboratory assistants, honors students, and graduate students. Finally, students who participate in research or write papers about research become more familiar with the process of research and are, therefore, more informed consumers of research both inside and outside of class. Thus, this Department has instituted a research exposure requirement for its Introduction to Psychology course.

The American Psychological Association (2003) states in its Code of Ethics, "When research participation is a course requirement or an opportunity for extra credit, the prospective participant is given the choice of equitable alternative activities" (8.04[b]). In accordance with standard professional psychological practices, East Tennessee State University (ETSU), Institutional Review Board (IRB), and Departmental standards, we insist that student research participation be voluntary. Therefore, all students are given the opportunity to complete an alternate, time-equivalent, research-related activity (i.e., reading and critiquing research articles) to fulfill this research exposure requirement.

The Department has adopted a standard policy for the research exposure requirement, to ensure that: students are given clear rules; participation is not coercive; there are clear channels for student questions, concerns, or complaints; and, that administration provides for accurate record keeping and grading.

Research Requirement Policy

I. Description of Those Affected by the Research Exposure Requirement

All students in ETSU Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 1310) courses will be required to be exposed to research during the semester. All researchers who make use of the participant pool must first obtain appropriate educational credentialing from the ETSU IRB. All studies in which students might participate will be approved by the ETSU IRB prior to recruiting participants. There will be a Research Participation Administrator appointed by the Department to: maintain records of all studies' IRB approvals; manage the Sona-Systems online participant pool management software; oversee record keeping of points accumulated by students; ensure points are properly awarded; and, answer student, instructor, and researcher questions and concerns and/or refer students to the appropriate personnel (e.g., researchers, instructors, Department Chair, IRB, etc.) for issue resolution.

II. Quantity of Research Exposure Requirement

Students will be required to engage in five credits/points of research exposure, which may include participation in research, review and written critiques of research articles, or a combination of both options.

III. Determination and Documentation of Research Exposure Requirement

The required five credits/points of research exposure will be gauged with a credit/point system, where one half hour of exposure garners the equivalent of one half credit/point. Studies that are lab-based and thus require active participation on location, as opposed to online survey studies, will typically yield higher than normal credits/points as an incentive to have students take the time to come in and participate in that type of research. Students will be made aware that individuals vary in the time it takes to complete relevant tasks, and that studies and critique projects will award a standard number of points based on estimations of the time it takes an average person to complete the relevant tasks and it is the standard points that are awarded regardless of the time taken. For example, an estimated hour of task engagement (be it study participation or a research article critique session) would be listed as being worth one point, but some participants may take 50 minutes and others 70; regardless, each participant still receives one point. In cases where exceptionally longer is taken by a student to complete tasks, additional credit may be awarded at the discretion of the researcher or research exposure administrator.

IV. Incorporation of Research Exposure Requirement into Course Grading

Each student must earn a total of 5 research credits, and fulfillment of the research requirement must be completed by noon on Friday of the last day of classes (or two days prior to the beginning of Spring Semester for Winter Term courses). Failure to complete this research requirement will result in a deduction of 1% point from the final grade for the course for each ½ credit the student is deficient. For example, if the final grade for the course was 90%, but only 4.5 research credits were earned, 1% would be deducted from the final grade resulting in an 89%. If only 2 research credits were earned, 6% would be deducted from the final grade resulting in an 84%. If no research credits were earned, 10% would be deducted from the final grade resulting in an 80%. All introductory psychology course instructors can offer additional extra credit beyond the five required points, up to a total to be determined by individual instructors. Generally, it is suggested that research exposure extra credit points be added to the final grade in terms of one final grade point per research exposure point obtained after the requirement has been met, up to a total of five points maximum to be added to the final grade (i.e., half a letter grade for 5 additional hours of research exposure beyond the five required). Extra credit points can be earned through additional participation in research, reading and writing critiques of additional research articles, or other extra credit tasks generated by the instructor, but research-related extra credit points would not be awarded until the five mandatory credits/points of research exposure are earned.


American Psychological Association (2003). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on January 20, 2007:

Bowman, L.L., & Waite, B.M. (2003). Volunteering in research: Student satisfaction and educational benefits. Teaching of Psychology, 30, 102-106.

Britton, B. K. (1979). Ethical and educational aspects of participating as a subject in psychology experiments. Teaching of Psychology, 6, 95-198.

Coulter, X. (1986). Academic value of research participation by undergraduates. American Psychologist, 41, 317.

Davis, J. R. & Fernald, P. S. (1975). Psychology in action. Laboratory experience versus subject pool. American Psychologist, 30, 523-524.

King, D. J. (1970). The subject pool. American Psychologist, 25, 1179-1181.

Landrum, R. E., & Chastain, G. (1995). Experiment spot-checks: A method for assessing the educational value of undergraduate participation in research. IRB: A Review of Human Subjects Research, 17, 4-6.

Miller, A. (1981). A survey of introductory psychology subject pool practices among leading universities. Teaching of Psychology, 8, 211-213.

Sieber, J.E., & Saks, M.J. (1989). A census of subject pool characteristics and policies. American Psychologist, 44, 1053-1061.

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