Resources for Researchers

Further Resources for Subject Pool (Sona) Researchers

Who may use the Psychology Subject Pool?

The Psychology Subject Pool is a resource that the Department offers to its students and other affiliates to facilitate the conduct of research. Individuals who can gain access to this resource are people who are directly affiliated with the Department, either as Psychology faculty, as students who are conducting research in the context of a research experience course or independent study course offered by the Department, or as graduate students enrolled in the Psychology Graduate program. Faculty who are part of the Psychology Graduate Group are also given access. Finally, faculty in the Linguistics Department are given access. The rationale for that last category is based on an agreement between Linguistics faculty and Psychology Department whereby Linguistics instructors teaching undergraduate courses are being asked to request research participation of their students; in exchange for their contribution to the participation hours they provide to the pool, faculty and their students are given access to the pool. As a matter of policy, individuals who do not fulfill any of the criteria described above are not granted access to the Subject Pool.

How do I request an account? 

Each experimenter must have an account within the system, from which they can launch multiple experiments. To request a researcher account, send an email to the following email address:, including your full name, desired user-name, and email address you wish to use with the SONA system. Please provide information regarding your connection with the psychology department as only individuals with such a connection can be granted the use of the Department’s Subject Pool. You only need to request a researcher account once, as your account will be preserved across semesters.

For students: All studies must have a faculty supervisor listed on SONA Systems. The faculty supervisor is listed as the Principal Investigator (P.I.).  All psychology faculty are already listed within the system as P.I.s, and may be selected from the drop-down menu when setting up your study.  If your faculty supervisor is a member of the psychology graduate group, but not a member of the psychology department, you will need to provide us further information.  When requesting your user account, please provide your supervisor’s full name, department at Penn, and Penn email address, and we will enter that person as a new P.I.

When you sign up for an account you will receive an email containing the general operation of the SONA system, including procedures that experimenters must follow. Psychology faculty and affiliates receive this information in an email at the beginning of each semester.  

When is the participant pool open? 

The SONA subject pool opens during the first week of classes and is open through reading period. The subject pool closes during the exam period. 

How do I use the SONA? 

When you sign up for an account you will receive an email containing the general operation of the SONA system, including crediting and procedures that experimenters must follow.

For a video tutorial overview of working with Sona, please see here:

For full documentation of how Sona works from the researcher perspective, please see pages 22-96 of the documentation file at the following website:

If you have further technical questions regarding the operation of SONA, please reach out to support at  

Can I offer my participants payment or gifts?

Students who sign up in studies offered on the Psychology Department’s SONA Systems website do so to receive academic benefits (i.e., course credit).  Under rare circumstances, studies may be able to offer incentives for performance in the research, but not for participation itself. If incentive motivation is crucial to the research question, researchers may offer a performance- dependent or choice-dependent bonus.  However, this bonus cannot be advertised to students as it might make them more likely to register for one of those studies.  In addition, the bonus can be no more than $5 per ½ hour of involvement. This policy aims to uphold ethical standards in research that involves student participants, ensuring their participation is driven by research requirements rather than monetary incentives.