SONA study creation, approval, visibility

Fall Term


On this page you can find information on getting your study approved and made visible to participants. You may also be interested in other pages on:

Sona System Updates August 2020

Automatic Crediting on Sona instructions (pdf)
Using HTML in your study description
Using MT Data and creating wishlists
Inviting qualified participants to participate in your study

Please follow the instructions below to ensure that your study meets the ORE (Office of Research Ethics) and REG (Research Experiences Group) criteria for approval to be made visible to students.

Please note: Studies that do not meet these criteria will not be made visible to students. We will offer basic feedback about the specific problem with your study referring you back to this document, so please ensure that you follow the directions carefully before requesting approval.

Note also, if you make any changes to an already visible study then you will have to re-request approval, so you should ensure that your study appears exactly the way you want before requesting approval.

Creating a new study on SONA

  1. Select [Add New Study].
  2. Choose a Study Type (Standard, Online etc).
  3. This will take you to the Basic Study Information/Advanced Settings page. Make the edits in the following sections:

Basic study information section

Study name

The study name must be unique and slightly descriptive. It should be the same as the title of your study that is on your ORE-approved Information-Consent Letter (ICL). The use of HTML in formatting your study name is not permitted.

Brief Abstract

This information is included below your study name on the list of studies that participants view. You can include text up to 15 words that briefly describe the tasks (i.e., "this study includes one online task and one in-lab session") or study purpose (i.e., "this in-lab study is examining relationship interactions").

Detailed Description

(NOTE: This is the recruitment materials that were submitted and approved as part of your ORE application)

This information should be taken directly from your ORE approved Sona description. You may want to include some basic HTML to help format your study description, as the boxes where you type in this information do not retain any line spacing that you include. Please put each point in a separate paragraph using the HTML tag "
Details on other common HTML tags can be found on our HTML page (see link at top of this page). At minimum, this section must include the following elements:

  • A general statement about the purpose of the study: e.g., “… to study the processes involved in …” or “… interested in opinions about various social issues …
  • A brief description of procedures and tasks e.g., "you will be asked to complete a computer task in which you will be reading words aloud into a microphone; you will be asked to fill out several questionnaires regarding your lifestyle and beliefs ..., you will complete an online (web) survey about ... etc.").
  • You are required to mention duration and credit/pay in the description even though it appears in the Duration/Credits entry on the Study Info page. The duration and credit/pay must agree with the Duration/Credits entry (rounded up to nearest 30 minutes for in-lab studies, and nearest 15 minutes for online studies). The total number of credits that can be granted for one study are 1.5 credits. If you study exceeds this duration you will need to remunerate using other methods (eg. gift cards). See the 'Duration' section below for more information.
  • A statement about confidentiality and storage location (and duration) of data: e.g., “Your identity will be kept confidential. Information will be stored up to 7 years on a secure, password protected computer or server in a secure area in the Department of Psychology to which only authorized researchers have access".

  • Internet Privacy statement: If this is an online study hosted on either SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics then the following statement must be included: "When information is transmitted over the internet privacy cannot be guaranteed. There is always a risk your responses may be intercepted by a third party (e.g., government agencies, hackers). University of Waterloo researchers will not collect or use internet protocol (IP) addresses or other information which could link your participation to your computer or electronic device without first informing you."

  • If a researchers wishes to offer an alternative to online participation, or for participant groups with limited access to the internet please include: "If you prefer not to participate using this online method, please contact one of the researchers so you can participate using an alternative method such as a paper-based questionnaire or telephone call. The alternate method may decrease anonymity but confidentiality will be maintained."
  • Ethics review and clearance statement but not including the Director’s name and contact details: “This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Board. However, the final decision about participation is yours.” ORE contact info not required or allowed.

  • Statement advising participant to contact one of the researchers now or later with questions about the study sign-ups or schedules. e.g. "If you have any questions about the study details or sign-ups please contact the researcher using the link provided".

  • Failure to Appear Policy (please add the following statement exactly as worded here). "Please note that a study sign-up is a firm commitment to the researcher running the study so select time slots carefully and if you cannot attend the lab study session at the specified time [do the online survey before the specified deadline], please cancel the Sign-Up or contact the researcher in advance.  Failure to appear for too many studies without providing adequate prior notice to the researcher may result in denial of access to further studies.  Details are provided on the frequently asked questions (FAQs) page on your SONA account".

Eligibility requirements

Fall 2023 Course for SONA



(updated Aug 24, 2023)

Guidelines and study info settings:

  • In Advanced Settings under Course Restrictions, select eligible courses from the menu.
  • In Basic Study Information under Eligibility Requirements, list the eligible courses.
    (e.g., "Eligible Courses: Psych 101, 101-online, 253, 353") - THIS MUST MATCH COURSE RESTRICTIONS
  • In Basic Study Information under Private Comments, explain your choice of courses, specify type of study and/or task this is.
    • (e.g., "Cognitive Psych, also related to Social Psych" or "Social Psych, using Cognitive Psych task")
    • Indicate whether the study involves deception or not, and if YES provide a brief description of how the deception is used.

Eligible Classes: Psych 101, 101R, 207, 211, 212, 212R, 218, 230, 231, 238, 253, 257, 261, 291, 306, 307, 312, 320, 334R, 336, 349, 389-004, 391, 453, 458, 470-001, 470-003, 492, SMF 204, HLTH 218, LS 272, SWREN 349R



Pay Studies: All courses are eligible for Pay Studies if they decide to do so. Online (DE) studies can offer online gift certificates, online coupons, draw entries or anything that can be offered online and will not require a signed receipt from participants.


Study duration must be rounded up to the nearest 15 minutes for online studies. Studies must not exceed a 1 1/2 hour duration without permission from the REG Coordinator. For longer studies you may consider a combination of credit and payment.


Participants must receive .25 credit for each 15 minute duration for online studies or 0.75 credits for each 30 minute session of remote monitored study. We don't have an enforced standard for payment however the convention at this time is $5 to $6 (or cash equivalent) for each 1/2 hour duration.


If you require any special preparation you can note this here e.g., "please complete the online portion first" or "remember to bring your glasses to the lab session" etc. You may use html coding (e.g., - bold ) to make this statement stand out.


From the list of names in the box to the left, click all the researchers involved in the project. The name will appear in the box to the right. If a name is not listed then an account has not be created, please contact the REG Coordinator. 

Principal Investigator

From the drop down list, select the Principal Investigator for the project. At this time Sona only permits the selection of one PI. If more than one PI is involved in the project, look for the other PI in the Researcher list. If a name is not listed then an account has not be created, please contact the REG Coordinator.

ORE approval code and expiry

Your study must have received Ethics Clearance before becoming visible to participants. Please enter your 5 digit ORE Approval Code (which you would have received from the Kuali system). As ethical approval is now 12 months from the date of clearance, the expiry date on Sona will be 1 year from the date that FULL Clearance was granted. The Sona and Kuali systems do not communicate. You must update or request that this information be updated by the REG Coordinator. If your expiry date expires your study will no longer be visible to participants.

Approved? Active Study?

When submitting your study approval request your study should be "unapproved" and "inactive". Once the REG Coordinator approves the study it will be made "Approved" but "inactive". 

Once the REG Coordinator has approved your study, make your study "active" and set up your timeslots.

Advanced settings section

There are many advanced settings you can use for your study:

  • Pre-requisites: The most common Pre-Requisite study is the Mass Testing (MT) Survey. If you are using one of the Mass Testing Scales either for participant selection or data analysis it is a good idea to select the MT Survey as a Pre-Requisite. The scales currently in the Mass Testing Survey are posted on the SONA Researchers FAQ page. Make sure that you select the current Mass Testing Survey.
  • Disqualifiers: You may restrict participants from signing up for your study if they have already signed up for the specified study(ies) during the current term. For the Winter and Spring term you may restrict participants that participated in the previous term(s) that your study was offered.
  • Course restrictions: It is critical that you select the eligible courses. Click on all eligible courses in the left box and it will appear in the right box. This is the only way that SONA knows which courses are eligible. It is also important that SONA does not show this list to participants so you also need to tell them which courses are eligible. Do this in "Basic Information > Eligibility Requirements."
  • Invitation code: Password needed to participate if needed. Otherwise, leave blank.
  • Study URL: For external online studies, you will enter the URL to the survey here. For In-Lab studies you may want your participants to do an Online portion before or after coming into the lab session. You can enter the URL here.
  • Participant sign-up deadline: The default is 24 hours. For Online studies you should set this to zero. For Lab studies, researchers often prefer to set it to something less than 24 hours to allow participants to sign up same day. This is not the same as the Participant cancellation deadline (see below). This is a deadline for Participants to sign up for your study and the deadline is up to the Researcher.
  • Participant cancellation deadline: The default is for all Online AND Lab studies. It is currently set at 24 hours before the start of the session.
  • Should researchers receive e-mail notification of sign-ups/cancellations? Set this as you wish. It is helpful information.
  • Researchers at time slot-level: This is helpful if you have more than one researcher running participants.
  • Shared Comments: Any information here will be visible to all Researchers and Principal Investigators in the system. This information will NOT be visible to participants.

Private comments

Things to note in the Private Comments section include: (*Note, participants cannot see this information)

  1. Study type: related area of Psychology e.g. Social, CNS, Clinic, IO, etc.
  2. Deception: if your study makes use of any form of deception, then this information needs to be available to other researchers who may wish to exclude participants from their study if they have already participated in a study with similar deception. *Describe the form of deception used in your study here.* The administrator will post this on the researcher FAQ (item #4) on SONA where other researchers can read it and decide whether or not to set your study as a Disqualifier.
  3. Mass testing: if you are using an MT scale to select participants for your study, please specify which scale you are using.

*be sure to enter [Add This Study] or [Save Changes] when you are finished.

Prescreen restrictions

Be sure to set up your Prescreen Restrictions (i.e., if you need to select participants based on their responses) every term. To view or select the questions/responses in the current Prescreen.

  1. Go to "Prescreen Restrictions" section of the Study Information Page.
  2. Click on [View/Modify Restrictions].
  3. Select the relevant prescreen questions from the various sections (Personal, romantic relationships, language, country or origin, ethnicity, religion, university program/major, head injury info).
  4. Select [Set Restrictions] at the bottom of the page.
  5. For each question you selected, select the response choices you require.
  6. Click [Save].

Mass testing

Be sure to set the mass testing survey as a pre-requisite and let the REG Coordinator know (in private comments) if you need to use mass testing scores to pre-select participants for your study (e.g., you require only participants who score as very low or very high on domain X). Please identify the specific scale(s) you will be using for preselection.

Request study approval

Study visibility/approval

If your study has met all of the above criteria and you are satisfied with the appearance (e.g., formatting of the study description), then you should use the [Send Request] link to ask the REG Coordinator to make your study visible. If you have deception information then mention this in the e-mail you send to the REG Coordinator.

*At the start of term, there is usually a "pool opening" date (second Wednesday of the term), prior to which no studies other than mass testing are visible. The scheduled dates that you can start sending requests will be noted in the SONA FAQ page, item 8. You can submit study approval requests earlier but they will not be processed until this date.

The REG Coordinator will review your study within 48 hours (once the pool is open for studies) and will reply with a notification that is either:

  • Not approved (with errors noted) to correct and resubmit
  • Approved + inactive. With instructions to...
    • Make Study active. This is covered in researcher training, however ...
      • Click on Study Info or Study Title.
      • Click on Change Study Information.
      • Scroll to bottom of "Basic Information Section" and toggle the "Active Study?" button.
      • Save changes.
      • Note: be careful not to scroll into the Description box as it may cause SONA to unapprove the study.
    • Create time slots (covered in detail in RES and RA (Research Assistant) training)