Your Rights as a Research Participant

First, you may elect not to participate in any experiments. Most students find participation in research fun as well as informative. You may, however, elect to do an optional project instead of participating in experiments. Such a project will usually involve library or media research requiring about the same time as research participation. Dr. James Nairne explains the rationale for research participation in PSY 120.

Second, you should be aware that you are free to leave any experiment at any time if you find yourself uncomfortable or unhappy with the experimental situation. There is absolutely no penalty to you for leaving an experiment under such circumstances, and you will receive credit units equal to the time spent. You may also omit answering any question you do not wish to answer.

Your Responsibilities as a Research Participant

When you choose to take part in research, you undertake a responsibility that is important for the successful continuance and productivity of psychological science. It is vital that you participate fully, giving an honest effort in all research situations. You should arrive punctually and in a normal (sober) condition. If it is found that you have deliberately attempted to disrupt any research project, you will not receive credit for that experiment. Also, please do not discuss with anyone the aims and methods of any experiment until that work is complete.

It is your responsibility to cancel any session for which you have signed up when you learn you will not be able to attend that session. You can cancel up to 1 hour before any session begins. More information about canceling can be found below.

Procedures For Student Participation in Psychological Research

You are responsible for learning the ground rules listed below. You should have no trouble with participating in experiments if you read carefully before signing up for an experiment. Your full cooperation will be to the advantage not only of those performing the experiments, but also for your own enjoyment and for supplementing your learning experience.

What Are the Requirements?

Psychology 120 students must fulfill the psychology department research requirement by participating in research studies or completing Alternate Projects. The required units are as follows: 15 units during the regular school semester, 10 units for the standard summer section, and 8 units for Summer Start. One unit of research credit will take one-half hour or less of your time, two units will take one hour or less of your time, etc.

How Do I Sign Up For Experiments?

1) Go to to access the Sona Systems sign-up website. Follow the instructions on screen, using your Purdue career account user ID, which is the first part of your Purdue email address (e.g.,

2) Password: A password will be generated by the Sona Systems site during the second week of classes and sent to your Purdue email address. You will not have access to the Sona site until you receive this email.

3) If you join the class after the first day of the second week of classes, please email the PSY 120 Sona Administrator at with your name and section number to have the login information sent to you.

4) Edit your profile. You may enter a different email address and change your password, if you wish. The Sona Systems website generates email notices to you of appointment confirmations, changes in experiment locations, reminders, and cancellations. The site cannot perform these actions unless there is a valid, active email address for you. You are advised to keep your email inbox free, so that you do not go over the space allocated to you by Purdue or by another email provider of your choice.

From the options on the opening page of the Sona Systems program, choose:

  • Study Sign Up
  • My Schedule & Credits or
  • My Profile

When you attend an experiment session for which you signed up, you will receive more complete instructions before the experiment begins. You will be given an informed consent document that you will be asked to read and sign, indicating that you have been informed about the experiment and are still willing to participate. Should you choose not to participate after hearing the instructions and reading the informed consent document, you will not be penalized in any way. Feel free to decline to participate in any experiment that requires you to do anything that you feel is objectionable.

You may participate in an experiment only one time unless otherwise stated in the description for that experiment. Since experiment session openings are posted as the research materials and personnel are ready, it may take most of the semester for you to complete the requirement of 15 units of research credit. Experiments are posted throughout the semester and continuously monitored to insure that each student has ample opportunities to fulfill the requirement.

How Do I Cancel an Experiment?

If you must cancel an appointment, follow the instructions in the Sona Systems website. You must cancel at least one hour before a study begins.

For your own protection, never accept rearrangements (room, time, etc.) of an experiment except through the Experiment Coordinator or the experimenters.

Can I Be Excused After Missing an Experiment?

If you are unavoidably absent from an experiment, email your reason to as soon as possible. Per University policy, the only excusable absences are those caused by illness, employment, or a death in the family. This written excuse must appear on the letterhead stationery from your physician, employer, etc. Forgetting about the experiment, over-sleeping, getting lost, etc., are not legitimate excuses.

What Are Nonparticipant Credits?

Should your experimenter not show up for an experiment, wait at least 5 minutes, then email with the study # and title, and time of your session. If you have made no mistake, you will be informed of the procedure that you must follow in order to receive credit. If you are on time and at the correct location but the experimenter cannot use you due to technical problems, for example, you will receive credit for that experiment from the experimenter — the amount that you would have received for normal participation in the experiment (up to a maximum of two credit units).

What Are the Consequences For Unexcused Absences?

You will be given an “unexcused no show” for each of the following infractions:

  • Every failure to show for an experiment for which you signed up (unless excused).
  • If you are too late for the experimenter to use you.

If it is found that you have been given “unexcused no shows” for missing 3 or more experiment sessions, you will be denied access to the subject pool. You must then use the Alternate Projects option to fulfill this course requirement. Please view the Alternate Project guidelines.

What If I Have a Complaint or Want to Comment About an Experiment?

We are eager to make this course an interesting and enjoyable learning experience for you. We are, therefore, interested in any reasonable complaint, comment or suggestion that you may have about psychology experiments. You are encouraged to email and you will be put in contact with the PSY 120 subject pool coordinator, with whom you can share your concerns.

How Do I Fulfill the Participation Requirement in Following Semesters?

Students who do not complete the required credits will receive an Incomplete (letter grade of I).

If you receive an Incomplete due to missing participation credits and wish to make up this requirement in a future semester:

  1. Contact to have your name and student identification number activated in the Sona Systems website,
  2. Complete your remaining required credits, and
  3. Notify that you have completed the requirement. Your class letter grade will then be released to the Registrar’s office.

If you receive a grade of Incomplete, you should try to complete the requirement promptly. According to current regulations, “If a permanent grade has not been assigned by the instructor as of the twelfth week of the student’s second subsequent semester of enrollment, or if the student is not enrolled in the course at that time, a failing grade of F will be added to the record. The original incomplete grade will remain on and the newly assigned grade will be added to the academic record.”

There is one exception to this policy: Students receiving a D or F as their class grade will not receive an Incomplete for lack of experiment credit. They will be given the D or F and are not required to finish the experiment credit requirement.

What If I Retake the Course?

If you decide to retake PSY 120 in another semester to improve your grade, the participation credits you have already earned can be brought forward to partially or fully satisfy the current participation requirement. However, you must notify that you have previous participation credits, referring to the semester during which you took the course. The transfer will not happen automatically.

PSY 120 Alternate Projects to Satisfy the Research Requirement

Students who do not wish to participate in the department’s on-going research projects may fulfill the PSY 120 research requirement by satisfactorily completing alternate projects. Click here for more information (pdf)