SONA Researcher Manual

Last modified by Kerwin Olfers on 2022/03/22 11:08

SONA MANUAL FOR RESEARCHERS 2020_html_d92b80b6046fb576.jpg


This manual provides most of the information that is generally needed for FSW researchers to start and manage studies on the Leiden SONA platform.

Please note that all SONA users must also have read the SONA rules, before starting projects on SONA.

For more advanced information, a full technical manual is available upon request, for this and other questions and suggestions contact the administrator:



For first year student from Psychology and Education and Child Studies: do not create a SONA account yourself. If you think you do not have an account contact 

Account types

SONA distinguishes between three types of roles that can be associated with a user account:

  • Participant: used by participating students and external participants.
  • Researcher: used by master/bachelor project students conducting research, PhD students and internship researchers. Note that bachelor and master students will also always have a participant role.
  • Principal investigator: used by teachers/researchers/professors to have access to all studies conducted by the researchers under their supervision. For these accounts you need to at least have a PhD degree.

Account requests

Researcher and P.I. accounts can be requested by contacting the administrator at, include the following in your email:

  • Full name:
  • E-mail: must be university email
  • Student number: of course only if you are a student
  • Institute: Psychology or Education and Child studies
  • Supervisor: Not needed in case of PI account

Creating the account can take 2-3 work days. The log in details will be sent to you by e-mail. After logging in you can change the automatically generated password that will be supplied in this e-mail.

Logging In

After logging in on the main page:

  • You may need to choose which role you wish to use in this session (if multiple roles are associated with your account).
  • To change roles later, simply log out and log back in.
  • It might be very helpful to log in as a Participant to see what your study looks like for the potential participants.


Home Screen

The home screen (or landing page) has some very useful information and links to relevant pages on the site. Most of the time you will be interacting with the (1) Top Menu, on the left of the screen you will find (2) quick links to manage your studies an timeslots, including (3) a link that will show you all uncredited timeslots across all your studies, and on the right side your will find (4) useful reminders and announcements.


Top Menu

Main Menu



Extra information

My studies

Overview of all studies attached to your account

This includes studies that you have not created yourself, but to which your account has been added as a researcher.

All studies

Overview of all studies in the system

Participants will see a randomized list with a different layout. It is highly recommended to log in as a Participant at least once to see what this looks like

Add new study

This is where new studies are created.

For detailed instructions, see here.

My profile

Edit your profile

Some details can only be added by the administrator


Compilation of frequently asked questions and answers

Note that some F.A.Q.'s are only visible to Researchers, and not to Participants, which is indicated by the tabs at the top.

Creating a Study

After creating the account you can now create and manage studies in SONA. However, before creating your first study, first carefully read the SONA Rules. 

Below we walk through the main steps of creating a study (Video tutorials will also be made available shortly). Note that much information is also provided in SONA itself, so make sure to always read the instruction there.

  • Step 1: Choose a study type after having clicked on ‘Add New Study
  • Step 2: Provide study information
  • Step 3: Manage the study.
  • Step 4: Create Timeslots [Optional]
  • Stap 5: Activate the study

Note: you will need to have an Ethics Committee approval code to create a valid study. If you do not have one yet, we recommend you to wait with creating a study.

Step 1. Selecting a study type

Click on "Add New Study" from the top menu. Then select the appropriate study type from the following:

A. Standard Study*The most used option, creates a study consisting of one part and one meeting per participant. Use this option for lab or location based studies
B. Multi-Part Standard Study*This option creates a standard study consisting of 2 or more meetings per participant.
C. Online Internal Survey StudyThis option is not supported
D. Online external study*External questionnaire e.g. Qualtrics, OpenSesame, Gorilla etc...
*Always select the option ‘Credit’. If Paid is selected you will not be able to grant credits to those who participate for credits. Note that for studies with multiple compensation options (e.g. credits or a raffle), participants will need some way to indicate which compensation they want, for instance as a question in a Qualtrics survey. An alternative of course, is to make two separate studies, each with their own compensation type.
When someone is taking part for a monetary reward, this person can be granted 0 credits when closing the timeslot.

IMPORTANT: You will not be able to change the study type or the reward type after having created a study!

Step 2: Provide the Study Information

Basic Study Information
Study nameTitle of your study

Provide a catchy and concise title.

Do not start your study title with symbols (e.g. * ! ?) or include HTML code, these will be removed by us. Do not advertise your study as giving a lot of credits for a short amount of time (e.g. “Earn 1 credit for ONLY 10 minutes!”), this is not allowed. 

Brief abstractShort description of the studyMax. 255 characters. Indicate the compensation (amount of credits/money) in this box. Additionally, provide extra study information.
Detailed DescriptionDetailed description of what your study entailsYou can open a paragraph with <p> and close with </p>. Using html to change fonts is not allowed.
Eligibility RequirementsState the requirements your participants have to meet.Make sure to indicate all requirements here. Both the Title and the Eligibility text are shown in the main study list to participants. We highly recommend logging in as a participant once to see what this looks like. 
DurationProvide the duration of your study in minutesThis should indicate the entire duration of a session for a participant (i.e. also including the setup, debriefing etc).
CreditsChoose the amount of creditsThis will be shown on the homepage of your study and states the maximum amount of credits that can be obtained. Please be aware that there is a maximum allowed number.
PreparationState the preparation you expect of your participantsE.g. not to eat before the study
Researcher Select the researchers that are part of the experiment. Note that all researchers will receive notifications regarding sign-ups and timeslots unless you use the "Researchers at Timeslots level" under the advanced settings.
Principal InvestigatorChoose the Supervisor/P.I.If you cannot find your supervisor please contact the administrator.
Ethics Committee Approval CodeFill in the Code of the Ethics CommitteeThis field is mandatory to fill in, you cannot conduct your research without this code.
Ethics Committee Approval ExpirationFill in the expected end date of your study as stated in the ethics submission.

It is not possible to plan in timeslots beyond this date, once this date is filled in only the administrator can change it. For extension past this date, please contact

Approved?Tick yes once your study is approved by the Ethics Committee of Psychology or Child Studies (or the METC if applicable)When the study is not approved yet, choose no, save changes and come back at this option later through ‘change study information’ in the study menu. Studies will not be made available to participants until a code is provided.
Active study?Tick yes once your study is approved and you are ready to start recruiting.We recommend not activating the study until you have everything ready and double-checked, including your first time-slots. This option shows your study in the overview. Remember to make the study inactive when you are done with the research
Advanced Setting
Pre-Requisites /
 Disqualifiers / Course Restrictions
Indicate if having performed in other studies, or courses is required or prohibted.Select all groups you want to reach, when selecting multiple groups please tick the option: “Participants must participate in AT LEAST ONE of these studies before they may sign up”
Invitation CodeSet a special password to sign up for the study

Leave blank if participants do not need a special password to sign up for this study.

This option can also be very useful to test your own (online) study setup, with your participant account, without the risk of actual participants signing up

Should survey participants be identified only by a random, unique ID code?Makes it so that you cannot see the participants names in the systemGenerally we do not recommend using this setting, as it makes it very difficult to contact or trace participants if needed.
Study URLLink to an external website or questionnaire.Applicable only for online studies, see for more detailed information on online studies.You can configure the study URL and your online task to automatically grant credits on SONA after completion, see here for more information.
Study URL DisplayCan make it so the participant can still access the link even after completing the studyWe recommend keeping this setting to "No" as otherwise students may complete your study multiple times.
Participant sign-up/cancellation deadlineChoose the deadline for a participant to sign up for a timeslot / to cancel the timeslot24 hours by default for lab-based studies and 1 hour for online studies.
Researchers at timeslot level?Allows you to assign a specific researcher to be in charge of a timeslotPlease be aware that if you use this option, only the assigned researcher will receive status updates, reminders for pending / uncredited timeslots etc.
Research AlternativeAlways choose ‘No’ 

Review the settings and choose ‘Save study'.

Step 3. Manage your study

You are now on the study homepage, here you have the possibility to use several options to manage the study such as:

  • Change the study information
  • Add/administer time slots
  • View study details
  • Contact participants

For more information on managing your studies see here.

This is the main view to come back later if there is anything you need to change or check up on.

  • Carefully check the overview and use Participant Study View to see what your study looks like to visitors of your study homepage. Are all the fields filled in correctly and clearly?

Step 4. Add Timeslots [Optional]

For participants to join your study, timeslots need to be made available.

While it is not strictly necessary to create timeslots at this point (i.e. before your study is activated), we encourage you to try to make some Timeslots now. Since the study has not been activated yet, the Timeslots will not be visible to students, so any mistakes at this point can still be easily corrected.

The instructions for creating and managing Timeslots can be found here.

Step 5. Activate the study

  • Once you are certain that the entire setup is correct, you have approval from the Ethics committee, and all previous steps are completed you can now publish your study.
  • To make your study visible go to the study information view, then to "Change Study Information" from the Study Menu. Find the field "Active Study?" and select "Yes". Then save the changes. Your study is now live and visible to the participants!
  • The administrator checks new studies once a week to check for mistakes or violations of the rule.

For online studies, we highly recommend first testing the entire study setup yourself, with your participant account. You can either:

  1. Use the "Participant Study View" from the Study Menu, or:
  2. You can enable the "Invitation Code" field in the study setting, and make a password. You can then make a Timeslot to test your study, the invitation code setting ensures that only you can sign up for the Timeslot. Once you are sure everything functions as intended, you can remove the invitation code from the study settings, and create the proper Timeslots.

Managing a Study

Once a study has been created, your will mainly be managing it (i.e. creating timeslots, checking participant overviews and if needed changing study settings) via My Studies > Study Info > Study Menu.


Study Menu

View/Administer Time SlotsManage timeslotsSee here for instructions on using timeslots.
Timeslot Usage SummaryOverview of participants, credits that were grantedThis view has limited relevance normally speaking.
Download Participants ListList of all signed-up participantsVery useful for an overview of all sign-ups, including their status, email and in the case of of online experiments: the associated survey_code ID's.
Contact Participants
Contact the participants that are signed upFor instance to send reminders to participants who are scheduled, or to send updates on the outcome of your study. We generally encourage ticking the box "Send a copy to yourself" "Yes"
View Bulk Mail SummaryOverview of e-mails sent to participantsTo review what emails you have sent in the past
Change Study InformationChange study informationThis allows you to change many settings of your study, including the description of the study, the credits to be awarded, eligibility etc. Some notable thing you can not change at all: the type of study (e.g. standard lab vs multipart online). For other you need to contact the administrators, e.g. to change the Ethics Code or to extend the end-date of your study.
Participant Study ViewCheck how your study looks for a participantVery useful to see what your study looks like for a participant when they click on it. This view is available even if your study is not yet active and/or does not have any timeslots yet. For online studies it also generates a fake ID number that can be sent along with the URL.
Delete StudyDelete studyUse this option only to delete concepts. Do not delete studies that have participants signed up for them. Even when the study is old/inactive. Old studies will be deleted by the administrator after 3 years of inactivity.

Closing a Study

  • Close the project at the page ‘Change Study Description’ and untick the option ‘Active Study’ This makes the study inactive and therefore invisible to participants.
  • Archive important details (timeslots, study configuration). Tip: print to PDF.
  • Do not delete the experiment yourself. Studies will be automatically deleted after 3 years of inactivity.

Using Timeslots

Even once a study is approved and active, participants will not be able to join your study until you have created timeslots.

  • For lab-based studies, a timeslot equals the duration of one participation on an experiment (this would include setup, debriefing etcetera).
  • A timeslot allows multiple participants.
  • Timeslots within one experiment are allowed to overlap but not when they are in the same location (room)
  • Through timeslots, researchers can grant credits to the participants

Adding timeslots

To add timeslots either go to the study info page > Study Menu > ‘View/Administer Time Slots’ or from the My Studies tab, go to the timeslots of the relevant study.



Here you have two options to add timeslots

  • Add A Timeslot
  • Add Multiple Timeslots (only available for lab-based studies, not for online studies)


Through add multiple timeslots you can easily add timeslots for a full day, once you have filled one week with timeslots you can also copy this week under ‘Copy Timeslots from a Specific Week’.

  • If you have troubles with choosing the location, you can choose ‘FSW’ as the location. Additionally, mention explicitly in the study information where the experiment will take place.

Deleting timeslots

To delete timeslots go to ‘View/Administer Time Slots’ and click ‘Modify’ under the timeslot you want to delete.

Only delete timeslots without sign-ups. If participants have already sign-up, make sure to contact them first!

Timeslots for online experiments

Even though you usually do not need to worry about lab and experimenter availability, we still strongly urge you to use timeslots for online experiments. They allow you to track who has joined your experiment, to send emails to your participants and to grant your participants credits. Do not put the link to your online experiment in the Study Description, but only in the proper URL field.

  • Generally, you create one timeslot with a number of positions equal to (or slightly larger than) the intended sample size.
  • As final participation date / time, use the deadline before which all participants should have started your online task.
  • We strongly urge you not to close/remove the timeslot before the specified end-date, even if you have already collected enough participants. Participants who have signed-up for you study and have not completed it yet may be counting on completing the study and receiving the credits before the deadline. If you must close your timeslot early, at least send a bulk email to all the participants informing them of the upcoming closing.


All of the following options can be found under Study Menu > View/Administer Timeslots > Modify

  • Sign up a participant yourself. On the timeslot page scroll down to Manual Sign-Up. You can sign up a participant by student number or name. By using student number use the number without the s in front of it.
  • Cancel sign-up. Under all Sign-Ups, all participants in this timeslot are shown. Under the name you can choose for the option ‘cancel’. It is only possible to cancel participation if the status of the participant is ‘no action taken’.
  • No-showIf a participant does not show up for a study, please choose the reason excused or unexcused. When choosing unexcused a penalty equal to the amount of credits to earn will be deducted from the participant’s total amount of credits. Please note that there are clear rules for what counts as excused or unexcused.
  • Grant credits. You can also select the number of credits to grant here. For instance, if a session ran longer then expected, you could choose to award more credits, or if a participants

After an option, scroll down on the page to choose ‘Update Sign-Ups’ to save the changes.

Credits and Money

After a participant has completed your study, you should register their participation to grant credits, but also in the case of monetary compensation.

You can do so from the Timeslot view or from the Homepage view.

From Timeslots

To do so: go to the Study menu > ‘View/Administer Timeslots’ > Click modify for the timeslot where you want to grant credits

Individual Grant

Open the timeslot via ‘modify’ look up the student in the list ‘sign-ups’. Change no 'action taken' to 'participated' and choose the amount of credits to grant. In the comments you can add additional information if necessary. Then click "Update Sign-Ups" on the bottom.

Batch Credit Grant

Maximum 20 participants per batch

Go to manual sign up and click on the button ‘Batch Credit Grant’ on the bottom right.

Fill in all student numbers you want to grant credits and separate them with a space. You can fill in a maximum of 20 participants per batch and please use the student number without an S in front of it. Also note that batch granting can only be done for one timeslot at once.



Participants for money

If a participant should be compensated with money (or nothing at all), select 'participated' and choose 0 credits to close the timeslot. Then click "Update Sign-Ups" on the bottom.

From Homepage

From the homepage you can also reach an overview of all uncredited sign-ups / timeslots. From this overview you can also grant credits or mark participants as no-shows.

While this page also offers a "Mark all 'Participated'" option, be aware that this is not study specific, i.e. it will grant credits to all uncredited timeslots for all studies you are associated with, so be careful when using it.



For frequently asked question and answers, please see the F.A.Q section on SONA itself.

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