Describing SONA participants in reports

In many of our studies we report on findings based on participants recruited through the UO Human Subject Pool / SONA. There are some nice features of this system that should be mentioned in empirical reports. SONA participants do not know what study they are signing up for -- their sign-up is based on schedule (and eligibility if pre-screen is used first) rather than self selection into a particular study.  This is an important point to make in some, if not all, papers because depending on the topic of the study, self-selection into the study could produce quite a biased sample. When college student samples are referred to simply as "convenience samples" no matter how subjects are recruited, a major methodological issue may be left unclear. If I put up a sign up sheet saying "come participate in my study on romantic relationships" that is a convenience sample.  Many college student pools work this way -- students sign up knowing the content area of the study. What we have with SONA is something different and much better -- it is a reasonably random sample of UO students taking introductory psychology. 

In addition there are other features of the system such as prescreen and confidentiality that you may want to describe.

Below are some examples from lab papers describing some of these features.

about sign up:

"Undergraduate students (91 men, 227 women) in introductory psychology classes at the University of Oregon participated to partly fulfill a course requirement. Participants did not self-select into the study based on knowledge of the content; rather, participants were selected for the study based on schedule availability from a large human subject pool." (p. 16, Cromer & Freyd, 2007)

about prescreen:

"Human Subjects Pool participants were selected based on their answers to a prescreening question about Native American ancestry.  If participants indicated that they had at least one grandparent who identified as Native American, they were able to participate in the study. This screen was conducted electronically whereby eligible individuals were permitted to sign up for the study without knowing they had been screened in as eligible. Thus, Human Subjects Pool participants were blind to this being a study related to their American Indian heritage. Consistent with Human Subject Pool practice, participants earned course credit for participation." (Cromer, Gray, & Freyd, in preparation).

about General Survey and about anonymity:

"Participants completed both instruments online as part of a general survey conducted through the psychology department human subjects pool. The general survey is a battery of approximately 15 questionnaires submitted by many researchers. The ordering of the questionnaires was randomly assigned to each participant. IRB approval was obtained for the larger survey, which included these measures in the submission. The informed consent was administered for the General Survey in total. Participants were given an option to decline to answer any item. Before completing the survey, each respondent was given an identification number so responses were anonymous." (p. 264, Kaehler & Freyd, 2009)


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