In short: Using SONA allows you to make sure you get many participants. And the participants get their study credits for participating.

SONA Systems is a company that helps universities with participant management in studies.

According to their website, they serve "all of the top 50 universities in the US and top 10 in Canada, as well as 75% of the world’s top business schools, and all of the Australian Go8 and the UK’s RAE 2008 4-star and 3-star ranked universities."

It is very easy to combine PsyToolkit and SONA.

Summary (TL;DR)

  1. In PsyToolkit: Make sure in PsyToolkit settings, you have selected Show SONA option and advanced options

  2. In PsyToolkit: Setup your survey in PsyToolkit as usual

  3. Make sure you have a SONA account (ask your psychology department)

  4. In SONA: Add a new study (Online External Study). Also add the PsyToolkit URL. PsyToolkit has a button to give you this: Copy link for SONA study information page

  5. In SONA: Copy the PsyToolkit Redirect to a URL link. In PsyToolkit: Paste it in your URL at end of survey box

  6. In PsyToolkit: Make sure the in/out variables have been set to survey_code. Save and Compile

  7. In SONA: Wait until your study is approved by your department.

STEP 1: Settings

You only need to do this once. In PsyToolkit settings, select the "Show SONA options" settings under various and also the "Advanced options". Make sure to click save at the bottom to store these settings once and for all (you only need to do this once).


STEP 2: Create your PsyToolkit survey

Just as usual, compile your survey. You know that you get a URL. But that is not exactly the URL you need, you would need to add some information.

Because this can easily go wrong, PsyToolkit makes it easy for you: You can simply press the button "Give me the SONA study URL". Then a little popup with the correct URL shows up. Copy that for use later in STEP 4.

Use PsyToolkit and SONA in different tabs of your browser, then it is easy to copy and paste information between the two systems.

STEP 3: Make sure you have a SONA account

You can only run a study through SONA if your university has a SONA account. Typically, your university will have a person responsible for SONA. Ask that person if you are allowed to add a new study (that is called a "researcher account", or something like that). Check it out with that person in your department, they will know. In the UK, most psychology departments have support for this.

In the screenshot, you see what a research account in SONA looks like. Of course, this screenshot is how it looks like at one specific university. At your university, it will have the logo and name of your university.


STEP 4: Setup a SONA study

Select "Add New Study" and select the "Online External Study". You can choose the option "Credit" (unless you have the means to pay your participants). With Credit they mean some form of points that students will get automatically on completion of the study.

When you go on a few screens, you need to give the "Study URL (optional)". This is where you enter simply the PsyToolkit survey URL (STEP 1).


STEP 5: Enter the SONA URL on PsyToolkit

Under the Study Information of your new SONA study, you will see somewhere the "PsyToolkit Redirect to a URL". Copy the link and pasted it in your PsyToolkit SONA box.


The PsyToolkit SONA box can be reached as follows. First go to your PsyToolkit survey, scroll down, and find a button with "SONA information".


Click that and you get a pop up where you can enter the SONA URL (this will set the in/out variable boxes to survey_code ; you can also do this manually if you want).


When you click OK, the correct URL will automaticaly be entered.

PsyToolkit processes the SONA URL in accordance to the instructions from SONA. PsyToolkit with also fill in two other fields. You could do this by hand, but this way you do not need to worry about the details.

STEP 6: Save and compile

Now save your PsyToolkit survey and compile it.

STEP 7: Run your survey

Once your SONA study has been approved, people will be able to find it via the SONA website. Do not send your PsyToolkit URL to participants, they have to go through the SONA website to get credits.

Test if it works

After your setup, you can check if your online survey with SONA credits works as expected. Worth to do. In SONA, click the button with "Sample link with Embedded ID Code". At the end you should see a message that "No credit give, because you are not a participant".

If you see that it works!

Trouble shooting

It it does not work, first check if the following:

In your survey setup, make sure the "In:" and "Out:" variables have been set to survey_code. If this has not been set automatically, just do it and recompile.


How does it work?

This is only for those who want to know the technology behind it.

Basically, PsyToolkit simply gets a special internet variable called survey_code from SONA. Later, this code is sent back as well as information that the survey has been completed. So the participants go from the SONA to the PsyToolkit webpage, but they do not necessarily notice that.

Because students click the final link, they will get the credits. This link is unique for each participants and so prevents that people can get credits without doing the study.