Instructions for Using SONA

Instructions for Using the Communication Department Online Research Management System (SONA) to Manage Your Research Participation

Click here to download the Student Manual for SONA (.pdf). It includes the information here as well as additional information, including FAQs about the SONA process.

Making an Account

Signing up for Studies and Canceling Timeslot Appointments

Managing Credits and Other Aspects of Your Account

Where to Ask Questions

The SONA online research management system is used to allow students to efficiently obtain research participation credit.  Lower division Communication courses require some amount of research participation (generally 2 hours per lower division class), and SONA is designed largely for those classes in mind, but sometimes an instructor of an upper division course might offer students some amount of extra credit for participating in research, and thus SONA may be used for that purpose as well.  You will go to the online site to find out what studies are being offered in a given quarter, and you will use the site to sign up for studies.  Researchers will also use the site to award you your credit.  Please read the instructions below to learn how to use the system.  Please also read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) at the end of this document so that you are prepared in advance for how to deal with any issues that might come up during the quarter.  Students should also pay close attention to any announcements or instructions pertaining to research participation made during lectures.

Making an Account

All accounts are expunged at the end of every quarter, thus students must make new accounts for themselves in each quarter that they will be using SONA to access research participation opportunities.

(1) Go to the UCSB Department of Communication website.

(2) Go to Research/Undergraduate Research Participation (SONA) (just click here).

(3) At the Undergraduate Research Participation page, click on the option to log on to the SONA research system.

(4) You will arrive at the SONA home page, and on this page, click on the option at the lower left that says "New Participant?  Request an account here."

(5)  Fill out the account information on that page.  You will create your own userid at this point.

Two things to note carefully here:

(a) Please be very careful whenever you tell SONA what your email address is; the most frequent problems students have regarding SONA is that they accidentally give SONA an incorrect email address for themselves.

(b) As you make your account, be sure to tell SONA all of the classes that you are in, from the classes that are offered in the list.  For instance, if you are in Comm 1 and Comm 88, make sure you record this information with SONA.  If you later need to tell SONA that you are in a class that you did not tell SONA you were in when you initially made your account, SONA will allow you to add a class to your account profile (as long as this new class is either a lower division class, or an upper division class that has decided to offer extra credit).

(6) The system will generate for you a password and email it to you.  It will be something unmemorable like '6psnrFYs.'  Go to your email account and retrieve the password that has been sent to you.  Then go back to the Participant Signup website/screen and login to the system with the user id that you created and the randomly generated password that was emailed to you.

(7) You will be directed to a page describing the "Human Subjects/Privacy Policy." You generally will not be directed to this page when you access this system later in the quarter; you are only directed to this page when you open a new account. Read the information on this page, and then click "yes" at the bottom of the page. 

(8) You will finally be taken to a screen where there are sections entitled "Study Sign-Up," "My Schedule & Credits," and "My Profile."  In the "My Profile" section, you may click on the option to "change your password" if you prefer not to have to remember the unmemorable password you were given initially. Following the instructions that appear, record a password for yourself that will be easy for you to remember.

Congratulations!  You have successfully made yourself a SONA account!

Signing up for Studies, and Canceling Timeslot Appointments

Once you are logged in to the system, to find out what studies are available, go to the "Study Sign-Up" section. 

There are typically at least 15 studies available per quarter, ranging in duration from a half-hour to 2 hours each.  Studies appear on a staggered basis within SONA. Some are available in week 1 and remain available through week 10, but others may appear in week 5 and are only available through week 8, for instance.  Check SONA regularly to see what studies have become available.  Typically, it is not until around maybe the third week of the quarter that more than handful of studies have become available.

There are, by design, always way more research opportunities available to students than are minimally necessary for all students to complete their requirements.  It is true that many studies will have participation restrictions...such as must be dating, must be female,or must not have completed this study when it was offered last quarter...and thus not all studies will be available to all students, but there is still a significant range of studies to choose from.  However, at some point in the quarter, as studies close up, these opportunities become scarcer.  If a student doesn't start completing their research participation requirement until relatively late in the quarter, they may find that AT THAT POINT there are no longer a sufficient number of studies available for them to complete their participation requirements; nonetheless, over the course of the whole quarter, such opportunities were abundant.

All studies will require that you sign up for a timeslot. For regular studies, which are not online or diary studies, this timeslot will be an actual time and place where you must be to complete the study.  For online studies, there will be one timeslot that is set to the deadline by which you must have completed the survey.  If, for instance, the timeslot for an online study is 5 pm, Dec 1st, this does not mean that you have to be anywhere or do anything at 5 pm on Dec 1st, it merely means that the survey will be unavailable to you after that time.

Some studies have unique or complicated procedures, and the researchers will clarify procedural elements as much as possible in the description section of the study in SONA, so students should make sure they read that information carefully.  If you have any questions as to what a study requires, you should always feel free to contact the researcher directly for clarification.

If for any reason you are unable to attend a timeslot that you have signed up for, the first thing you should do is return to your SONA account, and under the "My Schedule" tab, you should attempt to cancel your timeslot appointment.  Most studies have a deadline...such as 24 hours prior to the time the timeslot is to which students are able to unenroll from a study.  If that deadline, or indeed the timeslot itself, has already passed, your participation for that study will be credited as an unexcused no-show.  If you believe that your participation should instead be recorded as excused no-show, you should contact the researcher directly and explain to them why you believe this to be the case.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:  Once a student has accumulated three unexcused no-shows during one quarter, they are prohibited from signing up for any other studies within SONA.  The student's account may remain active, but no studies will appear to be available.  If this happens to you, you will need to ask your instructor if you have any other research participation options at that point.

If you successfully complete a study that you have signed up for in SONA, then the researcher will alter your timeslot status to read "credit granted."  It would be ideal if researchers recorded the appropriate crediting information (excused no-show, unexcused no-show, or credit granted) fairly shortly after the timeslot has passed, and we are working towards establishing this as the norm, but you may find that some researchers take longer than others to record that information, and some studies may be set up in such a way that make it difficult to record credit information in a timely fashion.  If you have any questions at all about how your participation has been credited within SONA, please direct those questions to the researcher in charge of the study. 

Managing Credits and Other Aspects of Your Account

SONA is fairly user-friendly in terms of allowing students to manage their credit and account information.  For instance, if you participated in 5 hours of research participation, and allocated 2 hours towards Comm 88 and 3 hours towards Comm 89, but decide later you'd rather have 3 hours to go towards Comm 88, and 2 hours towards Comm 89, SONA allows to redistribute your credit in that manner. 

This sometimes becomes an issue when students add or drop a class after the start of the quarter.  SONA will allow you to add a class to your account profile.  For instance, assume you made your account during the first week of the quarter when the only Comm class you were in was Comm 1.  However, imagine that you enrolled in Comm 88 in the second week of the quarter.  SONA would allow you to add Comm 88 to the list of classes that you are enrolled in.

However, SONA will not allow you to drop a class from your account.  So if you start the quarter enrolled in Comm 1 and Comm 88, but decide in week 3 to drop Comm 88, SONA will continue to assume you are in both Comm 1 and Comm 88.  As there is generally a 2-hr research participation quota for each lower-division class, SONA will still report to you that your total participation requirement is 4-hrs (since it continues to believe that you are in two lower division classes), but this total requirement information is not used by our department. Credit requirements are done on a class-by-class basis, so in such cases, you just should redistribute any participation credit that you had previously directed towards Comm 88 to Comm 1 instead, and not worry about the fact that SONA has slightly overestimated your total requirement. 

Where to Ask Questions

The Student Manual for SONA (link above) contains a variety of FAQs and answers.

Since you have regular contact with your instructor, you may ask them basic questions about the SONA research participation process, and what is required or available for the course.  However, instructors tend to have no contact with the SONA system until the very end of the quarter when they collect the final participation data for grading purposes, so for many questions, they may refer you to either the researcher or the system administrator.

Any questions about the procedures, requirements, or status of a particular study should be addressed to the researcher in charge of that study.  This includes questions related to timeslot sign-up or cancellations, and to any questions related to crediting decisions made by the researcher.

Any questions pertaining to the SONA system generally should be addressed by email to the system administrator, Professor Muniba Saleem (  Questions the administrator is most used to receiving involve things like difficulty accessing an account, or why a class or a study that SHOULD be available or visible within SONA appears not to be available or visible.