DePaul University College of Communication > Academics > Research & Lectures > Information for Researchers

Information for Researchers

(including students conducting classroom-based projects) who wish to use the CMN/CDM Research Participation Pool

Requesting an Account

You will need a "Principal Investigator" account on the Sona Experiment Management System in order to set up your study. Each person who will conduct a research study that wishes to utilize the participant pool for recruitment will also need to be in the system as a "Researcher" account. Thus you would have two accounts: (1) Principal Investigator and (2) Researcher, with two separate userIDs. (Note: you may have up to four accounts if you are also in the system as a ‘Participant’ and/or as ‘Instructor’).
When you email to request an account, please put the following on a single line, separated by commas:
  • userID, last name, first name, email address
  • UserID is the login name you want for the account, not your DePaul ID number - your last name is a good default. Also include a list of any research staff (undergrads, grad students, etc.) or student’s helping with the class project for which Researcher accounts need to be created. For each researcher or student project staff member, list the same four pieces of information on one line, separated by commas. A good default value for UserID for a Researcher or student project staff member account is the person's last name with the numeral "1" appended to it.
  • If you are a student-researcher in a classroom-based study, you must also provide your instructor’s contact information so the Participant Pool Coordinator can verify that you are conducting a classroom-based research project.
  • Email the Participant Pool Coordinator with this information at

Classroom-Based Research Studies

If you are requesting to use the participant pool for classroom-based projects you do NOT need IRB approval as long as the project meets the criteria for a classroom-based project and does not meet the definition of research. Classroom-based projects do not require IRB review and approval because there is no intent to create or contribute to generalizable knowledge. If you are doing a classroom-based project and your intent from the beginning is to create or contribute to generalizable knowledge, you do require IRB review and approval. Student researchers will need to request an account (see above) to use the participant pool. Any student utilizing the participant pool to recruit other students for their project must follow all researcher instructions below.

Obtaining IRB Approval (non-classroom-based research studies)

Studies that can be posted have to be either: (1) research studies that have received IRB approval or (2) classroom-based research projects. In the case of the former, you will need your IRB approval number to register a study.
Note that studies classified as "exempt" under category 2 by the IRB are prohibited from including minors as participants. Under the federal regulations, minors (persons under the age of 18 in Illinois) may not participate in research determined to be exempt under category 2. Students who are under the age of 18 may participate in exempt studies that meet the criteria for exemption under other categories besides category 2 and minimal risk/expedited review studies that have received IRB approval to include participants who are under 18. The individual studies must be approved for the recruitment and enrollment of minors by the IRB and must have written into the study plan of work the mechanism for ensuring that parent/guardian permission has been obtained and for obtaining study specific assent from the student, or be eligible for a waiver of these processes. Please consider asking to include students under 18 when you submit your expedited IRB applications in the future so that some studies will be available for DePaul University students who are under 18.

Adding Your Study

You can add either a lab study or an online study. Online studies can be created within the Sona Experiment Management System using a point-and-click interface, or you can use a study hosted on an external web site (such as SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics). After adding your study to the system, be sure to make the study "Active". Then click the link to email the administrator and request that the study be made "Visible" to students.
For online studies, be sure participants have the option to leave unanswered any questions they do not want to answer. For studies created within the Sona Experiment Management System, that means that for every question you should select "yes" for "Can students decline to provide an answer for this question?"
In your description of the study in the Sona system you should state briefly what tasks participants will do and how long it will take, rounded up to the next half hour. For research protocols, this description must be submitted to the IRB for approval as recruitment material.
For online studies the IRB approved exempt information sheet or consent document text for the individual study should be the first item available to participants before they go to the online activity. For research studies or experiments run in the laboratory or in-person, the information sheet or consent document may be provided to the participant and discussed with the participant in-person before they begin participating in the research.
Credits are awarded in half-hour increments. So an online study that takes 30 minutes or less should be listed as 0.5 credits, a study that takes between 30 and 60 minutes would provide 1 credit. What a ‘credit’ means for the participating student will be determined by the instructor of the participating course.
You must also state the age restrictions of your study in the "Eligibility Requirements" section. Students under the age of 18 cannot be enrolled in studies determined to be exempt under category 2 by the IRB/Office of Research Services. If your IRB approval did not specifically authorize the participation of minors, you must say "Must be at least 18 years old."
Studies that underwent expedited or full IRB review or exempt studies that involve categories other than category 2 can include participants under 18 if approved by the IRB. If your study has IRB approval for minors to participate, you should instead state the minimum age for which your study is approved. If you have permission to enroll participants as young as 16, for example, you should state "Must be at least 16 years old. Students under 18 must bring a copy of their signed parental permission form to the study." (A generic parental permission form is provided to students on the CDM and CoC Research Participation web sites.) You must have them show you a copy of the signed form when they arrive so that you can verify they have parental permission, and you must also have an IRB-approved mechanism for obtaining the assent of the student.

Adding Time Slots

You must add time slots for a lab or in-person study so that participants can sign up. You must also do so for online studies, specifying a deadline for participants to complete the study.
Each study has an initial enrollment cap set by the system. If you find that you are unable to add new time slots, it may be because you have reached this cap. Email the coordinator to request an increase in the cap if you need to schedule more participants.

Remember that all studies must be completed by the last day of regular classes (before finals week) of each quarter? Make sure you do not schedule any signup slots later than that date.
Online Study Restrictions
Online studies must be made also available to classes with online sections. After posting signup slots for at least two weeks, you have two options:
  1. Ask the coordinator ( to remove the course restriction and make the study available to all sections (while keeping the default enrollment cap) or
  2. Ask the coordinator to increase the enrollment cap (while still restricting enrollment to evening/weekend sections). If the enrollment cap is increased, then the course restriction must be kept in place for the entire quarter (meaning the restrictions may not be removed during the final two weeks of the quarter). 

Cancellations and ‘No-Shows’


Researchers must notify participants by at least 5:00 PM the day prior to the appointment if a study is to be canceled. If it is not possible to notify participants by 5pm, the researcher must either get someone to run the study in their place, or post a sign on the door of the study location telling students it has been canceled. The notice should instruct students to go to either CDM’s main office (fourth floor) or to CMN’s main office (18th floor of Daley building, 14 E. Jackson) to fill out a form verifying that they were there on time.

The researcher must also email the Research Participation Coordinator about the cancellation at

If the study is a classroom-based study, the student conducting the project must notify their instructors of the cancellation, and the instructor should notify the Research Participation coordinator in CDM.
Participants must use the experiment signup website. to cancel an appointment – they are not expected to contact the researcher directly. If the student does not cancel the appointment at least one hour in advance, or is more than 10 minutes late, this counts as a "no show" and should be reported in the system. If a student “no shows" two times, they may not permitted to participate in any further studies during the quarter and may be required to use “alternative credit” as designed by his or her course instructor to complete the participation requirements. Experimenters, including students conducting classroom-based projects, must record “no shows” in the research participation web site promptly in order for them to be counted properly.

Downloading Your Data

If your online study data is stored within the Sona Experiment Management System, be sure to download your data as soon as data collection is completed (and no later than the end of the quarter). End-of-quarter maintenance operations will erase all data from online surveys and the prescreening survey - therefore it is essential that you download your data before the end of each quarter.

Updating Credit and No-Show Records

After each experiment session, log into the Sona Experiment Management System and update the participant records by granting credit to the day's participants, and penalizing any no-shows. If you set "automatic credit granting" to "yes" for your study, then by default credit will be granted once the appointment time has passed and you will only need to go into the system to report no-shows.
For online studies, the automatic credit granting option works a bit differently than you might expect. Rather than granting credit as soon as the participant completes your online survey, the system waits to grant credit until 24 hours after the deadline that you set for completion of the survey, not 24 hours after the student actually completes the survey. If you use automatic credit granting for online studies, therefore, you should set a deadline no more than about a week in the future, and post new slots each week, rather than setting a deadline of the end of the quarter.
If you use an external web site for an online study (such as SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics), be aware that automatic credit granting will award credit to anyone who signs up for your study, whether they complete it or not. (This is because the system has no way of knowing whether an external online study was completed or not.) It is better, therefore, to turn off automatic credit granting for externally hosted online studies and instead do the following:
  • After the user submits their data in your online survey, send them to a separate form page within the survey in which they will input their identity code. In SurveyMonkey for example, you can change the "next page" that the user is sent to after they submit their survey answers to be another form that will be used to collect the identity codes, but not link that identity code to the survey responses.
  • Have the user enter his or her system-assigned identity code in this separate web form. Be sure that you store the identity codes in a separate file or database table that is not linked to the survey data.
  • Use the identity codes to manually grant credit to all the users who completed your survey.
  • For anyone who signed up for your online study but did not complete it, record them as a "cancellation," since there is no such thing as a "no-show" for an online study.


A demographic survey is administered each quarter during the first two weeks of class. You can restrict enrollment to your studies based on answers to one or more prescreening questions. You can also restrict access based on participation in other studies. Both of these options are available to all researchers within the Sona Experiment Management System.
If you need to include additional screening questions or measures specific to your study, you should create an online study in the Sona Experiment Management System with the questions you want to include in prescreening. Be sure you remember to include the option of declining to answer for each question - if you do not, your additional measures cannot be included in prescreening. After creating your online survey, email the Research Participant Coordinator in CDM and request that your survey be added to the prescreening survey. Be sure to clearly identify the online survey that you want included. Only surveys that have already been created in the Sona Experiment Management System can be included in prescreening. Any pre-screening questions being added to the pre-screening survey must be approved by the IRB under your individual IRB protocol.


If this is not a classroom-based study, prior IRB approval is required. Note that the IRB must specifically approve collecting data through prescreening: Your IRB protocol must specifically identify the exact questions you plan to include, and must state that you plan to include them in the "Intro Prescreening Survey." Include a copy of your IRB approval memo when you email us your request to include questions in prescreening.
Researchers should create their surveys for prescreening and contact the Research Participant Coordinator ( several weeks prior to the start of the quarter, if possible. If a request is received less than two weeks before the beginning of classes, it is unlikely that it can be included. (Exceptions can be made for classroom-based studies since they are designed and implemented during the quarter).
By default, only the standard demographic survey is carried over to the next quarter's prescreening. If you had a survey included in the previous quarter's prescreening and wish to have it included again this quarter, you must email the coordinator several weeks prior to the start of the quarter.
Clearly identify the survey that you want carried over to the next prescreening so that the CDM coordinator knows which section of the prescreening to re-use.
Be sure to download the prescreening data that you need for your research before the quarter ends. At the end of each quarter, all prescreening data is deleted from the system in preparation for the next quarter's prescreening session.


Use of the CDM/CMN research participant pool for data collection is restricted to DePaul CDM and CMN faculty, and students working under their supervision.


For routine, administrative, and operational requests and questions, contact the Research Participant Coordinator at:
CMN Researchers: For questions about Participant Pool policies, contact Research Participant Pool Coordinators, Kay Yoon at and Kendra Knight at
CDM Researchers: For questions about Participant Pool policies, contact the Research Participation Pool Manager, Cynthia Putnam at, using ‘participant pool’ in the subject line.