Recruiting Participants from the Psych 125 Subject Pool

2014-2015 Coordinator: Prof. Jeremy Loebach

Your use of the Department’s Psych 125 Subject Pool is a privilege, and with that privilege come certain responsibilities. Please note that the pool is only available to St. Olaf Psychology Department faculty and current St. Olaf Psychology students.

Trust: Most students enter the psychological research setting with some level of trust in the experimenter. After all, isn’t this person a Psychologist (or at least a budding one)? Shouldn’t they be sensitive to such things as feelings and emotions? Please don’t disappoint students’ expectations. Even if your study is about serial memory schemata, you are dealing with real people. Be sensitive to their needs and concerns.

Courtesy: Please treat subjects with the same courtesy you would expect. These people are helping you with your research project and deserve your gratitude. If you treat them badly, not only might your data be contaminated, but also you may have discouraged someone from choosing a career in Psychology.

Privacy: Subjects in research have every right to expect that their information will be kept confidential. This means that you cannot talk about individual subjects with your colleagues in such a manner that you identify them. Please make sure that papers from your research are kept in secure places (like locked rooms) so that no one could accidentally discover a subject’s identity.

Informed Consent: Informed consent of participants is a central criterion for conducting ethical research. Subjects must know enough about your study so that they can make an informed decision about whether they want to participate or not. Informed consent includes mentioning all of the following things to subjects before they sign the informed consent form:

  • Identify any sponsors of your research (such as the National Science Foundation or the Psychology Department Endowment Fund).
  • Describe the purpose of your study in language that the layperson can understand.
  • Mention how long the person will need to take to complete your study.
  • Identify in language the layperson can understand any procedures or manipulations so that they can determine if they are willing to undergo them. Give the subject all the information you can without influencing their responses in your study. If you must deceive subjects about the purpose or procedures of your study, make certain that you have considered non-deceptive options and identified them to the IRB Committee.
  • Identify any potential risks subjects may face from participation.
  • Assure subjects that their data will be held in strict confidentiality.

Educational Debriefing: You will also need to compose a written explanation of your study, which you will give to subjects upon completion of their participation. The statement must explain the study to the participant in a way that is engaging, understandable, and reasonably comprehensive. Most statements will be about one single spaced page of text and will contain some suggestions for further reading (at the general interest level, not just journal articles).

Application to recruit students from the Psych 125 Subject Pool

  • Make sure you have gone through the appropriate level of IRB review before starting any study.
  • Complete the electronic Experiment Information Worksheet. This document will be used to create an experiment for you in the Moodle site, and allow the department staff to grant credit for your participants. Each experiment will appear as a separate assignment, and after a student has participated in your experiment, they will be granted credit in the grade book feature.
    • To reserve a room for your study use the R25 web viewer Any room that is publically available on campus may be reserved. Please note that individual faculty labs, shared faculty research space (e.g. RNS 127), and library carrels cannot be reserved by students, but computer labs can. It is the responsibility of the researcher to reserve the space. If you have a confirmed R25 reservation for a space you may ask anyone in the space at that time to leave. If you would like to utilize the equipment in RNS 240, please consult with me and we can make arrangements.
  • Be sure to indicate any student researchers who need to have access to the Google document for participant sign-ups (by default, only faculty members, department staff, and students in the Intro classes have access to these materials), and any special instructions for the departmental staff.
  • Since research participation is a required component of the Principles of Psychology class, all experiments must contain an educational component for the students. You will be required to submit a copy of your educational debriefing materials as a part of the approval process, and will be required to discuss and hand out a copy to all participants, so be sure to include this with your application.
  • All credits are granted by the half hour, so a study that is 30 minutes or less will grant .5 credits, whereas an hour study will grant 1 credit. Do not over inflate your credits when calculating the credit associated with your study.
  • All experiments undergo a formal approval process, and you may not contact the class directly or begin recruiting without approval.
  • Once your study has been approved you may start recruiting.

Electronic sign up sheet

  • In your St Olaf Google Drive account, a Google spreadsheet “Research Participation Sign Up Sheet” for the current semester will appear. This document will be used for all recruiting from the Psych 125 classes. All studies, including online surveys must post the relevant sign up information here. No recruiting is initiated via email, and researchers may not email the class aliases or post information in the Moodle forums announcing their experiments. All students registered in Psych 125 will have read and write access to this document, and will be able to view and sign up for experiments at any time of day.

o   It is recommended that researchers send an email reminder to students who have signed up for their study the night before they are scheduled to participate. Be sure this information is clear and accurate.

  • Look over the document and make sure that you have all of the information necessary to complete the form (some items may be designated as “NA” depending on your particular study). Please see the “Sample tab” for an example.
  • Find an open experiment tab (“Experiment 1”, “Experiment 2“ etc.) on the bottom of the document and rename it with your experiment name.
  • Fill in the relevant information

o   Your name, email, experiment title, experiment description, date/time, and location are required fields.

o   Time commitment, amount of credit received, and special instructions are helpful for the students signing up to participate and will likely help the study to run more smoothly.

o   If you are only recruiting a particular demographic (gender, age, class year, handedness etc.) be sure to indicate that in the “any qualifications for study” slot. Sometimes students ignore these requirements, so be sure to check their information when they arrive for the study.

  • If you are conducting an in lab experiment, fill in the days, times and number of open slots that will be available for students to participate.

o   If you have a limited number of time slots, please make note that students should not add additional time slots.

  • If you are conducting a web-based survey, please include information for students to participate. This may be a link to the survey, slots where students may sign up to receive the survey link, or other instructions.

o   For all online studies, the researchers will be responsible for keeping track of who has participated.

o   DO NOT have students participate and then put their names in the Google Document as proof that they completed the survey. We always have trouble with this method and end up with more people claiming that they have participated than really did.

o   If you are using Survey Monkey, you can have subjects enter their name and email as their way of indicating informed consent to participate on a separate page from the data collection instrument.  If you are using Form Creator you must ask them to indicate their name and email address otherwise we cannot track their participation. If you are concerned about subject identification influencing your data or about your data being linked with identifiable information, I strongly recommend NOT using Form Creator (unless you have a creative way of tracking their participation while getting around these issues).

  • If you are conducting an in lab study or survey that requires absolute confidentiality of your participants, please include instructions for them to contact you in order to schedule a time to participate (these documents, while much more secure than the public sign up sheets used in the past, can be seen by anyone who has been granted access, so be very clear if absolute anonymity is required).
  • Keep track of students who sign up for your study. Check the “Research Participation Sign Up Sheet” often to add additional time slots as needed. Since students have access to these materials 24/7, time slots can fill very quickly.

o   Please do not go over your approved number of participants. If you need more, please contact the Subject Pool Administrator to discuss options.

Granting Credit

  • Once a student has participated in the study, be sure to debrief them on the experimental methods and goals, and direct them to complete the online Research Credit Form.

o   When you close your study, you should log in to Moodle and check to see that the students who completed the form for your study actually participated. Students need to complete these forms in their entirety, and you will need to verify that the forms match the rosters of participants who actually attended the study. Any mismatches should be directed to me via email, along with a written explanation.

o   This process puts more responsibility on you as a researcher, so be sure to keep good records of your participants!