Student Research Activity Program

At CSU, substantial educational benefits come from first-hand exposure to original research projects in psychological science. In this program, students can actively participate in ongoing research studies, or read and write about published research projects.

Student Research Activity Program Quick Links
An overview of the Research Activity Program How to use Sona-Systems to participate in studies
How to do the optional alternative credit assignments What to do if you've completed the requirement previously
An Overview of the Research Activity Program


The student research activity program has 3 different levels of requirements, depending on which course you’re enrolled in. So, let’s begin by having a look at those requirements.

Students in our “Gateway Courses” are required to engage in some first-hand research activity.

  • Those enrolled in Psych 101 are required to complete 6 Research Credits;
  • And those in Psych 200 are required to complete 2.5 Research Credits.

If you’re in one of those courses, there are three ways you can complete your Research Credit requirement.

  • The most common way is to volunteer to serve as a participant in an ongoing research study in the Department of Psychology. For each 1 hour of participation, you’ll earn 1 Research Credit.
  • An alternative option is to write a 1-page paper about a published research project. For each written paper you submit, you’ll earn 1 Research Credit.
  • A third option is that you can do some combination of research participation and the alternative written research summary papers.

These Research Credit requirements are course requirements.

  • So, if you complete the requirement, your instructor will post your earned letter-grade into CampusNet at the end of the semester.
  • But if you fail to complete the requirement by the last day of class, your instructor will reduce your final course grade by 10% or one letter grade.

Students in other Psych courses, beyond Psych 101 and Psych 200, are not required to participate, but may participate for extra credit in those courses, if their instructors have opted-in to the program.

  • You may earn Research Credits by participating in an ongoing research study, for which 1 hour of participation will earn you 1 Research Credit.
  • However, for these courses, written research summaries are not an option.

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How to Use Sona-Systems to Participate in Studies

To access the Sona-Systems website, please visit

  • Your user name and password for the website will be automatically created based on the class roster, as of the first day of class. Shortly after the start of the semester, you should receive an email to your university email address with your username and password information. 
  • If you do not receive an email with your Username and Password within the first 10 days of the semester, you should notify the Research Participation Coordinator (; include your first and last name, course section, instructor name, and university email address.
  • When you log-in to Sona, you will have the chance to complete the optional prescreen survey. You will receive 0.5 credits whether you complete the survey or chose to opt-out. However, some studies require certain responses on the prescreen, and if you decide to opt-out of the prescreen you may not be eligible for those studies.

Now that you’ve accessed Sona-Systems, let’s talk about how to view the available studies.

  • To find the studies, click the big green button marked “View Available Studies,” which links to the “Studies” page where you can access all of the available study listings.
  • Click either the study name or the “timeslots available” link to view info about the study and to start the process of signing up.
  • The study information page provides information about the study including the type of study (online or in-person), the amount of credits offered, how long the study should take, and who the researchers are.

Now let’s talk about how to sign-up for one of those studies.

  • To sign up for a study, click the green “View Timeslots for this Study” at the bottom of the study information page.
  • Online studies will typically only have 1 timeslot, which is the participation deadline, but in-person studies will offer a variety of dates and times and you can select the timeslot that best suits your schedule.
  • Once you find a timeslot that works for you, click the green “signup” button. You will then see a sign-up confirmation on the next page. If it is an online study, you will immediately have access to the website and may complete the study any time before the deadline.

Now, let’s discuss how to keep track of your studies.

  • Select “My Schedule/Credits” from the top bar menu. You will see a list of studies that you’ve signed up for. From this screen, you can review when you need to attend or complete a study, the location of each study, your credit status, and to which course(s) your credits are being assigned.

If you are registered for more than one psychology course that is using Sona, you can assigned your credits to any of those available courses.

  • In the “My Schedule/Credits” page, you can see all of the studies that you have signed up for and/or completed.
  • You will see a column labeled “Course”. Click the “Reassign” button in the row where you wish to reassign credit. From there, you can assign/reassign Research Credits to any of your available courses.

If you need to cancel a research appointment, you can do so through the menu in “My Schedule/Credits”.

  • In the far-left column, next to one the scheduled timeslot, click “Cancel?” and then confirm the cancellation.
  • If it is too late to cancel a study by using the Sona-Systems website, you can still cancel the timeslot by contacting the researcher via email. Please do so as soon as possible.
  • If you do not attend your in-person study, or fail to complete your online study, without cancelling online or contacting the researcher in advance, you will be assigned an “Unexcused No-Show”. If you receive two “unexcused no-shows”, your account will be blocked from further participation (a “limited” account).
  • If your account is set to “limited”, you will not be able to sign-up for any studies, and if you’re in PSY101 or PSY200 you will need to complete the written assignment to finish your research requirement.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact for additional information or clarification.

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How to Do the Optional Alternative Credit Assignments

In this video, we’re going to talk about how you can do the (optional) alternative credit assignments.
If you’re in Psych 101 or Psych 200, then there are three ways you can complete your Research Credit requirement.

  • The most common way, which we discussed in the previous video, is to volunteer to serve as a participant in an ongoing research study in the Department of Psychology.
  • But an alternative option is to write a 1-page paper about a published research project. With this option, for each written paper you submit, you’ll earn 1 Research Credit.
  • And, in fact, a third option is that you can do some combination of research participation and the alternative written research summary papers.

Here’s how you can do these research summary papers:
First, you need to know what the finished product should look like.

  • Your research summary paper must include two main sections, in the following order, bundled into a single Microsoft Word document.
  • The first main section will be your typed research summary.
    • In one single line at the top, you should indicate your name, CSU ID number, the date, and the relevant course number and section number toward which you want to apply this Research Credit.
    • Then, your research summary should be 1 page (or longer), double-spaced, with 1” margins and 12-point font.
  • The second main section will be one page containing a digital image (such as a screenshot) of the front page of the article that you selected.

If you’re submitting more than one research summary, then you’ll have more than one MS Word document. For example, you’ll have one document containing the summary and screenshot of article A, and another document containing the summary and screenshot of article B, and so on.

Ok, now that you know what the finished product should look like, you need to know what the content should be.

  • One thing to keep in mind is that you must write a summary of an empirical research article published in the peer-reviewed journal called “Psychological Science.” These are brief, high-quality articles that report empirical research.
  • You can look up articles in Psychological Science in the PsycInfo database, available when you log into the University Library website.
    • To do that, navigate to the CSU Library website, and click the “Research Databases” link.
    • The databases are organized in alphabetical order, so navigate to the “P” section
    • and click the link to “PsycInfo.” You may need to log in using your Personal Identification Number, for off-campus access, but it just takes a minute to get your number and use it.
    • Once you log in, type “Psychological Science” in the search bar; and in the drop-down menu next to it, select “SO Publication Name” and click “Search.”
    • Now, you’ll need to limit those results to just that single journal by scrolling down on the “Refine Results” menu…
    • …clicking “Publications,” and selecting “Psychological Science.”
    • Now, under “Refine Results,” limit this search to “Linked Full Text.”
  • Once you’ve refined the search, you can select one of those articles for your summary.
    • To choose an article, click on the title to access the article information page…
    • …select “Full Text Finder” from the left panel…
    • …and select one of the Full Text options listed. We recommend you select the OhioLINK option.
    • On that OhioLINK source page, click the link to view or download a PDF of the article.
  • …and now you’re ready to read the full text of this peer-reviewed academic research report.
  • After you select an article, and read it carefully, your summary should explain all the important parts:
    • You should explain what topic was investigated by the authors…
    • What methods were used to explore the various topics of interest, such as whether they were experiments, qualitative techniques, or correlational survey techniques…
    • And, of course, explain the conclusions – what were the data patterns and what did the authors think they meant?
  • Lastly, make sure that you summarize the article—not plagiarize from it. Read it carefully, understand it, and write about it in your own words.

Research summaries are due on the last day of classes, and will be accepted any time up until that deadline. To submit your summary, attach the Microsoft Word document to an email and send it directly to us, at

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What to Do If You've Completed the Requirement Previously

In this video, we’re going to talk about what you can do if you’re in a class that requires Research Credits, but you’ve also completed Research Credits previously—whether at CSU or possibly even at a previous college or university.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you do not need to complete the requirement twice. The goal of the Student Research Activity Program requirement is simply to make sure that each student is exposed to a variety of first-hand research activities in psychological science.

  • So, if you haven’t completed the full Research Credit requirement, as stipulated by your course, then you’ll need to do that.
  • But if you have completed Research Credits before, you can apply those credits toward your current course’s requirement.

Now, how can you do that? Well…
If you’ve completed Research Credits in the Department of Psychology, on our Sona-Systems platform, for a previous Psych course, then you may request those prior credits be applied to your current course requirement.

  • For example, perhaps your current Psych 101 course requires 4 Research Credits, but you already completed 1.5 Research Credits when you took Psych 200 last semester. In that case, you can request that the 1.5 Research Credits you previously earned for Psych 200 be applied to your current Psych 101 course. Now, you’ll only need to earn 2.5 more Research Credits to reach the total of 4 Research Credits required by your Psych 101 course.
  • Please contact us directly, by emailing, and we will accommodate your request accordingly.

If you’ve transferred into CSU and have completed a similar research exposure requirement at your previous college or university, you may request that those credits be similarly honored here at CSU. To make such a request, please contact us directly, by emailing, and submit the following three pieces of information for review:

  • First, provide your name and CSU ID number.
  • Second, provide some documentation describing the other college or university’s research exposure program. A syllabus, or a link to the other university’s Research Activity Program page or Sona-Systems website would also be acceptable.
  • Third, provide proof that you engaged in the other university’s program in similar ways and at a similar level as you would have here. For example, you can provide a screenshot of your Research Credit summary in your account on the other university’s Sona-Systems website.

Once you send us that information, we’ll review your request and respond accordingly.

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