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Psychology Participant Pool

Psychology Student Research Ethics Committee

Psych 1A03 & 1AA3 Research Participation Option

 In both Psych 1A03 and 1AA3, students may substitute two hours of research participation (at a grade of 100%) for 8% of the value of the final exam.  Participation thus reduces the value of the final exam from 65% to 57% of the course grade.  The effect of participation is inversely related to exam performance.  A student with an exam mark of 50% adds 4% to the final course grade by participation; a student with an exam mark of 75% adds 2%.

 For any experiment to be run in the Intro Psych subject pool the Principal Investigator (P.I.) is responsible for obtaining approval from the appropriate ethics board (McMaster Research Ethics Board for faculty and graduate students research; department Research Ethics Board for undergraduate research that is not part of a faculty member’s research project).  This includes approval of the procedure for obtaining informed consent.  The P.I. is also responsible for assuring that the approved procedure to informed consent is carried out with each subject.

 The procedures to be followed by researchers using subjects from the Intro Psych subject pool are described below.  Faculty members directing undergraduates using the subject pool should ensure that their students understand and follow the procedures described below.

General Considerations

 Research participation by Introductory Psychology students is designed to enhance understanding of research methods.  It is important that the educational value of research participation be kept high.  This can only be done through careful and complete debriefing of all subjects.

 Managing the pool consumes a good deal of the resources of the Intro Psych office.  Anything researchers can do to reduce this burden would be greatly appreciated.  The largest amount of time is spent tracking down information about the participation of particular students.  Please see that researchers in your lab keep full and complete records on the NAME and ID NUMBER of every student participating in your studies.  Make sure that your own records include the exact date of participation.

Your Responsibility to Subjects

 The Intro Psych research participation option should add academic value to students’ experience in the course in exchange for their contribution to research.  It is very important, therefore, that all subjects receive a full and complete debriefing following their participation.  This debriefing should outline the general design and purpose of the research in terms that are appropriate to their current level of knowledge and link your research to questions and concepts found in Introductory Psychology.  To the greatest extent possible, the debriefing should also indicate theories or hypotheses being tested.

 Although the debriefing may be partly oral, each subject should receive a written debriefing sheet containing the main points described above.  A copy of this debriefing sheet must be submitted to Kathy Steele, Intro. Psych office (Kathy Steele), and the Subject Pool Co-Ordinator (Ann Hollingshead), for approval before any sign-up sheets are posted.

 Students who have reservations about serving as data-generating subjects in your study may elect to participate as observers.  Students choosing this option should contact the Subject Pool Co-ordinator (Ann Hollingshead) who is independent of the course and any course evaluation, to make the necessary arrangements.  She will notify you of any students who choose this option so that you can arrange a time for them to be ‘walked through’ the experiment.  Observers should experience the same situations and stimuli as data-generating subjects, but without responding, or having any of their behaviour recorded.  You may walk several observers through your study at the same time.  Based on the experience of other departments that offer participation as an observer, we expect very few students to choose this option.

 Also students have the option of withdrawing from an experiment as data generating subjects at any time during an experiment and can elect to continue as a walk through or observer without any loss of course credit.

Before the Study Starts

 You should give the Subject Pool Co-ordinator (Ann) a copy of the debriefing, consent form, and sign-up sheet.  This information is helpful when setting up ‘walk-through’ experiments.  You should give the Intro Psych office (Kathy) a brief description of what subjects will experience in the study, and location(s) where the study will be conducted.  This will help us verify student claims of participation, and make it easier to send students to the right room if they have forgotten the name and room number of the study.

 The description of the study should include anything that will help distinguish your study from any others.  This might include information about the kind of stimuli presented (sounds, visually-presented words, pictures, etc.), the equipment used (headphones, VCR and screen, computer monitor, etc.), the task (reading, remembering, writing, sleeping, etc.).  In short, anything a subject might tell us to identify the study he or she participated in.

 The description should also include an EXPERIMENT CODE.  This is a four- or five-character code that must begin with the initials (two or three) of the faculty member whose subject allocation is being used (e.g., LB, LJ, BAL, etc.).  The remaining two or three characters should identify the particular study uniquely, and may include any combination of letters and/or numbers.  EVERY EXPERIMENT IN A GIVEN LAB MUST HAVE A UNIQUE EXPERIMENT CODE.  This experiment code must be entered in the participation field, and should be included on the sign-up sheet though it need not be prominent.

 The Intro Psych Office also needs information about the researchers running in each lab.  This is for the purpose of locating rooms when subjects forget to note them down, and for verifying student claims of research participation.  Specifically, we need:

1. The names and room numbers (phone number if applicable) of everyone running Intro Psych subjects in the lab.
2. The number of the room or rooms in which each experiment is being run.

Sign-Up Sheets

 Get Them Stamped:  Sign-up sheets for experiments giving Intro Psych course credit must bear the “Intro Psych” stamp.  Only the Intro Psych Secretary, Kathy Steele, has the authority to apply this stamp.  Students are informed that they should sign up only for experiments whose sign-up sheets have this stamp.

 Post Them:  Sign-up sheets should be posted on the Intro Psych bulletin board beside room 151.  Sign-up sheets should provide all the relevant information a student needs to determine the time of the study and its location.  Please do NOT ask for students’ first names, but only for first initials.  The sign-up sheet should indicate the number of credits being offered, and the approximate time required (rounded off to the nearest half hour).  The sign-up sheets should be left on the bulletin board until the date of participation has expired.

 Give Us a Copy:  Experimenters should provide the Intro Psych office with photocopies of all completed sign-up sheets.  This is VERY important.  Kathy Steele spends an inordinate amount of time each year trying to verify student claims (often true) of unrecorded research participation.  This is made much easier with copies of completed sign-up sheets.

 Keep Them.  To help us judge student claims of research participation, we would ask hat experimenters keep all information concerning student participation (e.g., sign-up sheets, name lists, computer files, etc.) until the end of the academic year.

Recording Subject Participation

Information About Subjects:  To submit information about research participation, you will need to record:

1. Surname
2. Initials
3. McMaster Student ID Number

Information About Participation:  To submit information about research participation, you will need to record:
5. The HOURS EARNED.  This is either 1 (one) or 2 (two).  Any study that takes less than 75 minutes should give 1 hour’s credit for participation.  A study taking between 75 and 125 minutes should be given 2 hours’ credit.
6. The DATE of the subject’s participation.
7. If a subject fails to appear, the DATE and EXPERIMENT CODE of the missed experiment should be recorded and entered along with the other student records in the hours file.

Subject Pool Credit Slips:  You should give each student who participates in your experiment a subject pool credit slip.  This slip provides tangible proof of research participation, so that we can reconcile discrepancies in our records without having to ask researchers to check their records again.  Researchers should pick up sufficient credit slips from the Intro Psych office before their experiments start.

 Submitting Participation Info to the Intro Psych Office:  Records of subject hours completed must be submitted in files created using SCFORM.  Gary Weatherill developed the program, and can provide you with instructions for using it.  A separate file of subject participation information must be created for each study.
 Each file submitted must be non-cumulative, and should NOT contain subject credit information that has already been submitted to the Intro Psych office (otherwise the computer will credit the subject with additional hours).  MAKE SURE THAT NO TWO FILES SUBMITTED DURING THE COURSE OF THE YEAR HAVE THE SAME FILE NAME.  Constructing file names from experimenter initials and dates makes this fairly easy.

 You may submit files to the Intro Psych Office by attaching the file to an e-mail message addressed to  If you submit participation files on a floppy disk, make sure they have no viruses attached.

 It is important that participation information submitted to the Intro Psych Office be as accurate as possible, and in our hands as soon as you can manage.  In particular, all records of research participation must be in our hands before the start of the examination period.


 A number of students who take Intro Psych in the evening, would like to participate in research, but cannot be on campus during the day.  It is important that we provide as many participation opportunities for these students as we can.  We would very much appreciate any efforts you could make to schedule research times in the evening.  If you let the Intro Psych Secretary know that you are scheduling evening sessions, we will take your sign-up sheets into the evening classes.