From Extra Credit to Class Requirement: An Inside Look at SONA

MSU Ph.D. students and undergraduates share their perspectives on the popular research system

By Emily Hobrla

Photo of Dominik Neumann

Dominik Neumann is a Ph.D. candidate in AD+PR studying media psychology.

Many AD+PR undergraduates are familiar with SONA, MSU’s research portal where undergraduates can sign up to participate as subjects in studies that are being done by faculty, as well as masters’ and Ph.D. students. In this online system, participants sign up for a time slot, each usually ranging from 15 minutes to an hour,­­­­­ and attend a study­­­­ often located in the Communications Arts and Sciences Building. These studies can also take place online. SONA has become an integral part of the college, as many instructors have made the completion of SONA studies a requirement for assignment points or extra credit in their classes.

Dominik Neumann is a Ph.D. candidate in AD+PR studying media psychology, specifically the fear of missing out, and human health risk and consumer behavior. He uses SONA as a means to get subjects for his research studies and to conduct preliminary studies.

“I actually just submitted two manuscripts from a study that we did about tobacco and marijuana perceptions and the effectiveness of PSAs where we collected most of the data on SONA,” said Neumann. “It’s a cool tool for students to get an idea of academic research from the participant perspective.”

Katie Mitchell, an AD+PR Ph.D. student, also received her undergraduate and masters’ degrees from MSU CAS.

Katie Mitchell, a Ph.D. student whose research focuses on how media and technology influence interpersonal relationships and health, actually participated in SONA studies while getting her undergraduate and masters’ degrees from MSU CAS. She says students have a lot to gain from SONA, especially undergraduates considering pursing advanced degrees themselves.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to participate in research,” said Mitchell. “We appreciate it greatly when students are interested in helping with our work and interested in what we are teaching.”

As great as it is for researchers, faculty and students alike, the system is not being used to its fullest potential Neumann said that one of the biggest problems is when students do not show up to their appointment times. Mitchell reinforced this idea and added that low student motivation often causes researchers to sometimes receive responses that are rushed or dishonest.

Even though SONA is required for some classes, that doesn’t mean that it’s not engaging or even fun. Studies in the past have included taste-testing pancakes, watching viral videos and evaluating commercials for effectiveness.

“At first, I thought it would be boring to do the studies, but I actually enjoyed them because they were really informative, and they made me think more about myself and others, too,” said advertising management junior, Kala Watson.

The AD+PR student community can help by committing to their study times and lending their enthusiasm to their SONA responses. They might even get a pancake out of it!