Experimenter Participation Guidelines

Departmental Guidelines for Use of Psychology Students as Research Subjects

Click HERE for printable PDF Version

The following guidelines apply to the use of Psychology students who elect to satisfy the research participation requirement by serving as volunteer subjects in ongoing research or students who may volunteer to serve as subjects for reasons other than for course credit (money, love of science, personal interest). 

Any researcher who is found to be in violation of these guidelines will lose their Psychology Subject Pool privileges.

The Rules and Guidelines concerning the Experiment Database Participation are designed to:

  • Facilitate approved research in the deparmtent that has rewceived prior ethics clearance
  • Provide a valuable educational experiment for psychology students reinforced by earning academic credit for partipation
  • Minimize complaints from participants

General Guidelines and Accountability

Use of the Psychology subject pool for research purposes is predicated on the assumption that all experiments, studies, or research programmes employing human subjects have been approved by the University's Office of Research Services (ORS) or by UTM’s in-house Psychology Ethics Review Committee.  Ethics approval is the responsibility of individual supervisors and is a requirement for all studies posted.

In order to have use of the Psychology subject pool, you must provide a substitute assignment.  If you do not provide a substitute assignment you will be denied access to the Experiment Database.

Supervisors (PI’s) are ultimately responsible for the conduct of subject pool users under their supervision.  It is assumed that supervisors have examined the experiment debriefing and the questions to be asked of the student after the debriefing, and that they will continuously monitor the conduct of their researchers.  It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that all research personnel under their supervision who use the subject pool have received a copy of these guidelines and that they are familiar with the procedures described herein.

The subject pool is administered by the Subject Pool Committee.  Membership on this committee consists of a Coordinator, and two or three additional members who will usually be full-time UTM Psychology professors selected by the Coordinator.  Other individuals (e.g., students) may be appointed on the recommendation of the Committee.  Current membership is viewable here.

Students are not, under any circumstances, required to participate in a specific study.  They are free to select whatever studies they wish to participate in, at a time that is convenient for them (and coincides with a time offered by the researchers).  It is not acceptable for researchers to contact potential subjects and reserve them for some undesignated time in the future.

Students must not be paid for research participation for which they receive academic credit.  When subjects are paid for research participation, payment should be at a reasonable rate and in accord with ORS and/or University of Toronto guidelines (never less than Government regulated minimum wage).

All experimenters must have access to appropriate lab space and local office and phone where participants can meet them.

Minimum Length of Experiment for Academic Credit

Psychology students registered in courses who have opted into the 'Experiment Participation for course credit' can earn credits towards their final grade by participating in psychology experiments.

A 1% grade credit is given for approximately 1.5 hours of subject participation including debriefing and a few questions (or equivalent substitute assignment). Researchers should plan experiment sessions with this provision in mind.  It is not acceptable to advertise the time duration to lure students (e.g., “1% credit for only 68 minutes").  Subjects should not receive an “hour” for participation of less than 45 minutes (or a 30-minute credit for less than 23 minutes). Furthermore, students should not receive an additional hour for a study that exceeds one hour by less than 45 minutes.  Students must participate for more than 1.75 hours in order to receive 2 “hours”.  Students cannot receive more than three “hour” for a single experiment or research study.  See table below for breakdown.

Length of Experiment

Hours Earned (% toward final grade)

0.4 to 0.74 hours (23-44 minutes)

0.5 hour (0.33%)

0.75 to 1.24 hours (45-74 minutes)

1 hour (0.67%)

1.25 to 1.74 hours (75-104 minutes)

1.5 hours (1.0%)

1.75 to 2.24 hours (105-134 minutes)

2 hours (1.33%)

2.25 to 2.74 hours (135-164 minutes)

2.5 hours (1.67%)

2.75 to 3.24 hours (165-194 minutes)

3 hours (2%)

Experimenters may assign a score of -1 hour to "no-shows" who do not give at least 24 hour's notice of cancellation; however, it is to the discretion of the experimenter if they want to accept shorter notices. Experimenters are also required to provide a minimum of 24 hours notice of cancellation.  If you have to cancel and cannot reschedule an appointment during the last 2 weeks of term, and if there are few studies posted that still need subjects, give the student credit for signing up for your study. If you don’t show up for an appointment, give the student credit for your study. Experimenters’ failure to show up repeatedly may disqualify them from accessing the Experimental Database. 

Debriefing and Questions

All research participants must be given an appropriate verbal debriefing, as approved by the relevant Ethics Review Committee, and must be asked a few questions about the experiment in order to satisfy the academic requirements.  Experimenters are required to make every effort to ensure that participation for course credit is an experience of academic value.  They can do so by going beyond the ethical guidelines for debriefing subjects, by explaining in more detail what they are doing, and by clarifying, should the students not know the answers to the questions asked of them. 

Experiment Timeline and End Dates

The last day for students to participate in an experiment during the Fall term is December 20, and the last day of term in the Winter term (click here for updated dates).  

If you use a student after the last day of term in April, you must give compensation other than course credit.  If your experiment ends with students still signed up, give the students credit for your study.

All PENDING statuses will be changed to PARTICIPATED by the committee if Experimenter doesn't provide status update on or before the required dates (dates will be sent out via email to Experiment Supervisors).  Experimenters are responsible for keeping upto date with all experiment status. 


Researchers must keep a record of all students who participate in their research projects for credit, for at least 6 months after the accademic year.