PSEPP for Researchers


CITI Training

All researchers must complete the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training prior to conducting research with human subjects, and a refresher course is required every 3 years. More information is available here.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

PSEPP is approved by the UNL IRB and the PSEPP coordinators maintain approval for both the PSEPP research pool and the PSEPP prescreening survey. Researchers are responsible for obtaining IRB approval to use the PSEPP research pool or PSEPP prescreening survey for their own research projects. Every study is unique, so please check with the PSEPP coordinators ( and/or the IRB office ( with any study-specific questions. More information on UNL IRB requirements is available here.

REGISTERING as a PSEPP Researcher:

Who is eligible to use PSEPP for research?

Faculty and graduate students in the Political Science Department, and undergraduate student researchers working with faculty or graduate students in the department.

How do I request researcher access to PSEPP?

Email the PSEPP coordinator at with the following information and include "request for researcher account" in the subject line:

  • first and last names;
  • SSO ID / UNL e-mail address (note: these are usually the same, but if not please send both);
  • your status in the department and/or association with political science researcher (see above).

How do I log in to the PSEPP system?

After your account is approved, you will be able to log in with your UNL credentials.

Posting a Study on PSEPP

PSEPP specific information:

Once your study is ready for data collection, add your study to the system by following these steps:

  • Select the type of study you are running (in-person/standard study, multi-part standard study, an online external study).
  • You need the basic following information ready to enter into Sona (Please note: All of this information should match what was specified in your IRB protocol).
  • Number of credits (this is standardized across studies: 1-30 minutes = 1 credit, 31-60 minutes = 2 credits, 61-90 minutes = 3 credits).
  • Please do not forget about your UNL IRB Approval Code – your study will not be approved without this.

Prescreening Survey

The Prescreening Survey is an online survey that participants can complete on their computers at any location of their choosing. It is administered to students in the participant pool (students primarily enrolled in sections of POLS 100 & 160) at the start of each semester. The survey is typically used by researchers in two different ways: to match data from prescreening to data collected in their own study later in the semester, or it can be used as a recruitment mechanism to invite students to participate in other studies based on responses in prescreening data. Researchers are invited to provide input on the prescreening survey each summer, and must have separate IRB approval to use the prescreening survey in their own research. More information on the prescreening survey is available from the PSEPP office.

More RESOURCES could be found in our SharePoint folder and/or below:

Sona Systems We use Sona Systems Participant Management Software to administer PSEPP. The system can be accessed via the web or through the Sona Systems app (available for iOS and Android). If you have any difficulties using the Sona Systems software, please reach out to us first contacting us at to see if it is something we can resolve. If not, we are happy to help contact Sona Systems support.

Qualtrics Qualtrics is available to researchers for online studies. Researchers in Political Science can request a free Qualtrics account through the UNL Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium (SBSRC). Researchers can also set up an automatic credit-granting function for their participants (more info here).

Shared Lab Space

Researchers in Political Science have access to shared computer labs in Oldfather Hall. The 5th-floor computer lab is primarily used for data analysis and has SPSS, R and RStudio, and Stata15. The Data Collection Lab is located on the 10th floor. Mr. John Jostes is in charge of this laboratory, which has six participant computers and a proctor computer. Available behavioral testing software includes Z-Tree and PsychoPy (additional software may be available on request). The lab also offers an integrated television for the display of stimuli or instructions. Researchers affiliated with the Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior also have access to shared computer lab space for data collection and analysis in that building.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can utilize this program?

Anybody affiliated with, or collaborating with, faculty and graduate students in the Political Science Department can conduct their research using PSEPP. This includes undergraduate research assistants working with faculty in the department.

Why use the pool?

Student samples are a great resource since they are low cost (i.e., free) and low risk for whatever kind of study you want to run. It can be especially helpful if you are collecting pilot data for a bigger project, such as a grant or your dissertation, no matter what your research question is. If you have no theoretical expectation as to why students may behave differently than a nationally representative sample (please see Druckman & Kam, 2009), a student sample could be sufficient, especially when conducting experimental research. Students in PSEPP tend to be evenly distributed on some important metrics (such as ideology and partisanship), which can be hard to come by with other sample recruitment tools.

Where are these studies conducted?

Many studies are completed through an external, online tool (such as Qualtrics) but can also be conducted in lab spaces in Political Science or CB3. To request a Qualtrics account, fill out the form located here.

When can you use the pool?

The pool is available for research during fall and spring semesters. Studies must be completed by the second to last week of classes for the semester (the deadline for Fall 2021 is Friday, December 03rd, 2021, before 11:59 p.m.). We recommend planning ahead so that you can post your study as early in the semester as possible – you will have a longer window to collect data and may have more responses than if you wait until later in the semester. Currently, there are no restrictions on the use of the pool by researchers, as it is typically the case students are in need of more research opportunities than we have studies available.

How are participants in PSEPP compensated?

PSEPP participants are compensated based on estimated time spent completing the study, according to standard scale: 1 credit = 1-30 minutes; 2 credits = 31-60 minutes; 3 credits = 61-90 minutes.

How do I use the prescreening survey?

You should notify the PSEPP coordinators if you plan to use the prescreening survey in your research. You will need to have specific IRB approval for however you plan to use the prescreening data for your project, whether that is for participant recruitment and/or data matching.

How do I request items to be included in the prescreen survey?

Each summer, we solicit feedback from researchers on the items that will be included in the prescreening survey during the upcoming academic year, so advance planning is recommended if you hope to add items to the survey.

What are the different types of studies?

There are three types of studies you can run through Sona Systems:

  • Standard Study: a study that is scheduled to take place at a specific place (i.e., not online), and where there is only one part to the study that participants will participate in.
  • Multi-part Standard Study: a study that is scheduled to take place at a specific place (i.e., not online), in multiple parts. The different parts may be scheduled to take place a specified number of days apart, and a participant must sign up for all parts of the study at one time.
  • Online External Study: An online study located on another website like Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, or any other website.

How do I set up external study credit-granting with Qualtrics?

When conducting online research with Sona Systems and Qualtrics, it is possible to set up your study to automatically award credit to participants who complete the study. Please carefully follow the instructions here to set this up.



Faculty coordinator:
Dr. Pierce Ekstrom 

Research coordinator:
Susie Pratt