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Forensic Behavioral Sciences Lab

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Research Participation (SONA)

Beginning in Fall 2022, the Criminology Department will be requiring participation in research for designated courses in Forensic Behavioral Science. The goal of this research participation requirement is to provide you with an opportunity to take part in the research process and learn about how theory is applied to the practice of forensic psychology.

If you are in a course that requires research participation, you have two options to fulfill the participation requirements: (1) participate in approved research studies via SONA, and/or (2) write essays summarizing peer-reviewed research. Participation in research is always voluntary. You can fulfill all course requirements and receive all possible extra credit by completing the alternative essays. A detailed explanation of each option for obtaining research credits is available below.

How do I sign-up for a research study? 

All research studies in this course are listed on the Forensic Behavioral Science Research Participation Website (SONA), located at: All approved studies are posted in the online registration system.

When you first access the link above, you will need to request an account. 

Step 1:  log in by clicking “Fresno State Username Log In” to verify your credentials.
Step 2:  fill out the form with your Fresno State information, select the course that you are enrolled in, and click “Request Account”.
Step 3: You can then log in to SONA using your Fresno State username and password.

Option 1: Earning Research Credits- Research Participation 

Scientific studies are conducted each semester in the Forensic Behavioral Science lab. We encourage participation because participating in research can be an educational experience facilitating your understanding of psychology and criminology. Participation is voluntary.

SONA provides the study name and number, a brief description of the study including time, place, and length of time required for participation, credit earned, and the name(s) and phone number(s) of the researcher(s). When you sign up for a study on SONA, you will automatically receive a confirmation email with this information; some other studies might also send you a reminder email the day before your appointment.

If you do not show up for a scheduled research appointment, your failure to attend the session will be recorded in SONA, and you will receive an e-mail message indicating that you have missed the appointment. After three missed appointments, your access to SONA will be suspended and you will have to earn research credits by writing essays (Option 2) instead.

If you know that you will be unable to attend a scheduled research appointment, you can cancel the appointment in the online sign-up system up to two hours before the scheduled time of the appointment. If you cancel an appointment at least two hours ahead of time, this will not be counted as a missed appointment in the system. For questions about SONA, please contact us at

Please Note:

Every 30 minutes of research participation is worth one research credit. Check SONA to see how many research credits each study is worth.

Students can participate in research studies through Consultation Days (the last day of class prior to finals week) but are strongly encouraged to start early to ensure sufficient availability of studies.

Option 2: Earning Research Credits- Essays 

As a substitute to participating in research studies, you can write essays about specific research articles that we have links to on Canvas. You can choose to write some essays and participate in some experiments to obtain all your required research participation and/or extra credit points.

Each essay is worth 2 research credits. If you choose to obtain all of your required research participation credits through these essays, then you will need to turn in a total of one essay. Essays will only count as extra credit after the 2 required research credits have been completed (either through research participation or essays or a combination of the two methods). You cannot turn in more than two essays.

Alternative Essay Requirements 

Your essay must be double-spaced in 12 pt. Times New Roman font.Margins must be 1 inch all around.To receive 2 research credits, you should spend approximately 500 words responding to the following five questions: 

Question 1:  What research question and/or hypotheses did the authors seek to answer?

Question 2:  What methods did the authors use to reach their conclusions (design, participants, procedures, analyses)? Did they do an experiment, survey, literature review, or meta-analysis?

Question 3:  What are the strengths and/or weaknesses of the methods that they used?

Question 4:  What were the main findings and/or conclusions of this article?

Question 5:  What are the implications of the article’s findings and/or conclusions for the criminal justice system? You could write about why the question is interesting theoretically, why the question helps to address a real-world problem, or both.

Your score will be based on an all-or-nothing scale (you either get the 2 research credits for each essay or you get no credits). A score of 0 points might be awarded if a student did not answer all five questions or is suspected of plagiarism. Corrupted or unreadable documents will receive no credit. Students who receive a score of 0 will be given an opportunity to resubmit for full credit.

How do I complete the essay method?

Select a reading from one of the five listed below. These are the only articles you may use for essays. They can be downloaded from Canvas in your course. Additional articles may be included in your course at the discretion of your instructor.

  • Aaronson et al. (2020)_A Review of the Role of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Criminal Court
  • Ferguson et al. (2020)_ Reexamining the findings of the American Psychological Association’s 2015 Task Force on violent media
  • Gao & Raine (2010)_Successful and unsuccessful psychopaths: A neurobiological model
  • Kassin (2005)_On the psychology of confessions
  • Murrie et al. (2019)_Competency to stand trial evaluations: A statewide review of court-ordered reports

To submit essays, email them directly to Essays must be submitted as Word documents (.doc, .docx) or PDF files (.pdf). Links to Google docs will not be accepted. No essays will be accepted after the last deadline passes. 

The FBS Lab will check each submitted essay for plagiarism via Turnitin.


SONA: Frequently Asked Questions

Ask your instructor and/or see your course syllabus. Not all courses in the Criminology Department have a research participation requirement. 

2 SONA research participation credits. Each SONA credit is worth approximately 30 minutes of research participation (see SONA for study details). Each essay is worth 2 SONA credits.

All eligible studies are posted on the Forensic Behavioral Science Research Participation Website (SONA), located at After logging in, you will see a green button labeled “View Available Studies”. Click on this link to view the studies that are available to you. 

There are three types of studies available on SONA: Remote participation via Zoom, in-person, and online surveys. Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that Zoom is functioning properly on your personal device prior to showing up to a scheduled session.

Showing up late or missing a scheduled session is not only disrespectful toward our research staff – it also takes away another student’s opportunity to sign up for research at that time. It is your responsibility to ensure that you arrive on time and are aware of all study requirements and expectations.

For this reason, you will be marked as an unexcused no-show if you are more than 10 minutes late to a scheduled session. After three unexcused no-shows, you will be removed from SONA and will no longer be able to sign up for research studies. Instead, you will need to complete alternative essays to fulfill the research participation requirements.

To avoid confusion and prevent grading errors, our lab will send the SONA credit report to all instructors on Monday of Finals Week. Your Canvas grade will be updated to reflect your earned SONA credit shortly after this. 

Log into your SONA account ( ). Under My Schedule & Credits, click on View other Credits I’ve Earned. This page will show you the total credits you have earned and any credits that are pending.

The point value for research participation credits will vary across courses, so you will need to check your course syllabus and/or Canvas for a conversion rate. For example, a SONA credit might be worth 10 points in one class, but 5 points in another class. If you aren’t sure, ask your instructor.

No. Participation in research studies is always voluntary. However, you still need to earn 2 research participation (SONA) credits to complete the assignment for course credit. 

If you do not want to participate in research or are ineligible for the studies posted on SONA, you can instead earn research participation credits by completing alternative essays. Please note that you only need to write one essay to earn 2 SONA credits.

Download an assigned journal article, follow essay instructions below, and submit to the FBS lab via email ( For detailed instructions and essay requirements, see Option 2 (Essays) below. These instructions are also available on your course Canvas page.

Assigned journal articles should be available as PDFs on your course Canvas page. If they are not, please email our lab and we shall send them to you directly.

The default deadline is Friday of Consultation Days at 11:59 pm (i.e., the last weekday prior to Finals Week). However, your instructor may choose to have an earlier deadline - it is your responsibility to check your course’s syllabus and schedule. 

This is a hard deadline, as our lab needs to compile and submit SONA credit reports to individual instructors on Monday of Finals Week. We will not accept late essays. 

The process for joining the FBS Lab is competitive, as we have only a handful of research assistant positions available. If you are interested in submitting an application to be a research assistant in the FBS lab, please email Dr. Ditchfield ( or Dr. Kieckhaefer (