Web-based research at Ghent University

Web-based research at Ghent University  (By Pieter Van Dessel)

To slow down the spread of the Coronavirus, running lab-based experiments is currently forbidden at our faculty. This might make it difficult for some researchers or thesis students to meet deadlines for paper submissions, etc. One prominent alternative to lab-based experiments are experiments that are implemented on the web. At Ghent University we have a lot of expertise in this regard. Here we provide some practical guidelines.  

How to recruit participants?

There are several ways to recruit participants for your studies. One option is to recruit participants via the Ghent University SONA System (https://ugent.sona-systems.com). Many (student) participants have already subscribed to this system and they might be willing to perform online experiments. On the SONA system, you can indicate that you want to run a web-based study and you only need to indicate the web link to your study and how many participants you need.
Another option is to use a crowdsourcing platform such as Prolific Academic or Amazon mTurk. We recommend Prolific Academic (https://prolific.ac) because we have many positive experiences with this platform in terms of data quality, research cost,… Research has found that Prolific Academic provides the highest data quality of all online data collection websites, and the quality of the data is highly similar to that from lab-based studies (Peer et al., 2017).
At crowdsourcing platforms you can specify the characteristics of the participants that you want to recruit (e.g., in terms of age, demographics, personality traits,…). It is also possible to recruit representative samples for specific nations. Next, you can specify how participants can perform your research (on Laptop, desktop, smartphone) and you provide the web link where your study is hosted.

How much does it cost?

You can use a similar payment rate as for lab-based studies. At Sona systems, payment of 10 EURO per hour is typical. At Prolific Academic, payment of approximately 7 pounds per hour is recommended. The commission at Prolific Academic is 33%.

How to host your studies?

To run your study online you need a place to host your study where you can send participants to run the study and where you can retrieve your data once the study is finished. An in-house solution is preferably used for online surveys. Within the FPPW, Limesurvey can be used for this purpose. You can find more information on how to obtain an account lower in this text. If an in-house solution is not possible, make sure you have a processor agreement with the company hosting the online survey software (eg for Qualtrics, visit https://www.qualtrics.com/gdpr). Regardless of which tool you use, it is very important in the context of the processing of personal data that you inform respondents about the use of these tools and the parties involved. You can find more information about how you are transparent towards those involved in your research at https://onderzoektips.ugent.be/nl/tips/00001771.

For questionnaire research, there are several options such as


An unlimited campus agreement has been agreed (February 2022), for a term of 5 years, with Qualtrics for all surveys by UGent employees and students in the context of research. (More information)
You have access via UGent SSO


This tool is supported by the RSO. Surveys and data are located on a central virtual server in the UGent datacenter S10 (campus Sterre) which is only accessible through a secure connection. You can obtain an unlimited account (only for FPPW students and staff or if there is a partnership with a ZAP / AAP / WP member of the FPPW) by sending a mail to .


The free version allows for unlimited surveys containing a maximum of 10 questions. Each survey can receive upto 40 responses.

Google Forms

For experimental research, there are also several options. Our preferred option at the moment is lab.js (https://lab.js.org). There are several good tutorials available for how to program an experiment in lab.js on the lab.js website. With lab.js, when the experiment script is prepared it can be hosted on your personal Ghent University webserver (https://helpdesk.ugent.be/webhosting). The data will be saved in a folder called ‘data’ in an .sqplite file, which can be extracted into a .csv with code in R or other languages (available online).
One other possible option is to use PsychoPy (https://www.psychopy.org). Like lab.js, PsychoPy is free and easy-to-use. Although typically used for lab experiments only, the newest version of PsychoPy can convert simply Python-based scripts in Javascript, which can then be hosted online using the Pavlovia hosting site (https://pavlovia.org).


If you have any questions, feel free to contact   or .
From the Test Lab it is a pleasure to inform you on the digital aspects of assessment e.g. about digital platforms & useful tools for your research via https://www.ugent.be/pp/nl/diensten/rso/testpracticum/digitaleplatformen
You can find info e.g. on "Popular online survey tools to perform your research"