Prolific sets a "Maximum Time Allowed"
for each study when it is published, which is based on the Estimated Completion Time you set in the study creation form. If participants go over this time limit during their participation in your study, then their submission could be Timed out
, and their place will open up to a new participant.
The time-out feature is designed to give all participants in your study plenty of time to complete successfully, whilst timing out those who become inactive. Participants can still complete their submission if they go over the time limit, if they are still active on the study and are not replaced by another participant before they complete.
Prolific uses the maximum time solely with the intention of timing-out submissions who become inactive (i.e. leave the study). As such, the default values we set are not too close to the estimated completion time, to avoid unfairly excluding participants who take slightly longer to complete than the average participant.
If you need to set an absolute maximum completion time in your study, you should programme this within your survey software and make sure you clearly communicate this to your participants. If you do this, you can then reject submissions which go over this time or simply remove them from your analysis - but the time limit must be crucial to valid completion of the study.
In some cases, you may find a complete response from a participant in your survey/experimental software, only to find that their submission has been Timed out on Prolific. Some examples of when this might occur are:
- The participant encountered technical issues when trying to complete their Prolific submission, and were unable to do so before the time limit was reached.
- The participant had to take a break during your study due to unforeseen circumstances, and were subsequently unable to complete within the allotted time.
- The average completion time for your study was higher than your initial estimate, so the maximum time was insufficient to give all participants enough time to complete successfully.
When this occurs, we ask that timed-out submissions are manually approved as much as possible, where there is clear evidence that the participant tried to complete your study in good faith. This is especially relevant in cases where the study's completion time has been underestimated, and occasionally you may be contacted by our support team if we believe a timed-out submission deserves to be approved.