PhD Candidate AI Authenticity Project: Exploring what makes L2 writing sound ‘human’

PhD Candidate AI Authenticity Project: Exploring what makes L2 writing sound ‘human’

Published Deadline Location
16 May 26 May Nijmegen

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Job description

Are you curious about what makes text 'human'? And do you want to explore linguistic nuances that distinguish human-authored content from AI-generated text? Then join the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH) as a PhD candidate and explore this groundbreaking hypothesis!

We offer you the opportunity to develop and carry out your own PhD project within the areas of expertise of your supervisors (Prof. Rob Schoonen, Dr Nathan Vandeweerd and Dr Iris Hendrickx). The project will be funded by a Starters Grant from the Faculty of Arts awarded to Dr Nathan Vandeweerd.

As generative AI has dramatically improved over the last few years, it has become more and more difficult for humans to distinguish between AI- and human written text, with studies suggesting that our ability to do so is often no better than chance. Nevertheless, humans do seem to have opinions about what makes a text ’authentic’. For example, texts with grammatical issues or lack of coherence are more likely to be labelled as AI-generated, even when this is not the case (see e.g. Jakesch et al., 2023). The problem for L2 writers is that many of these (presumed AI-identifying) characteristics also occur in second language writing, which means that non-native writers may be unfairly accused of using generative AI, both by other humans and AI-based GPT detection systems (Liang et al., 2023). In addition to being a potential threat to one’s perceived academic integrity (Currie, 2023), perceptions that a text is AI-generated can have quite serious consequences as such texts are seen as less credible (Waddell, 2018), less favourable (Graefe et al., 2016) and less trustworthy (Jakesch et al., 2019).

Building on the framework of AI-mediated communication (Hancock et al., 2020; Jakesch et al., 2019), The AI Authenticity Project aims to investigate the specific linguistic characteristics that underlie our perceptions of authenticity and to unravel which features of L2 texts convey ’human-ness’.

Over the course of the project, you will use a combination of qualitative methods, corpus linguistic techniques and experimental research to investigate both people’s perceptions of authenticity as well as the extent to which those perceptions reflect reality. Based on your own interests and/or expertise, possible areas of focus include (but are by no means limited to) phraseology/word combinations (e.g., Jakesch et al., 2023), syntax and grammar (e.g., Berber Sardinha, 2024) and coherence/tone of voice (e.g., Casal & Kessler, 2023). Whichever direction you choose, this project promises to be a dynamic and exciting opportunity to do ground-breaking research on a topic of major societal relevance.

Up to 75% of your time will be devoted to the research for and writing of your PhD thesis. The remaining 25% will be spent on training and academic service to the Faculty of Arts, including teaching.


Radboud University


  • You hold an MA degree in (Applied) Linguistics or in a closely related discipline such as Cognitive Psychology, Natural Language Processing or Computational Linguistics.
  • You preferably have a solid basis in Second Language Acquisition.
  • You have previous experience with either corpus linguistics or experimental research. Additional familiarity with artificial intelligence, large language models and programming in Python/R is a plus.
  • You have proven ability to conduct independent academic research and work in a collaborative research environment.
  • You have proven ability in project and time management.
  • You have a good command of English and strong academic writing skills.
  • You are willing to perform teaching and service duties.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 0.8 FTE 5- year contract - 1.0 FTE 4- year contract.

  • We will give you a temporary employment contract (0.8 FTE 5- year contract - 1.0 FTE 4- year contract) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract) or 3.5 years (5-year contract).
  • You will receive a starting salary of €2,770 gross per month based on a 38-hour working week, which will increase to €3,539 from the fourth year onwards (salary scale P).
  • You will receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Support Service. The Dual Career Programme assists your partner via support, tools, and resources to improve their chances of independently finding employment in the Netherlands. Our Family Support Service helps you and your partner feel welcome and at home by providing customised assistance in navigating local facilities, schools, and amenities. Also take a look at our support for international staff page to discover all our services for international employees.
  • You will receive extra days off. With full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the statutory 20.

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


The Centre for Language Studies (CLS) is a research institute dedicated to the understanding of language and the way we use it. Our researchers study this fascinating topic from different perspectives and in several contexts, using a variety of innovative research methods. CLS aims to conduct research that is also valuable for organisations and audiences outside the academic world.


  • PhD
  • Language and culture
  • 30—38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 23.027.24



Houtlaan 4, 6525XZ, Nijmegen

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