Applications are invited for two fully funded, four-year PhD positions within the research project “Graphs and Ontologies for Literary Evolution Models” (GOLEM), financed by an ERC Starting Grant and coordinated by the Principal Investigator (PI), Dr Federico Pianzola.

Millions of stories are shared on online platforms such as Wattpad, AO3, and, combined with readers’ reactions and comments on these stories. The GOLEM project will analyze stories and their responses gathered from sites in five different languages – English, Spanish, Italian, Korean and Indonesian. This analysis can provide a wealth of information about the characters in a story, the genre, what a story is about, how a story is constructed, what themes are covered, as well as what readers from different countries and cultures find important in a story.

What elements in a story are meaningful to the reader? What makes a story get read, and what do readers value in a story? The information we collect with this research makes it possible, with the help of computer models, to find answers to these kinds of questions. The goal is to test hypotheses about cultural evolution and develop a methodology that can also be applied to books from other periods in history. In this way, we can study the evolution of fiction over the centuries, and gain unprecedented insight into something as old as humanity itself: storytelling
The project will hire two PhD students, who will work together with the PI and two postdocs. The PhDs will work principally in Groningen but will spend some time in South Korea or Indonesia for field work.

This PhD project offers a unique opportunity to work in an international research environment as well as to acquire valuable teaching experience: the PhD candidate is expected to conduct 0.24 fte teaching during the second, third and fourth year of their appointment (0.08 fte yearly).

The PhD Project
In collaboration with the other team members, you will work on your own multilingual and cross-cultural research project. The project is very interdisciplinary, combining computational methods for the analysis of culture and psychometric experiments with readers. The focus will be on changes over a time span of 20 years in how people write (fanfiction) stories, in terms of themes, tropes, and style. In parallel, you will also look at how these changes influence the reception of stories. You will learn skills related to database management, linked data, data science, machine learning, and experimental design for reading research.

You will be asked to:

  • complete a dissertation on linguistic and aesthetic changes over time in online fanfiction. The dissertation may take the form of a book or a series of (co-authored) journal articles, in English
  • collect data from websites independently as well as together with the principal investigator and other team members
  • co-organize small-scale, targeted reading experiments in one case-study area (South Korea, Indonesia)
  • co-organize research meetings within the Center for Language and Cognition and the Center for Digital Humanities
  • contribute to the project’s public outreach and social media activities
  • participate, limitedly, in the teaching as part of the regular curriculum of Digital Humanities and Communication and Information Science.


You will be asked to:

  • a Research Master’s or Master’s degree (obtained before the date of appointment) in any area related to the project (e.g. Digital Humanities, Linguistics, Literary Studies, Fan Studies, Information Science, Computer Science, Psychology, Sociology)
  • passion for fanfiction
  • experience with computational and/or quantitative methods
  • an independent, proactive work ethic
  • a flexible, mobile and internationally oriented mentality
  • good academic writing skills in English
  • passive knowledge of Korean or Indonesian / willingness to learn Korean or Indonesian
  • knowledge of Dutch is not required.


The University of Groningen, founded in 1614, is an international research university in the north of The Netherlands. Our staff create and share knowledge through outstanding research and education. The Faculty of Arts – which includes the Center for Language and Cognition (CLCG) and the Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) – is located in the historic heart of the city of Groningen.

You will be enrolled in the Graduate School for the Humanities, affiliated with the CLCG, a research institute of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. CLCG engages in multidisciplinary linguistic, neuropsychological, and computational research on language and communication. You will work more closely with the Computational Linguistics group, consisting of 14 academic staff and about 15 PhD students. You will also be affiliated with the CDH and have the chance to collaborate with researchers in Media Studies and Communication Studies. You will also have the opportunity to join one of the National Research Schools, which offer training and funding opportunities for PhD students in the Netherlands.

Conditions of employment

In accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, the University of Groningen offers you:

  • a salary of € 2,541 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,247
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
  • an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance
  • a temporary 0.8 FTE appointment for a specified period of four years (additional tasks up to 0.2 FTE are possible). The candidate will first be appointed for twelve months. After six months, an assessment will take place of the candidate’s results and the progress of the PhD project, in order to decide whether employment will be continued
  • excellent work-life balance.

The appointment will commence in May-September 2023.


Applications should be made in English and contain the following materials:

  • short statement (c. 1,000 words), explaining your motivation for applying
  • curriculum vitae
  • copies of MA diploma and list of grades
  • copy of MA thesis
  • if available, a copy of an article, book chapter or other academic text that you feel represents your work best
  • contact details of two academic referees (no letters of recommendation are needed for the application process).

Please send in your application as two PDF files (one for the MA thesis, and one for all other documents). You may apply for this position until 15 January 11:59pm / before 16 January 2023 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on “Apply” below on the advertisement on the university website).

Interviews with selected candidates will be held between 23–26 January 2023.

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage:…)rsity-and-inclusion/

Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP): and European Commission’s European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers:

We provide career services for partners of new faculty members moving to Groningen.

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For information you can contact:

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.


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