The MD Club held its first in-person meeting since lockdown on 31 August 2022 in the Merensky library auditorium. For many, who had registered during lockdown, this was a first. Given that research is the name of the game, it was only fitting for Mrs Alett Nell, the Humanities Information Specialist, to give a presentation on the ‘tips and tricks of the trade’ of research.
Over the past fifteen years, the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies (DHHS) has hosted academic “get-togethers” for its Masters and Doctoral students. The “MD Club” was founded by Professor Karen Harris in 2003 to alleviate the isolation that is often part and parcel of postgraduate studies. Since then, it has provided the DHHS postgraduate students with a space to share triumphs and tribulations with their peers.
This unique mix of collaboration, critique and comradery allows postgraduates to walk together on an academic journey that can oftentimes be a highly solo endeavour. Two years ago, Dr Abraham Mlombo joined the club as co-coordinator with Professor Harris.
The need for such a club became even more apparent when the University of Pretoria (UP) campuses were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent nation-wide lockdown. The afternoon Zoom meetings proved to be essential for students to help one another stay motivated and adapt to the ever-changing circumstances. When UP management announced that campuses would reopen in August 2022, there was a resounding demand for in-person club meetings.
Mrs Nell boasts decades of experience in assisting the Faculty, and its students in locating some of the most elusive sources. Her presentation was focused on navigating the updated library website and relevant databases to yield the most relevant results. She emphasised that good reading and language skills were a necessity for optimal search results as well as the specific need for effective planning before starting with research.
Mrs Nell also flagged the National Library website which is in the process of digitising South African newspapers and is a vital digital archive. Such skills are key to unlocking a student’s full potential during postgraduate research.
In concluding our meeting, Prof Harris echoed everyone’s sentiments in thanking Mrs Nell for taking the time to share her extensive knowledge on and passion for all things research.
Prof Harris highlighted that out of the many theses and dissertations produced in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies almost all included Mrs Nell in their acknowledgements which is testimony to the contribution she has made to many graduates.