Each research group has its own dynamics. In some, entering grad students get a very detailed “charge” list saying for example, there is a group meeting every week, so on and so forth.
What ever those dynamics are, as a graduate student you should learn quickly how busy is your thesis advisor and start planning regular meeting with him/her. Do not hesitate to initiate a request to meet. These, in my opinion after being involved in supervising or co-supervising over 45 graduate students, should happen:
- At least once a year to discuss the general direction of your research project and, starting at the end of year 2 (PhD), to plan the necessary steps toward your thesis completion 😉
- Every time you think you are ready to publish a manuscript (but before spending too much time writing it!).
- Every time you have significant new results (if not presented at the group meeting or if your group does not have group meetings).
- At least once a month to avoid getting “stuck” for too long (again regular group meetings really help in this regards).
Of course, thesis advisors are also busy peoples, won’t be available for you 24/7 and one of their goal is to get you on the road to become an independant researcher yourself. However as a grad student, you should know that most thesis advisors loved the interaction with students and are available on a regular basis to discuss with them.
The minority of advisors that are consistantly “unavailable” are usually well-known within their University / Department. It is your task as a prospective grad student to gather this information, to ask your future advisor the tough questions before signing for this significant portion of your life.