"If I'd known he'd be too busy to be of much help, I would have tried to find a better advisor."
At the outset of your project, it is well to identify potential sources of help and to recognize the advantages and limitations of each. Those sources of most value are usually academic advisors, fellow graduate students, experts outside of your own department or institution, you yourself, and the professional literature.
Policies for assigning faculty members to supervise students' thesis and dissertation projects can vary from one institution to another and even across departments within the same institution.
In some cases, the advisor who guides a student's general academic progress automatically becomes the supervisor of the candidate's work on the thesis or dissertation. Under such a policy, students are relieved of the responsibility of choosing a mentor, but they may unfortunately end up with less than optimal help. In other cases, an academic advisor will not automatically be assigned, but he or she will be only one of a group of several faculty members from whom a student can choose a guide. Under these circumstances, before students announce their choice of a mentor they can profitably collect several kinds of information about the professors who form the pool of potential advisors. Included among the sources of information are fellow students, the professors within the pool, other faculty members, secretaries, research assistants, and the professors' publications.
Institutions and departments can also differ in the number of faculty members assigned to supervise and evaluate a student's research. One common pattern at the master's level is to have a three-member committee for each thesis, with the committee chairperson acting as the candidate's principal supervisor. However,