The mode of preservation dictates the preparation technique that will yield the most information about a specific fossil. Such considerations also include the time needed for preparation and degree of specimen destruction. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the history of Carboniferous coal ball and chert research where the standard technique shifted from thin section to acetate peel preparations many years ago. Despite the ease and efficiency of acetate peels and the exponential increase in information they have provided about Carboniferous plants and ecosystems, we argue that there has been a concomitant decrease in attention directed at the microbial life also preserved in many cherts and coal balls. With this paper we endorse the use of thin sections, rather than peels, in order to study accurately the morphology and diversity of late Paleozoic microbial life.