Ethnography occupies a somewhat unique position among social science research methodologies in that its data collection occurs in relatively uncontrolled environments in real time. While other qualitative researchers seem to have the luxury of revisiting their data sets as often as possible to glean whatever information they deem necessary, ethnographers need to be able to “spontaneously decide what is and what is not important” (Lindlof & Taylor, 2011, p. 139) when witnessing incidents that may not occur again during their research period. How do they make these snap judgments as to what is essential and what is trivial? Unfortunately, Lindlof and Taylor offer little direction beyond advocating the “constant practice of curiosity and reflection” (p. 139), though the six questions they propose for tactical observation could be used as a potential rubric for determining what communication phenomena to include or exclude.
Even if we accept those questions as a set of guidelines, another question still looms: do ethnographers have a fallback strategy if they discover they may have missed or ignored some critical piece of data after the fact? Do they return to the scene in the hopes of revisiting the event? Do they acknowledge the missed opportunity when discussing the issues and limitations of their research? Or is there a third option?
 Even focus groups, which also occur in real time, differ from ethnographic research in that they occur in a controlled environment and are generally circumscribed by institutional or organizational interests.