Significant progress was achieved with the application of Rietveld method to characterize the crystalline phases in portland cement paste. However, to obtain detailed information on the amorphous or poorly crystalline phases, it is necessary to analyze the total scattering data. The pair distribution function (PDF) method has been successfully used in the study of liquids and amorphous solids. The method takes the Sine Fourier transform of the measured structure factor over a wide momentum transfer range, providing a direct measure of the probability of finding an atom surrounding a central atom at a radial distance away. The obtained experimental characteristic distances can be also used to validate the predictions by the theoretical models, such as, molecular dynamics, ab initio simulations and density functional theory. The paper summarizes recent results of PDF analysis on silica fume, rice husk ash, fly ash, ASR gel, C-S-H and geopolymers. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.