The diffraction pattern of any material contains structural and chemical property information that can be extracted using radial distribution function analysis. This article provides an introduction to the technique and presents several examples highlighting various ways in which it can be used. It begins with a discussion on the principles of diffraction and scattering and the effectiveness of x-ray, neutron, and electron energy sources for different types of measurements. It provides information on data collection and reduction and explains how to create atomic distribution plots from intensity and scattering angle data. The article also presents application parameters for defining short distances and background intensity and describes a procedure for generating pair distribution functions.