For example, I saw a paper having following a section title and its subsection titles. The titles are appropriate for my study, so I want to write them without modificaition. But I am not sure whether it is plagiarism.

  1. Empirical study
    1. Objects of analysis
    2. Variables and measures
      1. Independent variables
      2. Dependent variables
    3. Study operation
    4. Threats to validity
    5. Results and analysis

It is plagiarism if you copy someone else's "creative contribution". For example, if the section headings are

  • How does the method identify errant patterns in spider webs?
  • An analysis of one million images of spider webs
  • Results of our analysis and an attempt at tying web patterns to genetic disorders in arachnids

then copying these section headings is likely plagiarism unless you specifically reference that you are following the same structure as previously used by the founder of the field, A. Rachnidova, in her seminal paper "On the patterns of spider webs", Arachnophobia, vol. 13, 1962.

On the other hand, if you section headings are

  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

then there is no creative contribution in this -- everyone uses these sections headings, because they are descriptive of what these sections are. Consequently, you can also be "one of everyone" and use this without attribution.

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