How Do You Sort a Linked List in Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

Sorting a linked list is an important operation in the field of data structures. In this article, we will explore various techniques to sort a linked list efficiently.

What is a Linked List?
A linked list is a linear data structure where elements are stored in nodes. Each node contains data and a reference (or link) to the next node. Unlike arrays, linked lists do not require contiguous memory allocation.

Why Sort a Linked List?
Sorting a linked list allows us to arrange its elements in a specific order, making it easier to search for specific values or perform other operations efficiently.

Sorting Techniques for Linked Lists:

Bubble Sort:

Bubble sort is one of the simplest sorting algorithms. It repeatedly compares adjacent elements and swaps them if they are in the wrong order. This process continues until the entire list is sorted.


  1. Start with the first node.
  2. Compare each node with its next node.
  3. If the next node’s value is smaller, swap them.
  4. Continue this process until all nodes are sorted.

Merge Sort:

Merge sort is a divide-and-conquer algorithm that divides the linked list into two halves until each half contains only one element. It then merges these halves by repeatedly comparing and merging them until the entire list is sorted.


  1. If the list has only one element or no elements, it is already sorted.
  2. Divide the unsorted list into two halves.
  3. Recursively sort each half using merge sort.
  4. Merge the two sorted halves into one sorted list.

Quick Sort:

Quick sort is another efficient sorting algorithm that uses a divide-and-conquer approach. It selects an element as a pivot and partitions the list such that all elements less than the pivot are placed before it, and all elements greater than the pivot are placed after it. The pivot’s final position is then determined, and the process is repeated for the sublists.


  1. Select a pivot element from the list.
  2. Partition the list such that all elements smaller than the pivot come before it, and all elements greater than the pivot come after it.
  3. Recursively apply quick sort to the sublists created on either side of the pivot.

Time Complexity Analysis:

The time complexity of each sorting technique for linked lists varies:

  • Bubble Sort: O(n^2)
  • Merge Sort: O(n log n)
  • Quick Sort: O(n^2) (worst case), O(n log n) (average case)

It is important to choose an appropriate sorting technique based on factors like input size and desired performance.


Sorting a linked list efficiently is crucial for various applications. In this article, we explored three commonly used sorting techniques: Bubble Sort, Merge Sort, and Quick Sort. Each technique has its own advantages and complexities.

Remember to consider factors like time complexity, space complexity, and input size when selecting a sorting algorithm for a linked list. Depending on these factors, you can make an informed decision about which technique to use.

With these techniques in your arsenal, you can now confidently sort linked lists effectively and optimize your code’s performance.

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