Is Linked List ADT or Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

Is Linked List ADT or Data Structure?

A linked list is a fundamental data structure used in computer science and programming. It is often confused with an Abstract Data Type (ADT), but in reality, a linked list can be both an ADT and a data structure.

In this article, we will explore the differences between the two and understand why a linked list fits into both categories.

Abstract Data Types (ADTs)

An Abstract Data Type (ADT) is a high-level description of a set of operations that can be performed on certain data types. It defines the behavior of the data type rather than its implementation details.

The ADT provides a clear interface for working with the data type while abstracting away the underlying implementation.

In the case of linked lists, an ADT describes the operations that can be performed on a linked list, such as inserting elements at the beginning or end, deleting elements, or searching for specific elements. The ADT does not specify how these operations are implemented; it only focuses on what can be done with the linked list.

Data Structures

Data structures refer to the actual implementation of storing and organizing data in memory. They define how data is stored, accessed, and manipulated.

A data structure provides algorithms and methods to perform various operations on the stored data efficiently.

A linked list as a data structure consists of nodes connected by pointers or references. Each node contains an element and a reference to the next node in the sequence.

This dynamic structure allows for flexible insertion and deletion of elements without requiring contiguous memory allocation.

Linked List as an ADT

As mentioned earlier, a linked list can also be considered an ADT because it defines a set of operations that can be performed on the linked list. These operations include inserting elements, deleting elements, searching for elements, and traversing the list.

To use a linked list as an ADT, you don’t need to know the specific implementation details of how the linked list is organized in memory. You only need to know how to interact with it using the provided operations.

This abstraction allows for code reuse and easy maintenance of programs that use linked lists.


In summary, while a linked list can be categorized as both an ADT and a data structure, it is important to understand the distinction between the two. The ADT describes what operations can be performed on the linked list without specifying how they are implemented.

On the other hand, the data structure defines how the linked list is organized in memory and provides efficient algorithms for manipulating it.

By understanding these concepts, you can better utilize linked lists in your programming endeavors. Remember that abstracting away implementation details through ADTs promotes modularity and code maintainability, while understanding data structures helps optimize performance and efficiency.

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