What Is a Record in Data Structure?


Larry Thompson

What Is a Record in Data Structure?

A record, also known as a structure or composite data type, is an essential concept in data structures. It is a collection of different data elements grouped together under one name. Each element within the record can have its own unique data type.

Defining a Record

To define a record in most programming languages, you must specify the name of the record and the individual elements it contains. These elements are commonly referred to as fields or members. The fields can be of any data type, such as integers, floating-point numbers, characters, or even other records.

In many programming languages like C or C++, you can define a record using a struct keyword. For example:

struct Employee {
    int id;
    char name[50];
    float salary;

In this example, we have defined a record named Employee. It consists of three fields: id, name, and salary. The field id is an integer, name is an array of characters (string), and salary is a floating-point number.

Accessing Record Elements

To access individual elements within a record, you use the dot notation (.) followed by the field name. For instance:

Employee emp;
emp.id = 1;
strcpy(emp.name, "John Doe");
emp.salary = 5000.0;

In this example, we create a variable emp of type Employee. We then assign values to its individual fields using the dot notation.

Applications of Records

Records are incredibly useful when you want to store related information together. They allow you to represent complex data structures in an organized and manageable way. Some common applications of records include:

  • Storing information about students, employees, or any entity with multiple attributes.
  • Defining a point in 3D space (x, y, z coordinates).
  • Creating linked lists or other data structures where each node contains multiple fields.

Nested Records

In some cases, you may need to define records within records. This concept is known as nested records or nested structures.

By nesting records, you can achieve more complex data structures. Here’s an example:

struct Date {
    int day;
    int month;
    int year;

struct Student {
    int rollNumber;
    char name[50];
    Date dob;

In this example, we have defined two records: Date and Student. The record Date contains three fields: day, month, and year. The record Student contains three fields as well: rollNumber, name, and another record, dob, which represents the date of birth.


In summary, a record is a fundamental concept in data structures that allows you to group related data elements together. By using records, you can organize and manipulate complex data structures more efficiently. Understanding how to define and access elements within records is crucial for effective programming.

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