What Is a Traversal in Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

A traversal in data structure refers to the process of visiting all the nodes or elements of a data structure in a specific order. It allows us to access and manipulate each element individually, making it an essential operation in various data structures like trees, graphs, and linked lists.

Types of Traversals

There are different types of traversals depending on the order in which the nodes are visited:

1. In-order Traversal

In an in-order traversal, the left subtree is visited first, followed by the root node, and then the right subtree. This type of traversal is commonly used for binary search trees (BST) to retrieve elements in ascending order.

2. Pre-order Traversal

In a pre-order traversal, the root node is visited first, followed by the left subtree and then the right subtree. This type of traversal can be used to create a copy of a tree or to evaluate expressions represented as trees.

3. Post-order Traversal

In a post-order traversal, the left subtree is visited first, then the right subtree, and finally the root node. This type of traversal is commonly used for deleting nodes from a tree or for performing certain mathematical calculations.

Implementing Traversals

To implement traversals in data structures like binary trees or graphs, recursion is often used. Recursive functions can be defined to visit each node according to a specific order.


function inOrderTraversal(node) {
    if (node !== null) {

The above code snippet demonstrates an in-order traversal function for a binary tree. It recursively visits the left subtree, prints the value of the current node, and then traverses the right subtree.

Applications of Traversals

Traversals play a crucial role in various algorithms and operations. Some common applications include:

  • Searching for specific elements in a data structure
  • Sorting elements in a specific order
  • Evaluating mathematical expressions represented as trees
  • Building expression trees from infix or postfix expressions
  • Checking if a tree is balanced or symmetric

In conclusion, traversals are fundamental operations in data structures that allow us to visit and manipulate each element systematically. Understanding different types of traversals and their implementations is crucial for efficiently working with various data structures.

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