What Is Data Structure and Data Model?


Angela Bailey

Data Structure and Data Model

Data structure and data model are fundamental concepts in computer science and programming. They play a crucial role in organizing and manipulating data efficiently. In this article, we will explore what data structure and data model are, their differences, and how they are used in software development.

What is Data Structure?

Data structure refers to the way data is organized, stored, and accessed in a computer system. It provides a way to represent the relationships between different elements of data. A well-designed data structure allows for efficient operations such as searching, sorting, insertion, deletion, and traversal of the data.

Types of Data Structures:

  • Array: An array is a collection of elements of the same type stored at contiguous memory locations. It allows random access to its elements.
  • Linked List: A linked list is a linear data structure where each element (node) contains a reference to the next node. It allows dynamic memory allocation.
  • Stack: A stack is an abstract data type that follows the Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) principle.

    Elements can be inserted or removed only from one end called the top.

  • Queue: A queue is another abstract data type that follows the First-In-First-Out (FIFO) principle. Elements can be inserted at one end (rear) and removed from the other end (front).
  • Tree: A tree is a hierarchical data structure with nodes connected by edges. It has a root node and each node can have zero or more child nodes.

What is Data Model?

A data model defines how data is organized and represented in a database system. It provides a conceptual framework for understanding and manipulating data. A well-designed data model ensures data integrity, consistency, and ease of retrieval.

Types of Data Models:

  • Relational Model: The relational model represents data as tables with rows and columns. It uses primary keys and foreign keys to establish relationships between tables.
  • Object-Oriented Model: The object-oriented model represents data as objects with properties (attributes) and behaviors (methods).

    It supports encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism.

  • Hierarchical Model: The hierarchical model organizes data in a tree-like structure with parent-child relationships. It was widely used in early database systems.
  • Network Model: The network model extends the hierarchical model by allowing more complex relationships between records through pointers.
  • NoSQL Model: NoSQL (Not only SQL) models are non-relational databases that provide flexible schemas and horizontal scalability for handling large volumes of unstructured data.

Differences between Data Structure and Data Model

Data structure primarily focuses on organizing, storing, and accessing data efficiently within a computer program. It is concerned with the implementation details of how the data is stored in memory.

Data model, on the other hand, provides a conceptual representation of how data is organized and related to each other in a database system. It focuses on defining the structure, constraints, and operations on the data.

In summary, while both data structure and data model deal with organizing and representing data, they operate at different levels of abstraction. Data structures are used within programming languages to manipulate in-memory data structures efficiently, while data models are used in database systems to define the structure and relationships of data.


Data structure and data model are fundamental concepts that form the backbone of computer science and software development. Understanding how data is organized, stored, and accessed is crucial for designing efficient algorithms, building robust applications, and managing large-scale databases. By using appropriate data structures and data models, developers can optimize performance, enhance functionality, and ensure data integrity in their software systems.

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