What Is Data Structure and Its Types in C?


Larry Thompson

Data structure is a fundamental concept in computer science and is crucial for efficient storage and manipulation of data. In C programming, there are various types of data structures that can be used to organize and manage data effectively. In this article, we will explore the concept of data structure and its different types in C.

What is Data Structure?

A data structure is a way to store and organize data in a computer’s memory or storage device. It defines the way elements are stored, accessed, and manipulated. By using appropriate data structures, we can optimize operations such as searching, sorting, and inserting elements into a collection of data.

Types of Data Structures in C

C provides several built-in data structures that can be used to represent different types of data efficiently. Some commonly used data structures in C include:

  • Arrays: An array is a collection of similar elements stored in contiguous memory locations. It allows random access to its elements using an index.
  • Linked Lists: A linked list consists of nodes where each node contains the element and a reference (pointer) to the next node. It allows dynamic memory allocation.
  • Stacks: A stack is an abstract data type that follows the Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) principle. Elements are added or removed from only one end called the top.
  • Queues: A queue is an abstract data type that follows the First-In-First-Out (FIFO) principle. Elements are added at one end (rear) and removed from the other end (front).
  • Trees: A tree is a hierarchical structure consisting of nodes connected by edges. It has one root node and each node can have zero or more child nodes.
  • Graphs: A graph is a collection of nodes (vertices) connected by edges. It can be used to represent relationships between objects.
  • Hash Tables: A hash table is a data structure that uses a hash function to map keys to values. It provides efficient insertion, deletion, and retrieval of elements.

Choosing the Right Data Structure

Selecting the appropriate data structure for a specific problem is crucial for efficient program execution. Consider the requirements of your program, such as the type of operations you need to perform (searching, sorting, inserting), the size of data, memory constraints, and time complexity.

For example, if you need constant-time access to elements and know the size in advance, an array would be a good choice. If you require frequent insertions or deletions at different positions in the collection, a linked list would be more suitable.


In summary, data structures are essential for organizing and managing data effectively in C programming. By understanding different types of data structures and their characteristics, you can choose the most appropriate one for your specific requirements.

Arrays, linked lists, stacks, queues, trees, graphs, and hash tables are some commonly used data structures in C that provide efficient storage and manipulation of data.

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