What Is Dynamic Linked List Data Structure?

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Heather Bennett

A dynamic linked list is a data structure that allows for efficient insertion, deletion, and modification of elements. Unlike a static array, a dynamic linked list can grow or shrink in size as needed. It is composed of nodes that contain both the element value and a reference to the next node in the list.

Structure of a Dynamic Linked List

Each node in a dynamic linked list consists of two parts: the data and the pointer. The data part stores the value of the element, while the pointer part contains the memory address of the next node in the list. The last node’s pointer points to null, indicating that it is the end of the list.

To visualize this structure, let’s consider an example:

  • Node 1: Data = 10 | Pointer = 2000
  • Node 2: Data = 20 | Pointer = 3000
  • Node 3: Data = 30 | Pointer = NULL

In this example, Node 1 contains the value ’10’ and points to Node 2 located at memory address ‘2000’. Node 2 holds ’20’ as its value and points to Node 3 located at memory address ‘3000’. Finally, Node 3 contains ’30’ as its value and points to NULL, indicating that it is the last node in the list.

Advantages of Dynamic Linked Lists

The dynamic linked list has several advantages over other data structures:

  • Dynamic Size: Unlike arrays with fixed sizes, linked lists can expand or contract based on program requirements.
  • Efficient Insertion and Deletion: Inserting or deleting elements in a linked list can be done in constant time, whereas it may require shifting elements in an array.
  • Memory Utilization: Linked lists only use memory necessary for the elements, whereas arrays may reserve more space than required.

Disadvantages of Dynamic Linked Lists

Despite their advantages, dynamic linked lists also have some limitations:

  • Inefficient Random Access: Unlike arrays, linked lists do not support direct access to individual elements. To access an element, we need to traverse the list from the beginning.
  • Extra Memory Usage: Linked lists require additional memory to store the pointers alongside the data values.

Common Operations on Dynamic Linked Lists

To work with dynamic linked lists, several common operations are used:

Insertion

To insert an element at a specific position in a linked list, we need to adjust the pointers of the adjacent nodes accordingly. This operation involves creating a new node and updating the previous node’s pointer to point to the new node.

Deletion

To delete an element from a linked list, we update the pointers of adjacent nodes to bypass the node being deleted. We then free up the memory occupied by that node.

Traversal

To iterate through all elements of a linked list, we start from the head node and follow the pointers until we reach the end of the list (NULL).

Searching

To find a specific element in a linked list, we traverse through each node and compare its value with our Target value until a match is found or we reach the end of the list.

Conclusion

A dynamic linked list is a versatile data structure that allows for efficient insertion, deletion, and modification of elements. Its dynamic size and efficient operations make it a valuable tool for various programming tasks.

However, it also has limitations in terms of random access and memory usage. Understanding these trade-offs will help you make informed decisions when selecting the appropriate data structure for your applications.

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