What Is Linear List in Data Structure?


Heather Bennett

A linear list, also known as a one-dimensional list, is a fundamental data structure in computer science. It represents a collection of elements where each element is linked to its adjacent element. The linear list allows for sequential access to its elements, meaning that the order in which the elements are stored corresponds to their logical order.

Properties of Linear Lists

Linear lists have several key properties:

  • Order: The order of the elements in a linear list is significant. It determines the sequence in which the elements are stored and accessed.
  • Size: The size of a linear list is dynamic and can vary during program execution.
  • Element Type: A linear list can store elements of any type, such as integers, characters, strings, or even complex objects.

Main Operations on Linear Lists

The main operations performed on a linear list include:

  • Insertion: Adding an element at a specific position within the linear list.
  • Deletion: Removing an element from the linear list at a given position.
  • Accessing: Retrieving the value of an element at a particular position within the linear list.
  • Traversal: Visiting each element in sequence from start to end.

The Implementation of Linear Lists

In practice, there are multiple ways to implement a linear list data structure. The two common approaches are using arrays or linked lists.

1. Array-based Linear List

In an array-based implementation, the elements of the linear list are stored in a contiguous block of memory. Each element can be accessed directly using an index. The size of the array is usually fixed, requiring resizing operations if the number of elements exceeds the allocated space.

2. Linked List

A linked list implementation represents each element as a node that contains both data and a reference to the next node in the sequence. The nodes are dynamically allocated and connected through these references. Unlike arrays, linked lists can easily grow or shrink in size without requiring any resizing operations.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Both array-based and linked list implementations have their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Array-based Linear List:
    • Advantages:
      • – Efficient random access to elements using indexes.
      • – Compact memory representation.
    • Disadvantages:
      • – Fixed size, requiring resizing operations for dynamic lists.
      • – Costly insertions or deletions at arbitrary positions.
  • Linked List:
    • Advantages:
      • – Dynamic size, allowing for efficient insertions and deletions at any position.
      • – No need for resizing operations when the number of elements changes.
    • Disadvantages:
      • – No direct random access to elements; traversal is required to access a specific position.
      • – Additional memory overhead due to storing references.


A linear list is a fundamental data structure that provides sequential access to its elements. It can be implemented using arrays or linked lists, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the properties and operations of linear lists is essential for designing efficient algorithms and organizing data in various computer science applications.

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