What Is Linked List Data Structure and Algorithm?


Larry Thompson

What Is Linked List Data Structure and Algorithm?

Linked list is a widely used data structure in computer science and programming. It is a linear data structure where elements are stored in a non-contiguous manner.

In contrast to arrays, linked lists do not require a fixed amount of memory space. Instead, they dynamically allocate memory for each element as per the requirement.

Why Use Linked Lists?

Linked lists offer several advantages over other data structures, such as arrays. Here are some key reasons to use linked lists:

  • Dynamic Size: Linked lists have a dynamic size, which means they can grow or shrink as needed.
  • Efficient Insertion and Deletion: Insertion and deletion operations are efficient in linked lists compared to arrays, especially when dealing with large amounts of data.
  • Flexibility: Unlike arrays, linked lists allow inserting or removing elements at any position without shifting the entire list.
  • No Wasted Memory: Linked lists only use memory for the elements they contain, eliminating wasted memory space.

The Basics of a Linked List

A linked list consists of nodes where each node stores an element and a reference (or link) to the next node in the list. The first node is called the head, while the last node points to null (indicating the end of the list).

Here’s an example representation of a simple linked list with three nodes:

Node 1          Node 2          Node 3
+-------+       +-------+       +-------+
| Value | ----> | Value | ----> | Value |
|   10  |       |   20  |       |   30  |
| Next  | ----> | Next  | ----> | Next  |
+-------+       +-------+       +-------+

In this example, the first node (Node 1) contains the value 10 and points to the next node (Node 2). Node 2 contains the value 20 and points to Node 3.

Finally, Node 3 contains the value 30 and points to null.

Types of Linked Lists

There are different types of linked lists available, each serving specific purposes. Here are a few commonly used types:

Singly Linked List:

In a singly linked list, each node has a reference to only the next node in the list. It allows traversal in only one direction, from the head to the tail.

Doubly Linked List:

A doubly linked list extends the singly linked list by having each node maintain references to both its previous and next nodes. This allows bidirectional traversal.

Circular Linked List:

A circular linked list is similar to a singly or doubly linked list, but instead of pointing to null at the end, the last node points back to the head node.

Linked List Algorithms

Various algorithms can be implemented on linked lists for common operations like insertion, deletion, searching, etc. Here are some commonly used algorithms:

  • Insertion: Inserting an element at a specific position or at the beginning or end of the list.
  • Deletion: Removing an element from a specific position or the beginning or end of the list.
  • Searching: Finding the presence of an element in the list.
  • Traversal: Visiting each node in the list to perform a specific operation.

These algorithms form the foundation for more complex operations and data manipulation using linked lists.


In summary, a linked list is a dynamic data structure that offers flexibility, efficient insertion and deletion, and no wasted memory. It consists of nodes connected through references.

Different types of linked lists serve different purposes, and algorithms can be implemented to perform common operations on linked lists. Understanding linked lists and their algorithms is essential for effective programming and problem-solving.

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