What Is Linked List Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

A linked list is a fundamental data structure in computer science, used to store and manipulate collections of data. It consists of a series of nodes, where each node contains a piece of data and a reference (or link) to the next node in the sequence. Unlike arrays, linked lists do not require contiguous memory allocation.

Advantages of Linked List

Linked lists offer several advantages over other data structures:

  • Dynamic Size: Linked lists can grow or shrink as needed, allowing for efficient memory utilization.
  • Easy Insertion and Deletion: Inserting or deleting elements from a linked list is relatively simple and does not require shifting other elements.
  • Efficient Memory Allocation: Linked lists only use as much memory as required by the elements they contain, unlike arrays which have fixed sizes.

Main Types of Linked List

There are several variations of linked lists, each with its own characteristics:

Singly Linked List

In a singly linked list, each node contains a reference to the next node in the sequence. The last node’s reference points to null, indicating the end of the list.

Doubly Linked List

A doubly linked list extends the concept of a singly linked list by including an additional reference to the previous node. This allows for traversal in both directions.

Circular Linked List

In a circular linked list, the last node’s reference points back to the first node instead of null. This creates a circular structure that can be traversed indefinitely.

Common Operations on Linked Lists

Linked lists support various operations, including:

  • Insertion: Adding a new node at the beginning, end, or anywhere within the list.
  • Deletion: Removing a node from the list.
  • Traversal: Iterating through the list to access or modify its elements.
  • Searching: Finding a specific node based on its value.

Implementing Linked Lists in Code

Linked lists can be implemented in various programming languages. Here’s an example of a singly linked list in Python:

class Node:
    def __init__(self, data=None):
        self.data = data
        self.next = None

class LinkedList:
    def __init__(self):
        self.head = None

This code defines a Node class representing each node in the linked list and a LinkedList class that manages the overall structure.

In Conclusion

A linked list is a versatile data structure that offers flexibility and efficient memory utilization. Understanding different types of linked lists and their operations can greatly enhance your ability to solve problems in computer science and software development.

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