What Is Meant by Sequential Search in Data Structure?


Larry Thompson

What Is Meant by Sequential Search in Data Structure?

Data structures are essential for efficiently organizing and manipulating large sets of data. One commonly used search algorithm in data structures is the sequential search algorithm.

This algorithm, also known as linear search, is straightforward and easy to understand. It involves searching for a specific element in a given collection of elements by examining each element one by one until a match is found.

How Does Sequential Search Work?

The sequential search algorithm starts at the beginning of the collection and compares each element with the Target element being searched for. If a match is found, the search is considered successful, and the position of the matching element is returned.

However, if the entire collection has been traversed without finding a match, the search is considered unsuccessful.

Let’s take an example to understand how sequential search works. Consider an array of integers: [5, 9, 3, 7, 2].

Suppose we want to find whether the number 7 exists in this array using sequential search.

  1. Start at index 0: Check if arr[0] equals 7.
  2. Move to index 1: Check if arr[1] equals 7.
  3. Move to index 2: Check if arr[2] equals 7.
  4. Move to index 3: Check if arr[3] equals 7.

At index 3, we find that arr[3] equals our Target value (7). Therefore, we can conclude that our search was successful and return the position (index) of this element.

The Efficiency of Sequential Search

While sequential search is simple to implement, it is not the most efficient search algorithm for large collections of data. This is because, in the worst-case scenario, where the Target element is at the end of the collection or does not exist at all, we would need to traverse through every element, resulting in a time complexity of O(n), where n is the number of elements in the collection.

However, sequential search can be useful for small collections or when the elements are not sorted or indexed. In such cases, it may be more practical to use sequential search rather than implementing more complex algorithms such as binary search or hash tables.


Sequential search, also known as linear search, is a simple and intuitive algorithm for finding an element within a collection of data. It involves examining each element one by one until a match is found or until all elements have been checked.

While sequential search may not be suitable for large collections due to its linear time complexity, it can be efficient for small collections or unsorted data.

Understanding different search algorithms and their strengths and weaknesses is crucial when designing and implementing efficient data structures. Sequential search serves as a foundation for learning more advanced algorithms and provides a starting point for exploring other searching techniques.

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