What Is Notation in Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

Data structure notation is a crucial aspect of understanding and representing various data structures. It provides a standardized way to visually represent the relationships and operations within a data structure. In this article, we will explore what notation in data structure is and how it helps us in designing and analyzing different data structures.

Why is Notation Important?

Before diving into the specifics of notation, let’s understand why it is important. Notation allows us to communicate complex ideas and concepts in a concise and clear manner. It helps us represent the structure, operations, and relationships within a data structure visually.

Commonly Used Notations

Several notations are commonly used to represent data structures:

Box-and-Pointer Notation

This notation is widely used for representing linked lists, trees, and graphs. In this notation, each element or node in the data structure is represented by a box or circle. Pointers or arrows are used to indicate the links between nodes.

Array Notation

Array notation is mostly used to represent arrays and matrices. In this notation, elements are represented using square brackets [ ]. For example, [1, 2, 3] represents an array with three elements.


Pseudocode is not exactly a graphical representation but rather a textual representation of algorithms. It uses a combination of natural language and programming constructs to describe the steps involved in solving a problem using a particular data structure.

Examples of Notation

To illustrate the use of different notations, let’s consider some examples:

  • Linked List:
    • Box-and-Pointer Notation:
    • A linked list with three nodes can be represented as:

            ┌───┐    ┌───┐    ┌───┐
            │ 1 │───▶│ 2 │───▶│ 3 │
            └───┘    └───┘    └───┘
    • Array Notation:
    • The same linked list can be represented using an array as:

            [1, 2, 3]
  • Tree:
    • Box-and-Pointer Notation:
    • A binary tree with four nodes can be represented as:

                │ A │
             ┌─▶│ B │ C  │
             │  ├───┼────┤
             ├─▶│ D │ E  │
             │  ├───┼────┤
             ├─▶│ F │ G  │
             │  ├───┼────┤
             └──│ H │ I  │
    • Pseudocode:
    • Pseudocode representation of tree traversal algorithms:

      function preOrder(node):
      if node is null:

      print node.value


Notation plays a vital role in representing and understanding data structures. It allows us to visualize the structure and operations of various data structures, making it easier to analyze and design them. The use of different notations such as box-and-pointer, array, and pseudocode provides us with a range of options to represent different types of data structures effectively.

By using appropriate notations, we can enhance our understanding of data structures and communicate our ideas more effectively with others.

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