What Is Set Representation in Data Structure?


Heather Bennett

Data structures are essential components in computer science and programming. They help organize and manipulate data efficiently.

One commonly used data structure is the set. In this article, we will explore what set representation in data structure is and how it works.

What is a Set?

A set is a collection of distinct elements, where each element is unique and unordered. It does not allow duplicate values. Sets are widely used in various applications, including mathematical operations, database management systems, and algorithms.

Set Representation

In data structure, sets can be represented using different techniques. Let’s explore some commonly used representations:

Array Representation

An array-based representation of a set involves using an array to store the set’s elements. Each element in the array represents a unique value present in the set.


  • Set: {1, 3, 5}
  • Array Representation: [1, 3, 5]

This representation allows for efficient access to individual elements but may require resizing the array if the number of elements exceeds its capacity.

Linked List Representation

In linked list representation, each element of the set is stored in a node. The nodes are connected using pointers or references. This allows for dynamic memory allocation as nodes can be added or removed easily.


  • Set: {7, 9}
  • Linked List Representation:
    ┌───┐      ┌───┐
    │ 7 │ ──►  │ 9 │ ──► NULL
    └───┘      └───┘

This representation is suitable when the number of elements is not known in advance or when frequent insertions and deletions are expected.

Binary Search Tree (BST) Representation

A binary search tree can also be used to represent a set. In this representation, each element is stored as a node in a binary tree. The elements are arranged in a specific order, allowing for efficient searching and traversal operations.


  • Set: {4, 8, 10}
  • BST Representation:
       / \
      4   10

This representation provides fast search and retrieval operations but requires maintaining the binary search tree properties.


In summary, set representation in data structure involves organizing unique and unordered elements efficiently. Array representation allows for easy access but may require resizing, while linked list representation enables dynamic allocation but may have slower access times.

BST representation provides efficient searching but requires maintaining the tree structure. The choice of set representation depends on the specific requirements of the application at hand.

By understanding different set representations, you can effectively utilize sets in your programming endeavors.

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