Understanding Data Structures in C: Types And Operations

Understanding Data Structures in C: Types And Operations

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Updated on Nov 4, 2022 10:40 IST

A data structure is an orderly arrangement of data in the computer memory so that it can be used more efficiently. Data structures are a crucial part of computer science. They are used in a variety of areas such as statistical analysis, operating systems, and Artificial Intelligence. A data structure is not a programming language but it can be used in any programming language to organize the data in the memory. In this blog, we will learn about Data Structures in C.


C Programming language has many data structures such as an array, stack, queue, and linked list. We will discuss each of them in detail. Before diving into data structures in C, let us first understand what are data structures.

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What is Data Structure?

Data Structure Definition: A data structure is a collection of data values that allows storing, organizing, and retrieving data efficiently. Data Structures help programmers manage the data efficiently. They are a vital component of many computer algorithms. With a  data structure, vital operations can be performed with fewer resources. An informed selection of data structures can improve the performance of a computer program or software.

Data Structure in C – Overview

In the C programming language, data structures store data in an organized and efficient way. Data structures in C are a key component of programs. They provide efficient ways to access or manipulate data in programs that require frequent data processing.

The most common types of data structures in C are arrays, queues, stacks, and linked lists. Let us understand these data structures in detail:

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An Array is a collection of elements with the same data type. It means that an array of type ‘integers’ can only hold only integer values while an array of type ‘character’ can store only character values. An array can store a fixed number of items. The individual data items can be of any data type – integers, characters, floating-point numbers, etc.

Each item stored in an array is an element. The location of each element has a numerical index, which is used to identify the element.

Syntax to Declare an Array

data_type arrayname[length];

For Example

int array[5];                        array is a 5 element integer array

char name[20];                  name is a 20 element character array

Basic Operations Supported in Array

Below are some of the basic operations supported by an array:

  • Insertion − adds an element
  • Deletion − removes an element
  • Search − searches an element
  • Update − updates an element
  • Traverse − prints all the array elements


A stack is a homogeneous collection of elements of a particular type that are arranged linearly and can be accessed at only one end. It is an abstract data structure. In a stack data structure, elements are inserted from one end and are deleted from the same end. It follows the Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) approach. The element that is entered last will be removed first. The end where the insertion and deletion take place is known as the top of the stack.

You can think of a stack as a stack or pile of plates. You pick a plate from the top of the stack and can’t pick any plate in the stack without first removing the plates that are stacked on top of it.


Basic Operations Supported in Array

The following are the two primary  operations supported by a stack:

  • push() − storing an element in the stack
  • pop() − accessing an element from the stack

Other functions in the stack:

  • peek() – to get the top data element of the stack without removing it
  • isfull() − check if stack is full
  • isempty() − check if stack is empty

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A queue is also an abstract data structure like a stack. It follows First-In-First-Out (FIFO) approach. In a queue data structure in C, the elements are removed in the same order in which they were inserted. It means that in a queue data structure, the element that is inserted first will be removed first.

There are two ends in a queue – the front end and the rear end. Elements are added or inserted (enqueue) at the rear end and deletion (dequeue) occurs at the front end.


Basic Operations Supported in a Queue

Here are basic operations supported by a queue:

  • enqueue() − insert (store) an item
  • dequeue() − remove (access) an item

Other functions in a queue:

  • peek() − gets the element at the front without removing it
  • isfull() − checks if the queue is full
  • isempty() − checks whether the queue is empty or not

Linked List

A linked list is a linear data structure. It is like an array except that in a linked list, elements are not stored at contiguous memory locations. A linked list is a collection of nodes with homogeneous elements. Each node contains a data field and an address (link) to the next node in the list.


Linked List Terminologies

  • Linked List − A list has a connection link to the first link known as First
  • Link − Every link can store data called an element
  • Next − Every link has a link to the next link known as Next

There are three types of Linked Lists

1. Simple Linked List

A collection of nodes linked together sequentially. Each node contains a data field and an address field containing the reference of the next node. Item navigation is forward only.

2. Doubly Linked List

It contains an extra memory to store the address of the next as well as the previous nodes. Items navigation can be forward and backward.

3. Circular Linked List

It is either a singly or doubly linked list in which there are no NULL values. The last item contains a link of the first element as next. The first element has a link to the last element as previous. The circular linked list can be traversed from any node.

Basic Operations Supported by Linked List

Below are the operations supported by a linked list:

  • Insertion – adds a node
  • Deletion − deletes a node
  • Updating – updates a node
  • Searching − searches an element using the given value
  • Delete – deletes a node
  • Traversal – traverses all nodes one after another


In the tree data structure, there is a hierarchical relationship among various elements. A tree stores data in a non-linear way, allowing quick and easy access to the data. It has a root node and sub-nodes. Edges connect the nodes.


A graph data structure is a collection of nodes or vertices that have data. Each node is connected to other nodes with a set of edges or arcs.

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A good understanding of data structures in C can help you enhance the performance of a computer program and effectively perform tasks related to data processing or calculations. You can also improve your problem-solving skills by mastering data structures in C.

Learning data structures can help you advance your career and land high-paying jobs in the programming field. Enroll in Data Structures and algorithms course today to improve your knowledge of the subject.

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What are the different data structures in C?

C has many data structures. Some of the most common ones are Array, Stack, Linked List, Queue, Binary Tree, Heap, Hashing.

What is the difference between data structures in C and C++?

The main difference between data structures in C and C++ is that in the C data structure, all members are public while the members are private by default in C++. C data structure cannot have member functions inside structures while C++ data structures can have member functions with member variables.

Where can I learn more about data structures in C?

You can take up an online course to gain in-depth knowledge of Data Structures and Algorithms in C. Naukri learning lists the best courses in data structures and algorithms that provide a comprehensive explanation of data structures such as stacks, arrays, linked lists, and queues.

What is the use of data structures in C?

Data structures in C store large amounts of data in an organized and efficient way. Efficient data structures help in designing efficient algorithms. Programmers can select any suitable data structure depending on their requirements.u00a0

What are the applications of Array data structure?

An array is a set of similar types of data items that are stored at contiguous memory locations. There are many applications of array data structure, such as contacts in our phone are stored in an array. Arrays are also used in mathematical problems like matrices. Other applications of arrays include lookup tables and implementation of other data structures such as linked lists.u00a0

Explain DFS Algorithm in C.

DFS Algorithm or the Depth-first Search Algorithmin C is a recursive algorithm. It helps users search all the vertices of a graph or tree data structure. The user traverses with an initial node of the graph and goes on deep until the required node or node with no children is found.

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