8 Difference Between Linear And Non-Linear Data Structures With Examples

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A data structure is a particular way of organizing data in a computer memory so that it can be used effectively. The main aim of data structure is to reduce the space and time complexities of different tasks. The linear and non-linear data structures are the sub-classification of the data structure which comes under the Non-primitive data structure.

What Is A Linear Data Structure?

Linear data structure is a type of data structure whereby data is arranged in a linear sequence; in which elements are linked one after the other.  Data elements in a linear data structure are traversed one after the other and only one element can be directly reached while traversing. Given that linear data structures support single level storage; data elements can be traversed in a single run only.

Linked list is a good example of linear data storage or structure. Linked list stores data in an organized linear fashion. They store data in the form of a list.

Other Examples of linear data structure include:

  • Array, which is a collection of data items having similar data types.
  • Queue, which is a FIFO (First in First Out) data structure where the element that is added first will be deleted first.
  • Stack, which is a FILO (First In Last Out) data structure where the element that is added first will be deleted last.

What You Need To Know About Linear Data Structure

  1. Linear data structure is a type of data structure whereby data is arranged in a linear sequence; in which elements are linked one after the other.
  2. Linear data structure is easy to implement in computer’s memory since they are organized sequentially.
  3. Examples of linear data structure are array, queue, stack, linked list etc.
  4. In linear data structure, there is one to one relationship between data elements.
  5. Given that linear data structures support single level storage; data elements can be traversed in a single run only.
  6. Linear data structure implementation result in poor utilization of memory.
  7. In linear data structure, all data elements are present at a single level.
  8. Time complexity of linear data structure often increases with increase in size.

What Is Non-Linear Data Structure?

Non-linear data structure is a type of data structure whereby data elements are hierarchically connected and are present at various levels. What this means is that, a data element of the non-linear data structure could be connected to more than one element to reflect a special relationship among them. Given that non-linear data structures support multi-level storage, they are not easy to traverse in a single run; they require multiple runs to be completely traversed.

Tree data structure is an example of a non linear data structure. A tree has one node referred to as root node that is the starting point that holds data and links to other nodes.

Another example of Non-linear is Graph. A Graph is a collection of a finite number of vertices and edges. Edges connect the vertices and represent the relationship between the vertices that connect these vertices.

What You Need To Know About Non-Linear Data Structure

  1. Non-linear data structure is a type of data structure whereby data elements are hierarchically connected and are present at various levels.
  2. Non-linear data structure is difficult to implement in computer’s memory since the data element can be attached to various other data elements.
  3. Examples of non-linear data structure are tree and graph.
  4. In non-linear data structure, there may be one-to-one or one-to-many relationship between data elements.
  5. Given that non-linear data structures support multi-level storage, they are not easy to traverse in a single run; they require multiple runs to be completely traversed.
  6. Implementation of non-linear data structure result in efficient utilization of the memory.
  7. In non-linear data structure, data elements are present at multiple levels.
  8. Time complexity of non-linear data structures often remains unchanged with increase in size.

Difference Between Linear And Non-Linear Data Structures In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON LINEAR DATA STRUCTURE NON-LINEAR DATA STRUCTURE
Description Linear data structure is a type of data structure whereby data is arranged in a linear sequence; in which elements are linked one after the other.   Non-linear data structure is a type of data structure whereby data elements are hierarchically connected and are present at various levels.  
Implementation It is easy to implement in computer’s memory since they are organized sequentially.   It is difficult to implement in computer’s memory since the data element can be attached to various other data elements.  
Examples Examples of linear data structure are array, queue, stack, linked list etc.   Examples of non-linear data structure are tree and graph.  
Relationship Between Data Elements There is one to one relationship between data elements.   There may be one-to-one or one-to-many relationship between data elements.  
Traversal Data elements can be traversed in a single run only.   They are not easy to traverse in a single run; they require multiple runs to be completely traversed.
Memory Utilization Linear data structure implementation result in poor utilization of memory.   Implementation of non-linear data structure result in efficient utilization of the memory.  
Data Elements All data elements are present at a single level.   Data elements are present at multiple levels.  
Time Complexity Time complexity of linear data structure often increases with increase in size.   Time complexity of non-linear data structures often remains unchanged with increase in size.  

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