Structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements
in a material object or system, or the object or system so
organized. Material structures include man-made objects such as
buildings and machines and natural objects such as biological
organisms, minerals and chemicals. Abstract structures include data
structures in computer science and musical form. Types of structure
include a hierarchy (a cascade of one-to-many relationships), a
network featuring many-to-many links, or a lattice featuring
connections between components that are neighbors in space.
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
A traditional Sami food storage structure
Gothic quadripartite cross-ribbed vaults of the
Buildings, aircraft, skeletons, anthills, beaver dams and salt domes
are all examples of load-bearing structures. The results of
construction are divided into buildings and non-building structures,
and make up the infrastructure of a human society. Built structures
are broadly divided by their varying design approaches and standards,
into categories including building structures, architectural
structures, civil engineering structures and mechanical structures.
The effects of loads on physical structures are determined through
structural analysis, which is one of the tasks of structural
engineering. The structural elements can be classified as
one-dimensional (ropes, struts, beams, arches), two-dimensional
(membranes, plates, slab, shells, vaults), or three-dimensional (solid
masses).:2 The latter was the main option available to early
structures such as Chichen Itza. A one-dimensional element has one
dimension much larger than the other two, so the other dimensions can
be neglected in calculations; however, the ratio of the smaller
dimensions and the composition can determine the flexural and
compressive stiffness of the element. Two-dimensional elements with a
thin third dimension have little of either but can resist biaxial
The structure elements are combined in structural systems. The
majority of everyday load-bearing structures are section-active
structures like frames, which are primarily composed of
one-dimensional (bending) structures. Other types are Vector-active
structures such as trusses, surface-active structures such as shells
and folded plates, form-active structures such as cable or membrane
structures, and hybrid structures.:134–136
Load-bearing biological structures such as bones, teeth, shells, and
tendons derive their strength from a multilevel hierarchy of
structures employing biominerals and proteins, at the bottom of which
are collagen fibrils.
Ribbon schematic of the 3D structure of the protein triosephosphate
isomerase. The brown spirals are α-helices and the green arrows are
β strands, the components of β-pleated sheets.
Main article: Biological organisation
In biology, structures exist at all levels of organization, ranging
hierarchically from the atomic and molecular to the cellular, tissue,
organ, organismic, population and ecosystem level. Usually, a
higher-level structure is composed of multiple copies of a lower-level
Structural biology is concerned with the biomolecular structure of
macromolecules, particularly proteins and nucleic acids. The
function of these molecules is determined by their shape as well as
their composition, and their structure has multiple levels. Protein
structure has a four-level hierarchy. The primary structure is the
sequence of amino acids that make it up. It has a peptide backbone
made up of a repeated sequence of a nitrogen and two carbon atoms. The
secondary structure consists of repeated patterns determined by
hydrogen bonding. The two basic types are the α-helix and the
β-pleated sheet. The tertiary structure is a back and forth bending
of the polypeptide chain, and the quaternary structure is the way that
tertiary units come together and interact.
Main article: Chemical structure
A skeletal formula for dopamine
Chemical structure refers to both molecular geometry and electronic
structure. The structure can be represented by a variety of diagrams
called structural formulas. Lewis structures use a dot notation to
represent the valence electrons for an atom; these are the electrons
that determine the role of the atom in chemical reactions.:71–72
Bonds between atoms can be represented by lines with one line for each
pair of electrons that is shared. In a simplified version of such a
diagram, called a skeletal formula, only carbon-carbon bonds and
functional groups are shown.
Atoms in a crystal have a structure that involves repetition of a
basic unit called a unit cell. The atoms can be modeled as points on a
lattice, and one can explore the effect of symmetry operations that
include rotations about a point, reflections about a symmetry planes,
and translations (movements of all the points by the same amount).
Each crystal has a finite group, called the space group, of such
operations that map it onto itself; there are 230 possible space
groups.:125–126 By Neumann's law, the symmetry of a crystal
determines what physical properties, including piezoelectricity and
ferromagnetism, the crystal can have.:34–36,91–92,168–169
Main article: Mathematical structure
See also: Musical form
A motif from the Preludes by Chopin, Op. 28 no.6, bars 1–3
A large part of numerical analysis involves identifying and
interpreting the structure of musical works.
Structure can be found at
the level of part of a work, the entire work, or a group of works.
Elements of music such as pitch, duration and timbre combine into
small elements like motifs and phrases, and these in turn combine in
larger structures. Not all music (for example, that of John Cage) has
a hierarchical organization, but hierarchy makes it easier for a
listener to understand and remember the music.:80
In analogy to linguistic terminology, motifs and phrases can be
combined to make complete musical ideas such as sentences and
phrases. A larger form is known as the period. One such form
that was widely used between 1600 and 1900 has two phrases, an
antecedent and a consequent, with a half cadence in the middle and a
full cadence at the end providing punctuation.:38–39 On a larger
scale are single-movement forms such as the sonata form and the
contrapuntal form, and multi-movement forms such as the symphony.
Main article: Social structure
A social structure is a pattern of relationships. They are social
organizations of individuals in various life situations. Structures
are applicable to people in how a society is as a system organized by
a characteristic pattern of relationships. This is known as the social
organization of the group. Sociologists have studied the changing
structure of these groups.
Structure and agency
Structure and agency are two confronted
theories about human behaviour. The debate surrounding the influence
of structure and agency on human thought is one of the central issues
in sociology. In this context, agency refers to the individual human
capacity to act independently and make free choices.
refers to factors such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity,
customs, etc. that seem to limit or influence individual
Main article: Data structure
In a singly linked list, each element has a data value and a pointer
to the next element.
In computer science, a data structure is a way of organizing
information in a computer so that it can be used efficiently. Data
structures are built out of two basic types: An array has an index
that can be used for immediate access to any data item, but depending
on the programming language used, its size must be specified when it
is initialized. A linked list can be reorganized, grown or shrunk, but
its elements must be accessed with a pointer that links them together
in a particular order.:156 Out of these any number of other data
structures can be created such as stacks, queues, trees and hash
In solving a problem, a data structure is generally an integral part
of the algorithm.:5 In modern programming style, algorithms and
data structures are encapsulated together in an abstract data
Main article: Software architecture
In software architecture, the structure of software is the way in
which it is partitioned into interrelated components. A key structural
issue is minimizing dependencies between these components. This makes
it possible to change one component without requiring changes in
others.:3 The structure can be represented in diagrams such as the
Control Structure Diagram and the Nassi–Shneiderman diagram.
Structural elements reflect the requirements of the application: for
example, if the system requires a high fault tolerance, then a
redundant structure is needed so that if a component fails it has
backups. A high redundancy is an essential part of the design of
several systems in the Space Shuttle.
As a branch of philosophy, logic is concerned with distinguishing good
arguments from poor ones. A chief concern is with the structure of
arguments. An argument consists of one or more premises from which
a conclusion is inferred. The steps in this inference can be
expressed in a formal way and their structure analyzed. Two basic
types of inference are deduction and induction. In a valid deduction,
the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises, regardless of
whether they are true or not. An invalid deduction contains some error
in the analysis. An inductive argument claims that if the premises are
true, the conclusion is likely.
Structure (mathematical logic)
Structuralism (philosophy of science)
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