6 Fundamental Programming Concepts (With Tips to Improve)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 19, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Computer programming is the process of writing instructions that direct the computer to perform a set of tasks. All software programs adhere to certain programming principles and concepts. A basic understanding of various programming concepts may be beneficial if you're new to programming or if you want to improve your programming skills. In this article, we discuss some fundamental programming concepts along with their definitions and examples and offer some tips for improving your programming skills.

What are fundamental programming concepts?

Fundamental programming concepts include a set of basic principles and related terminologies that programmers follow to write code that is simple to understand, modular, and efficient. The basic programming concepts include variables, basic control structures, data structures, object-oriented programming, troubleshooting and debugging, and various programming tools. These concepts are similar across various programming languages, such as Python, C++, C, and Java.

6 fundamental programming concepts

The following are six basic programming concepts:

1. Variable declaration

Variables are containers for storing values. The variable declaration indicates that the operating system is going to reserve a piece of memory with that variable name. You can define a variable with alphabets, digits, and underscores. Variable names can start with an alphabet or an underscore but cannot start with a digit. Some variable types across several programming languages are:

  • Constant variable: You can use constant variables to store data whose value doesn't change throughout the program.

  • Global variable: You can declare global variables outside a function. These variables are accessible throughout the program.

  • Class variable: You can access class variables within a specified class. These variables are accessible by specifying their class names.

  • Instance variable: You can declare instance variables inside a class but outside a method. These variables are accessible throughout the class in which you've declared them.

  • Local variable: You can declare local variables in classes, methods, or instances. You can access these variables only within the specified class or method.

2. Control structures

A control structure specifies the flow of control in a program. Analyzing certain parameters and conditions determines the flow direction of a program. Control structures make it easier to understand a flow of logic when developing algorithms or writing programs. There are three basic types of control structures:

  • Sequential logic: The flow of a program executes in a specific order without skipping, jumping, or switching to another block of code.

  • Selection logic: A condition determines whether a block of code gets executed or skipped. Common examples include if and else-if.

  • Iteration logic: A block of code repeats a fixed number of times to achieve the desired result. Common examples include for and while loop.

Related: How to List Computer Programming Skills on Your Resume

3. Data structures

A data structure provides an effective way to store and retrieve data. There are various data structures that computer programmers can use to complete tasks and run applications. These are some common data structures used in software development:

  • Arrays: Arrays organize data by storing similar elements together and using contiguous memory allocation. You can use arrays to store an ordered list of items.

  • Stacks: Stacks are linear structures that follow a last-in, first-out (LIFO) order for executing operations. You can use stacks to implement backtracking algorithms.

  • Queues: The queue is a linear structure that follows a first-in, first-out (FIFO) order for executing operations. You can use them in mail queues, CPU scheduling, and first-come, first-serve (FCFS) scheduling.

  • Linked lists: Linked lists are linear data structures that use pointers to link elements as opposed to contiguous memory locations. You can use them to implement stacks, queues, and graphs.

  • Binary trees: Binary trees are non-linear structures that contain nodes that have two possible values or directions. You can use binary trees to represent hierarchy and determine structural relationships in data.

  • Graphs: Graphs contain nodes and edges connected to one another. You can use these data structures to study maps, resource allocation in operating systems, and social media networks.

4. Object-oriented programming

Object-oriented programming is based on the concept of objects and classes where an object may contain data in the form of attributes and methods. Classes are user-defined blueprints or prototypes from which you can create objects. For example, consider a class that represents a person. The person class contains attributes such as name, date of birth, blood group, nationality, gender, and height. You can then use this class as a blueprint to create objects where each object would represent a different person with a unique set of attributes. Some important concepts in object-oriented programming include:

  • Encapsulation: Encapsulation is the binding of data elements, such as variables and properties and member methods, into one unit.

  • Abstraction: This enables you to hide specific details about a class and provide only essential information to the outside world. For example, the working mechanism of a web server is unknown to the end-user, who clicks on a button and receives the required information.

  • Inheritance: This is the ability to create a new class from an existing class. For example, you can create a child class which inherits all the properties of its parent class and has its own set of additional properties and methods.

  • Polymorphism: Using polymorphism, you can access objects of different types using the same interface where each object provides its own implementation.

5. Debugging

Debugging is the process of removing errors from computer programs that allow software development and engineering teams to produce functioning software. Through debugging, they can examine individual sections of code to ensure that the program works as intended. Below is a list of possible programming errors:

Syntax error

A syntax error occurs when there is an erroneous sequence of characters or tokens in the code that doesn't follow the syntax of a programming language. These may include indentation errors, missing brackets, extra commas, and misspelt commands. Programming tools detect these errors at compile time and display the line number and type of error, along with the error description. You can review the error description and modify the code so that it follows the right syntax.

Logical errors

A logical error occurs when there is a flaw in the algorithm or logic of the code, which either halts the execution of a program or produces a wrong output. You encounter logical errors only during run-time since there are no errors in the code's syntax. For example, wrongly initializing a variable can cause a logical error in the code.

Latent errors

Latent errors, also known as hidden errors, arise when you use a specific set of data as input to the program. When you forget to account for an outlier or edge case, a program can fail or produce incorrect results. For example, you may have created a program that accepts users' dates of birth but does not account for characters or negative numbers an end-user may enter incorrectly. Here, the program may either halt its execution or crash.

Related: Understanding the Difference Between Coding vs. Programming

6. Programming tools

Integrated development environments (IDEs) are applications that allow programmers to write, compile, and execute code. IDEs provide a central interface that contains tools which facilitate code completion, code compilation, debugging, and syntax highlighting. Some IDEs also allow you to add plugins, enabling you to navigate the framework codebase and add your custom classes and features. You can use IDEs for:

  • Writing code: You can use IDEs to write and edit program code to complete a set of tasks.

  • Compiling code: IDEs compile code by translating human-readable code to a format that is understandable by the computer.

  • Debugging code: IDEs help you detect errors in a code and make fixes.

  • Monitoring resources: You can monitor various parameters such as disk space, resource consumption, memory usage, free space on the disk, and cache memory, which help you optimize your code to run faster and more efficiently.

  • Building automation tools: Some IDEs also provide automated tools for development tasks.

Some examples of IDEs include PyCharm, Android Studio, Coda, and Eclipse.

Related: What Is an Integrated Development Environment? (With Jobs)

Tips to improve programming skills

Here are some tips to improve your programming skills:

  • Take additional courses. Consider taking additional courses to enhance your programming skills and credential in the IT field. Training courses include practice tests, quizzes, and capstone projects that can help improve your skills.

  • View source-code. It's a good practice to review the source code of modules to gain insight into their design structure and implementation procedure. This assists you in designing your own custom module for a program.

  • Work on mini-projects. By working on end-to-end projects, you get to learn the overall structure of a program, along with best coding practices and optimization techniques. A project involves various phases, such as the collection of data, preparing the data for analysis, developing the algorithm, testing the code, and deploying it.

  • Take part in coding competitions. Competitive coding can enhance your algorithmic skills and problem-solving abilities. You can also learn more about data structures and discrete mathematics through competitive coding.

  • Follow other programmers. You can also review the code-base of other programmers on various platforms, such as GitHub or Kaggle. This allows you to improve your programming skills and stay updated with the latest IT developments.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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