Software terminology is on-topic here, however my question When programmers talk about "data structures", what are they referring to? got closed as "not a real question"

The question was asked because when looking up the exact definition of a data structure, I noticed that wikipedia provides a list of data structures which includes composite types (class objects, structs, enums, etc) and primitive types (boolean, int, char, etc)

I don't think I've ever heard of programmers using the term "data structures" to refer to primitive types, and very rarely when referring to classes, so this got me wondering about the exact definition of a data structure.

Since software terminology is on-topic here, I thought programmers would be a good place to ask, but it got closed as not-a-real-question.

I disagree with this assessment because the question is on-topic for Programmers, and the answer is actually not as clear as you would think, and not easily found by a Google search.

"Data Structures" is a broad term used to cover structures that hold data, however it is also used as a term to reference abstract data types like Lists, Trees, Graphs, etc. When programmers talk about "data structures", they are usually referring to the more specific term for abstract data types, which is why I almost always hear it being used in reference to abstract data types.

If I am incorrect and software terminology is off-topic here, than it's fine being closed, but if this is incorrect then can we get the question reopened?

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    Rachel, I like your edit, but the claim that some developers use the term data-structure to refer to only collections and arrays needs to be notable for me to reopen. I have personally experienced those in the industry who have incorrectly defined "data-structure" as a collection, so if you can find a reference that makes this claim then it will be suitable for reopening. – maple_shaft May 9 '12 at 16:13
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    @maple_shaft Ok, I added two references which back up the claim that programmers use the term differently than the dictionary dictionary. One is from a lecture from a university on computer science, and the other is an online wikibook on data structures. Please let me know if that is enough – Rachel May 9 '12 at 16:27
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    [status-completed] Next time, less drama please. – yannis May 9 '12 at 16:36
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    @Rachel Good job! It is actually a fantastic question now! I reopened. – maple_shaft May 9 '12 at 16:36
  • @maple_shaft Thank you, both for reopening the question and for taking the time to explain what the problem with the question was and what I could do to fix it :) – Rachel May 9 '12 at 16:38

Software terminology is indeed on-topic, but the audience of this site is (from the FAQ) professionals in the software development field. The question is rather basic for the target audience of this site, which is probably why it was closed. Any professional software developer should already have an understanding of the definition of data structure.

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    Would it be better off rephrased to ask "Why does a programmers definition of data structure differ from the dictionary definition?", or "Why do programmers only refer to abstract types as "data structures", and not primitive types or composite types?" – Rachel May 9 '12 at 15:32
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    I feel "professional" simply means you develop software for a living, which is what I do, and this was a valid question I had about why the dictionary definition of data structures was not what I expected based on how I hear the phrase used – Rachel May 9 '12 at 15:33
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    @Rachel If you provide some actual references that those claims are true for a lot of programmers and not just your personal opinion, yes the question would be more suitable for Programmers. – yannis May 9 '12 at 15:34
  • @YannisRizos Can you specify what claims you are talking about so I can go look up references for you? Right now the only reference I have is my own experience with how I've heard the word used when listening to or talking with other programmers. – Rachel May 9 '12 at 15:37
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    @Rachel Your experience is what I'm looking references for, especially since it's antithetical to the definition. Whether something you heard is valid or not is not really suitable for Stack Exchange. Please provide credible references that a lot of programmers don't think primitive data types as data structures and I'll gladly re-open the question. Searching for credible references is something you should have done already, we expect everyone to do minimal research before asking here. – yannis May 9 '12 at 16:16

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