Sorting Techniques

In this chapter you will be dealing with the various sorting techniques and their algorithms used to manipulate data structure and its storage. Sorting method can be implemented in different ways - by selection, insertion method, or by merging. Various types and forms of sorting methods have been explored in this tutorial.

What is sorting?

Sorting refers to the operation or technique of arranging and rearranging sets of data in some specific order. A collection of records called a list where every record has one or more fields. The fields which contain a unique value for each record is termed as the key field. For example, a phone number directory can be thought of as a list where each record has three fields - 'name' of the person, 'address' of that person, and their 'phone numbers'. Being unique phone number can work as a key to locate any record in the list.

Sorting is the operation performed to arrange the records of a table or list in some order according to some specific ordering criterion. Sorting is performed according to some key value of each record.

The records are either sorted either numerically or alphanumerically. The records are then arranged in ascending or descending order depending on the numerical value of the key. Here is an example, where the sorting of a lists of marks obtained by a student in any particular subject of a class.

Categories of Sorting

The techniques of sorting can be divided into two categories. These are:

  • Internal Sorting
  • External Sorting

Internal Sorting: If all the data that is to be sorted can be adjusted at a time in the main memory, the internal sorting method is being performed.

External Sorting: When the data that is to be sorted cannot be accommodated in the memory at the same time and some has to be kept in auxiliary memory such as hard disk, floppy disk, magnetic tapes etc, then external sorting methods are performed.

The Complexity of Sorting Algorithms

The complexity of sorting algorithm calculates the running time of a function in which 'n' number of items are to be sorted. The choice for which sorting method is suitable for a problem depends on several dependency configurations for different problems. The most noteworthy of these considerations are:

  • The length of time spent by the programmer in programming a specific sorting program
  • Amount of machine time necessary for running the program
  • The amount of memory necessary for running the program

The Efficiency of Sorting Techniques

To get the amount of time required to sort an array of 'n' elements by a particular method, the normal approach is to analyze the method to find the number of comparisons (or exchanges) required by it. Most of the sorting techniques are data sensitive, and so the metrics for them depends on the order in which they appear in an input array.

Various sorting techniques are analyzed in various cases and named these cases as follows:

  • Best case
  • Worst case
  • Average case

Hence, the result of these cases is often a formula giving the average time required for a particular sort of size 'n.' Most of the sort methods have time requirements that range from O(nlog n) to O(n2).

Types of Sorting Techniques


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