COMP1927 - Sorting Algorithms


The whole point of a sorting algorithm is to order the elements of a list. Commonly this is done numerically or lexicographically (alphabetically).

Types of Sorts


Adaptive Sorts have different operations depending on how pre-sorted the list is (i.e. pre-sorted is faster to sort than not)

Non-Adaptive Sorts have the same sequence of operations independent of the order of the data.


Stable Sorts preserve the order of duplicate elements (as in b a(1) a(2) -> a(1) a(2) b)

Non-Stable Sorts sometimes reverse the order of the duplicates (as in a(2) a(1) b)


In-Place Sorts use minimal extra data storage; they sort within the given data structure rather than creating a new one.

Non-In-Place Sorts use extra data storage for more than just swaps, and memory can get out of hand.

Different Sorting Algorithms

Bubble Sort

Selection Sort

Insertion Sort

Shell Sort

Merge Sort

Quick Sort

Heap Sort

Key Index Sort

Lower Bound on Complexity (for comparison based sorts)

Consider a tree with n! paths. Each path is a different ordering of the n elements in the array (hence the n!).

Let the height of this tree be h. Hence there are 2h leaves. So knowing there are n! leaves, we know the height is ln(n!)

Consider a sort algorithm as a binary decision tree (at each node it either goes left or right).

Hence the sort must make at least O(ln(n!)) decisions.

$ln(n!)$ can be rerwitten as $lg(n!)$, and that can be rewritten as $n*lg(n)-n$ which goes to $nlg(n)$ (ignoring the linear factor). The maths behind that is found in Stirling's Approximation.

Hence the lower bound is said to be $O(nlg(n!))$

Sorting Videos

Merge Sort vs Quick Sort Battle - Jaz and Chris

Robots doing Merge Sort vs Quick Sort

Sound of Sorts