Given a moderately unsorted data-set, bubble sort requires multiple passes through the input before producing a sorted list. Each pass through the list will place the next largest value in its proper place.

We are performing n-1 comparisons for our inner loop. Then, we must go through the list n times in order to ensure that each item in our list has been placed in its proper order.

The n signifies the number of elements in the list. In a worst case scenario, the inner loop does n-1 comparisons for each n element in the list.

Therefore we calculate the algorithm’s efficiency as:

O(n(n1))=O(n(n))=O(n2)\mathcal{O}(n(n-1)) = \mathcal{O}(n(n)) = \mathcal{O}(n^2)

The diagram analyzes the pseudocode implementation of bubble sort to show how we draw this conclusion.

When calculating the run-time efficiency of an algorithm, we drop the constant (-1), which simplifies our inner loop comparisons to n.

This is how we arrive at the algorithm’s runtime: O(n^2).


What input to bubble sort would produce the worst possible runtime?

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