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Algorithms in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition by Stanley Selkow, Gary Pollice, George T. Heineman

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Chapter 5. Searching

Given a collection C of elements, there are two fundamental queries:

Existence

Does C contain a target element? Given a collection C, we often simply want to know whether the collection already contains a given element t. The response to such a query is true if an element exists in the collection that matches the desired target t, or false if this is not the case.

Associative lookup

Return information associated in collection C with a target key value k. A key is usually associated with a complex structure called a value. The lookup retrieves or replaces this value.

The algorithms in this chapter describe specific ways to structure data to more efficiently process search queries. For example, you might order the collection C using the sorting algorithms previously covered in Chapter 4. As we will see, sorting improves the performance of queries, but there are other costs involved in maintaining a sorted collection, especially when elements are frequently inserted or deleted.

Ultimately the performance is based on how many elements an algorithm inspects as it processes a query. Use the following guide to select the best algorithm for you:

Small collections

Sequential Search offers the simplest implementation and is implemented as a basic construct in many programming languages. Use this algorithm when the collection is available only sequentially, as with an iterator.

Restricted memory

When the collection is an array that doesn’t change and you want ...

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