What Is Recursion in Data Structure With Example?


Scott Campbell

Recursion is a powerful concept in data structure that allows a function to call itself. It is a technique where a problem is solved by breaking it down into smaller subproblems of the same type. In this article, we will explore what recursion is and how it can be used with an example.

What Is Recursion?
Recursion is a process where a function calls itself as a subroutine. It involves solving a problem by reducing it into smaller instances of the same problem until the base case is reached. The base case is the condition that terminates the recursion.

Let’s understand recursion with an example of calculating the factorial of a number. The factorial of a non-negative integer n, denoted as n!, is the product of all positive integers less than or equal to n.

To calculate the factorial using recursion, we define the following steps:

1. If n equals 0, return 1 (base case).

2. Otherwise, return n multiplied by the factorial of (n-1) (recursive step).

Here’s how we can implement this in JavaScript:

function factorial(n) {
  if (n === 0) {
    return 1; // base case
  } else {
    return n * factorial(n - 1); // recursive step

console.log(factorial(5)); // Output: 120

In this example, when we call the `factorial` function with the value `5`, it goes through several recursive calls until it reaches the base case where `n` becomes `0`. Then, each recursive call returns its result and multiplies it with `n` to calculate the factorial.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Recursion:

Using recursion has its advantages and disadvantages:


  • Recursion allows for a concise and elegant solution to certain problems.
  • It simplifies the code by reducing repetitive logic.
  • Some problems are inherently recursive in nature and can be solved more efficiently using recursion.


  • Recursive solutions can be less efficient than iterative solutions due to the overhead of function calls.
  • If not implemented correctly, recursion can lead to infinite loops and stack overflow errors.
  • Understanding and debugging recursive code can be challenging.


Recursion is a powerful technique in data structure that allows a function to call itself. It provides an elegant solution to certain problems by breaking them down into smaller instances of the same problem. However, it is important to use recursion wisely, considering its advantages and disadvantages.

In this article, we explored what recursion is and how it can be applied with an example of calculating the factorial of a number. Remember to define the base case that terminates the recursion and ensure that the recursive calls converge towards it.

Now that you have a better understanding of recursion, you can explore more complex problems where recursion plays a crucial role in data structure algorithms.

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