What Is Recursion With Example in Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

Recursion is a powerful concept in data structures that allows a function to call itself. It may sound confusing at first, but once you understand how it works, recursion can be a valuable tool in solving complex problems.

What is Recursion?

Recursion is a programming technique where a function solves a problem by breaking it down into smaller, simpler instances of the same problem. In other words, instead of directly solving the problem at hand, the function calls itself with different input values until it reaches a base case – a condition that stops the recursive calls.

Understanding Recursion with an Example

To better grasp the concept of recursion, let’s consider an example. Suppose we want to calculate the factorial of a given number.

The factorial of n (denoted as n!) is the product of all positive integers from 1 to n.

Let’s write a recursive function in JavaScript to calculate the factorial:

function factorial(n) {
// Base case: if n is 0 or 1, return 1
if (n === 0 || n === 1) {
return 1;

// Recursive case: call the factorial function with n-1 and multiply it by n
return n * factorial(n – 1);

Now let’s break down how this function works:

– First, we check if the given number `n` is either 0 or 1. If so, we reach our base case and return 1.

– If `n` is not equal to 0 or 1, we enter the recursive case. We call the `factorial()` function again with `n – 1` as the argument and multiply it by `n`. This way, each recursive call calculates the factorial of a smaller number until we reach our base case.

Using Recursion to Calculate Factorials

Let’s test our `factorial()` function by calculating the factorial of 5:

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

When we run this code, we get the output `120`, which is the factorial of 5.

Recursion vs. Iteration

Recursion provides an alternative approach to solving problems compared to iteration (looping). While both techniques can be used to solve the same problems, recursion often offers a more elegant and concise solution.

However, it’s important to note that recursion can have a performance impact due to the overhead of multiple function calls. In some cases, an iterative solution might be more efficient.


Recursion is a powerful tool in data structures that allows a function to solve a problem by breaking it down into smaller instances. By calling itself with different input values, recursion can provide elegant solutions to complex problems.

Remember to always define a base case that stops the recursive calls, preventing infinite loops. And don’t forget to test your recursive functions thoroughly!

Now that you have a better understanding of recursion, you can start incorporating this technique into your own programs and tackle more advanced algorithms and data structures. Happy coding!

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