Which Sorting Algorithm Uses Tree Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

Sorting algorithms are an essential part of computer science and data structures. They allow us to arrange data in a specific order, making it easier to search and retrieve information efficiently. One such sorting algorithm that utilizes a tree data structure is the Binary Tree Sort.

The Binary Tree Sort Algorithm

The binary tree sort algorithm follows a simple principle: every element in the input list is inserted into a binary search tree, and then the tree is traversed in-order to obtain the sorted list.

Binary Search Trees

A binary search tree (BST) is a type of binary tree where each node has two children at most. The left child of a node contains a value less than or equal to its parent node, while the right child contains a value greater than the parent. This property allows for efficient searching, insertion, and deletion operations.

The Sorting Process

To perform binary tree sort:

  1. Create an empty binary search tree.
  2. Iterate through the input list and insert each element into the binary search tree.
  3. Traverse the binary search tree in-order (left subtree, current node, right subtree) and collect each element into a new sorted list.


Let’s consider an unsorted list of integers: [5, 2, 9, 1, 7]. We’ll follow the steps of the binary tree sort algorithm to obtain the sorted list:

  1. Create an empty binary search tree. Let’s call it BST.
    • BST: []
  2. Insert each element into BST:
    • BST: [5]
    • BST: [5, 2]
    • BST: [5, 2, 9]
    • BST: [5, 2, 9, 1]
    • BST: [5, 2, 9, 1, 7]
  3. Traverse BST in-order to collect the elements into a sorted list:
    • Sorted List: [1]
    • Sorted List: [1, 2]
    • Sorted List: [1, 2, 5]
    • Sorted List: [1, 2, 5, 7]
    • Sorted List: [1, 2, 5, ,7 ,9]

Complexity Analysis

The time complexity of binary tree sort depends on the height of the binary search tree. In the worst-case scenario where the tree is skewed (i.e., all elements are inserted in ascending or descending order), the height of the tree becomes O(n), resulting in a time complexity of O(n^2). However, if the elements are inserted randomly or in a balanced manner into the binary search tree (e.g., using randomized algorithms or self-balancing trees), the average and best-case time complexity reduces to O(n log n).

The space complexity of binary tree sort is O(n) since it requires additional space to store the binary search tree.


In summary,

  • The binary tree sort algorithm utilizes a binary search tree to sort elements.
  • It has a time complexity of O(n^2) in the worst-case scenario but can be reduced to O(n log n) in the average and best-case scenarios.
  • Binary tree sort is not an efficient sorting algorithm for large datasets but can be useful for smaller lists or when a binary search tree is already available.

By understanding the principles behind binary tree sort and other sorting algorithms, you can choose the most suitable approach for your specific needs.

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