I am trying to understand the correct application of Big O notation to polynomial expressions, including terms with negative coefficients. For example, consider the polynomial $2n^3-2n^2+n+1$, where $n$ is a positive number. When emphasizing the coefficient of the leading term and using Big O notation for the remainder, can this expression be written as: $2n^3 - O(n^2)$? I am unsure if this notation is permissible in scientific writing.

Additionally, I would like to know if functions like $2n^3-2n^2+n+1$ can be written as: $2n^3+O(n)$ while ignoring the negative terms.

Any insights or guidance on this matter would be greatly appreciated.


1 Answer 1


Recall the definitions of various asymptotic notations.

case 1:
$f(n) = 2n^3 - 2n^2 + n + 1$ can be written as $f(n) = 2n^3 - g(n)$ where $g(n) = 2n^2 - n - 1$. Now $g(n) \in O(n^2)$ as well as $g(n) \in \Omega(n^2)$. Then you may loosely write $2n^3 - \Omega(n^2) \le f(n) \le 2n^3 - O(n^2)$. In my opinion it is better to write $f(n) = 2n^3 - \Theta(n^2)$.

case 2:
$f(n) = 2n^3 - 2n^2 + n + 1 \le 2n^3 + n$. Thus $f(n) \le 2n^3 + O(n)$.


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