I'm having difficulty understanding the big-O analysis of the selection sort algorithm. Here is my pseudocode (with line numbers):

    procedure SELECTION (A(n), limit)
1.  for j <- 0 to limit - 1 do
2.      min_index <- j
3.      for k <- j + 1 to limit do 
4.          if A(k) < A(min_index)
5.              min_index <- k
6.          end-if
7.      end-for
8.      temp <- A(min_index)
9.      A(min_index) <- A(j)
10.     A(j) <- temp

Our professor wants us to work from the inside out; in other words, analyze the statements the furthest away from the conceptual vertical line that denotes hierarchies. Therefore, I start at line 5, and work out from there. Here's what I've understood so far:

  • The time complexity of lines 4-6 is O(1) (constant).
  • Because lines 4-6 are "contained" in the for loop on line 3, you must use the rule of sums to multiply line 3 and lines 4-6. In other words, if line 3 is a program fragment f(x) and lines 4-6 are a program fragment g(x), then the time complexity of lines 3 - 6 is f(x) * g(x).

This is where I get confused. Because var limit is referencing the size of the array, wouldn't the for loop on line 3 run limit-1 times, because k is equal to 1 and is running to limit? To put it another way, if k were equal to zero, wouldn't the loop run limit times? Every video and website I've looked at has not given me a clear representation of that expression, because they've analyzed it differently.

On top of this question, how do I determine which asymptotic notation to use to describe this problem? Is it Big-Oh, Big-Omega or Big-Theta?

Thank you.


1 Answer 1


The number of iterations of the loop 3–7 depends on the value of $j$: it is $\mathit{limit} - j$. Therefore the running time of lines 3–7 is $O(\mathit{limit} - j)$. Lines 8–10 run in $O(1)$ time, so the body of the loop 1–11 runs in time $O(\mathit{limit}-j) + O(1) = O(\mathit{limit}-j)$ (using $j < \mathit{limit}$). Finally, the total running time is $$ O\left(\sum_{j=0}^{\mathit{limit}-1} \mathit{limit}-j\right) = O\left(\sum_{j=1}^{\mathit{limit}} j\right) = O(\mathit{limit}^2), $$ using the formula $\sum_{j=1}^n j = \frac{n(n+1)}{2}$.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much! Your answer is the most helpful I have been able to find so far. $\endgroup$
    – Nat Porter
    Sep 23, 2018 at 16:54

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