Binary search tree

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In computer science, a binary search tree (BST) or ordered binary tree is a node-based binary tree data structure which has the following properties:[1]

  • The left subtree of a node contains only nodes with keys less than the node's key.
  • The right subtree of a node contains only nodes with keys greater than the node's key.
  • Both the left and right subtrees must also be binary search trees.

Generally, the information represented by each node is a record rather than a single data element. However, for sequencing purposes, nodes are compared according to their keys rather than any part of their associated records.

The major advantage of binary search trees over other data structures is that the related sorting algorithms and search algorithms such as in-order traversal can be very efficient.

Binary search trees are a fundamental data structure used to construct more abstract data structures such as sets, multisets, and associative arrays.

Contents

Operations

Operations on a binary tree require comparisons between nodes. These comparisons are made with calls to a comparator, which is a subroutine that computes the total order (linear order) on any two values. This comparator can be explicitly or implicitly defined, depending on the language in which the BST is implemented.

Searching

Searching a binary tree for a specific value can be a recursive or iterative process. This explanation covers a recursive method.

We begin by examining the root node. If the tree is null, the value we are searching for does not exist in the tree. Otherwise, if the value equals the root, the search is successful. If the value is less than the root, search the left subtree. Similarly, if it is greater than the root, search the right subtree. This process is repeated until the value is found or the indicated subtree is null. If the searched value is not found before a null subtree is reached, then the item must not be present in the tree.

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